A History of English Literature

(Marvins-Underground-K-12) #1
Preface to the Third Edition

The second edition of this Historyappeared in 2007. In preparing this third edition
I scrapped the final section of the second, and have written a fresh chapter on devel-
opments in English literature from the 1980s until the present, with some prefatory
thoughts on how globalization may affect literature.
Seeing the vigour and volume of English fiction in this period, I decided to focus
on this rather than on poetry or drama. I read widely among the novels of the last
thirty years in order to prepare a substantial, if deliberately selective, account of
those whom I found its leading practitioners, sometimes discussing an individual
novel. The major talents to emerge in England in this flourishing period for fiction
seem to me Kazuo Ishiguro and Penelope Fitzgerald. Notice is also taken of good
writing in other branches of literature, such as literary biography, and in thriving
areas of genre fiction, such as detective and spy fiction, children’s writing and fantasy
fiction, ending with a trip to the world of J. K. Rowling. The new final chapter is
11,000 words longer than what it replaces.
The entire text has been overhauled and updated, and also supplied with more
cross-reference, with some new tables and boxed information. Apart from the new final
chapter, there are three main differences between the third edition and the second.

  1. The second edition benefited from the work I had in the interim put into
    Medievalism: The Middle Ages in Modern England(2007). In the third edition of
    this History, the fourth chapter, on Shakespeare, has been thoroughly revised in
    the light of what I learned in preparing Reading Shakespeare, which appeared in

  2. The Introduction has been revised to draw firmly and clearly the exact scope of
    this History. It explains why this is not a history of all the literatures which have
    been written in English, and spells out which writers are eligible to be consid-
    ered within its chosen scope.

  3. The policy of quoting liberally in order to illustrate and give flavour and texture,
    maintained in the first and second editions, has now had to be abandoned in the
    final chapters. Nearly all the holders of copyright in modern poetry and drama
    now charge fees which prohibit such quotation. Readers who want to read the
    poems discussed must now look for them on the internet.
    I would like to record my thanks to those who generously responded to my
    enquiries about contemporary fiction, among them Honora Bartlett, John Carey, Pat
    McCall and Brian Morton, and to my wife Mary, who has had to put up with a lot
    of English literature and has nobly read and re-read my efforts to find and respond
    adequately to what is best in its most recent phase.


Alexander Prelims 16/11/12 2:19 pm Page xix

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