The English Language

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9780140135329: The English Language

This is a collection of essays about the English language by English and American men of letters, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries; that is, until the rise of formal linguistic studies. The writers represented are concerned with the history, the use, the reform or the changing nature of English. Topics discussed include the defence of English as a literary language; the relationship with other languages; propriety in literary style; the psychological bases of speech; the relationship between words and things; usage; the need for academies and standards of correctness; the rise of lexicography; spelling reform; prescriptive grammar. These essays are the most important serious attempts to consider the language from various standpoints. Students of English in university departments will find this a convenient and comprehensive collection. It is also in itself an illustration of the development of the literary language.

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Book Description:

This is a collection of essays about the English language by English and American men of letters, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries; that is, until the rise of formal linguistic studies. The writers represented are concerned with the history, the use, the reform or the changing nature of English.

From Library Journal:

ea. vol: Peter Bedrick, dist. by Harper. (New History of Literature). 1987. bibliog. index. $38. ref In 1986, Peter Bedrick began publishing its "New History of Literature" series, a reworking of a British series published in the 1970s. Four of ten volumes were published in 1987. Revised, and including current bibliographies, American Literature since 1900 contains 13 chapters written by noted critics and organized mainly by periods and genres, including that of literary criticism itself. Some writers who don't "fit" well, like Porter, Nabokov, or Flannery O'Connor, get short shrift. The book's British origins may explain the opening essays, which treat the early 20th-century American writer's identity as frail and unproven. As they come to the contemporary scene, a few of the essays take a more hurried outline approach. They also distrust Literature with a capital L; as Cunliffe notes, "the main emphasis of this book has been the literature of successive avant-gardes." English Drama to 1710 , with articles from 14 contributors, encompasses "texts" and "contexts." It covers several periods, though viewing the medieval drama at a distanceas ceremony rather than literature. Most chapters focus on individual plays, some of which are discussed in a few different places. A survey like this must also solve the problem of how to give Shakespeare his due while leaving room for other playwrights; here he becomes the 150-page centerpiece, including two newly written essays. The collection as a whole offers unsurprising but very solid criticism, with good bibliographies and a table of dates. The English Language , clearly organized into ten chapters by as many contributors, has been updated here and there. The first half deals strictly with linguistics, with much defining of terms and some special emphases on spoken English, and only the final chapters examine the language's historical and cultural basis. The authors have provided the patient reader with a reliable, multifaceted study of English and the different modes of analyzing it. The Victorians is a fine collection of critical-historical articles , opening with A.O.J. Cockshut's clearly reasoned chapters on Victorian intellectual and religious movements and then proceeding through the English writers of the period and mostly thematic analyses of their works. Despite some reference to women's history, Victorian literature rather than society remains the subject. The book is strong on literary careers and reputations, often paired for comparison. The overall effect can be rather egalitarian: Mrs. Gaskell gets equal billing with George Eliot, and several minor novelists receive fresh attention. But the book allows its 16 contributors enough space to say what they need to say. It concludes with up-to-date chapter bibliographies and a detailed chronology. These volumes as a whole are recommended for academic libraries. Donald Ray, Manhattanville Coll. Lib.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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