Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book Review: English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama

(Reclaimed from Blogjob. Tags: literary essays of C.S. Lewis,obscure books by C.S. LewisOxford History of English Literature series,sixteenth-century poetry in Englishsixteenth-century prose in Englishtextbook for English literature class.)

Book Review: English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama
Author: C.S. Lewis
Date: 1954 (first edition), 1973 (reprints)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0198122047
Length: 704 pages
For older Christians, Lewis needs no introduction. It’s always a pleasure, though, to introduce younger readers to a favorite author: Lewis was one of the best loved British writers of the twentieth century. Posthumously best known for his Christian books, he began by writing poems, wrote a newspaper column (selections from which were published as Present Concerns), supported his writing habit as an English teacher, and published his quota of studies in English language and literature. This contribution to an Oxford series of textbooks can be regarded as his professional masterpiece.
To whom is this book, and the others in the series, most useful? Possibly to the autodidact, or the partial autodidact who can afford only two or four years of college/university. If you’re repaying undergraduate loans, making house payments, and raising children, and you’ve not been guaranteed a job as a university-level English teacher, chances are that you won’t be motivated to pay graduate-level tuition to study English literature. Buy the Oxford literature series, read the works discussed, and you’ll have the functional equivalent of a Ph.D. in English literature anyway. And, yes, although the textbooks consist of commentary and you still have to find copies of the primary texts studied, the textbooks are fun to read.

One of the things that seem to have made Lewis a good English teacher (discussed more fully in his Selected Literary Essays) is his late Victorian “dinosaur” opinion that reading ancient books in dead languages was work, while reading the classics in English was fun. He really was born at a time when universities didn’t bother with the formal study of recent books written in the students’ own language. He approached the formal study of English Medieval and Renaissance literature with something like the feeling his current audience would have if able to earn our livings teaching graduate-level studies in soccer, or needlework, or Classic Cartoons and Sitcoms...and this mental attitude shows in his textbook.
Book lovers will enjoy Lewis's discussion of "the Drab Age" in poetry of this period, and his willingness to interest students in otherwise obscure books--many of which he admitted he didn't like much, nor expect students to like much, yet in which he still found value.
This is a book I'm always delighted to sell, or recommend...but fair disclosure: it's not a Fair Trade Book (Lewis died around the same time President Kennedy did), and I will have to charge more than some online suppliers might, and you won't be able to fit very much into the package with this one. Nevertheless, if you want to buy it here, you may. Send $40 per copy + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to either address at the very bottom of the screen.