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Compact Guide To English Literature
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Compact Guide to English Literature is one of the 27 books published by Bodhi Tree Books and Publications to aid students of literature in preparing for competitive exams. Each of the books that form the set of guidance materials has been created as a result of extensive research into what really works when preparing for exams. The editor Dr Kalyani Vallath runs a coaching centre Total English Solutions (TES) which helps UGC NET candidates in particular and those preparing for competitive exams in general to be fully equipped to face their tests.
Compact Guide to English Literature is a quick revision book giving an overview of all the periods of British literature. One of the characteristic features of this book is the maps, diagrams and portraits, from timelines of history, structures of theatres, graphic presentations of characters in major literary works to landscape paintings, pictures contrasting modernist and postmodernist architecture and snaps of advertisements to illustrate certain ideologies. The book uses a number of maps especially in chapters dealing with empires and colonisation. It is evidently a primer to A Contemporary Encyclopedia of British Literature published in 2015.
In order to suit current practices of reading, the book does not use a narrative style, but condense the information into bulleted points that are easy to comprehend. It aids students in their preparations for both objective and descriptive type tests. The book is intended as a helpful tool for quick revision. Students are expected to supplement their knowledge through active reading. The Compact Guide aims to develop an interdisciplinary understanding and encourages personal research. The book is divided into three parts. The first part provides a historical understanding of British literature. Beginning with the Celts of the Iron Age, the section goes through all the major events in the history of Britain that had an impact on the literature of the nation. The Norman Conquest, the famine of 1315-1317, the Renaissance, the Glorious Revolution, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Great Exhibition of London, the Irish Revival and the world wars are some of the major events that find mention in this section.
The second section is devoted to authors and their literary works. The important factors that affected the choice of themes and styles of writing of the authors are given some significant attention. Moreover, an attempt is made to create an understanding of all the major works of each author using bullet points that bring out the core elements in the works, including the major points discussed in essays, stanza-by-stanza summary of poems, dramatis personae, outline of plots, major themes and characteristic features of plays, and the storyline and a critical study of novels in the form of bullet points. Critical opinions and controversies regarding literary pieces have also not been neglected.
The third section deals with the major schools of criticism and literary theories. Contrasting schools of thoughts and critics are presented using tables that clearly illustrate in which aspects they agree or display similarities and in which do they present clear differences. Classicism and Romanticism, Plato and Aristotle, symbolic and semiotic aspects of language are some of the topics that have been compared and contrasted in this manner.
In the first part of the third section of the book, which deals with criticism, the development of criticism from the time of Plato in the 3rd century BC to T.S. Eliot in the 20th century AD is clearly presented. The second part is dedicated to literary theory and aptly begins with a comparison of criticism and theory. The literary theory timeline presented in the fourteenth chapter of section III, which begins with enlightenment and concludes with a mention of ecocriticism, a theory proposed in the 1990s, is particularly helpful to initiate a historical understanding of the theories. The section on literary theory also makes a few unusual deviations from the bulleted style of the rest of the book by incorporating some descriptive passages. This helps in keeping the notes free of ambiguity.
Theories are illustrated using examples. For instance, chapter seventeen provides two passages on homeopathy written using contrasting languages to demonstrate how language constructs reality. Structuralist architecture, deconstructivist architecture, modernist architecture and postmodernist architecture are all illustrated using pictures of famous buildings. Unsurprisingly, Compact Guide to English Literature is one of the most popular books from Bodhi Tree that has been helping both students of literature and English literature professionals alike for a long time.
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