The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (Anglais) Broché – 2 novembre 2011
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What I found most interesting were the lengthy sections on genres. There are pages devoted to specific types of novels, dramas, and poems. There are luxuriously long sections on science fiction novels, crime fiction, pastoral writings, short stories, gothic fiction, comic drama, and a host of other such topics. When you go to the short story section, for instance, you will find 12 pages dedicated to coverage of authors and their works dating from biblical times to the present (1998). I quickly found recommended writers that I hadn't known along with those I was well acquainted with. Although this book was inexpensive, I have spent many times its purchase price buying new books that I found referenced in this Dictionary. There are no individual entries for authors or their works in this book. For that you need to go to books like the Oxford, Cambridge, New York Public Library or Benet's literature reference works.
In poetry sections you will find examples of the type of verse being discussed. You will be amused at some of the entries provided under "light verse" and "limericks". There is even a heading for "shaggy dog story".
Any weaknesses to the book? Well there are a few. This book has a single author, unlike many reference works that have a group of contributors. This can lead to weak sections that are outside the solo author's expertise. Every reader will find a favorite author or two missing from the genre sections. I was appalled, for instance, to find no mention of Flannery O'Connor in the section on American short story authors. As the author is English, there may also be a slight bias toward English writers. I was also somewhat annoyed that Mr. Cuddon often -but not always- didn't take the time to give a foreign title its English translation. Would it have hurt him to list the Victor Hugo novel as "Toilers of the Sea" instead of "Les Travailleurs de le Mer"?
I am a hopeless book addict, and this little reference work really made my day(s).
The wiring and plumbing of the book, its cross-referencing system, is admirably done and very helpful, luring the reader into a rollercoaster ride across centuries.
Another notable quality is the rich number of examples, especially of the titles of a legion of important / interesting / fascinating / demented literary works often buried in the sands of time. Unfortunately, however, many metric and strophic forms must go without illustration for reasons of space: a fact deplored by Cuddon himself in the preface.
But this does not detract from the book's worth: its logical structure and lucid explanations, combined with its author's awesome erudition, make this a priceless reference work.
This is a highly valuable book for anyone deeply interested in literature and its expressions.
One CAVEAT: This inch-and-three-quarters paperback is extremely valuable and deserves to get well thumbed-over by any student of English literature or criticism in general. One could only wish that the publisher had released it in a "quality paperback" format that would better survive such thumbing. The present release (a 2000 paperback reissue of the 1998 hardback) is closer in quality to a mass market paperback, with newsprint grade paper, etc. Annotators and highlighters will find their inks bleeding severely through the pages.
Unfortunately, few of us will have the C-note to lay out for the (presumably much better produced) hardback edition... which would be a *real* treat to keep at one's writing table. Until you win the lottery(or Penguin releases a quality paperback), grab the affordable paperback: it's rewarding enough to keep you *wanting* to highlight, although disappointing when you do.