Harvard Educational Review
  1. Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature

    Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1995. 1,236 pp. $39.95.

    Literature lovers are often frustrated by having to consult several reference books in order to get information related to authors, works, terms, pronunciation, literary theorists and scholars, literary criticism, literary journals and prizes, and so forth. Readers can now turn to a single source, the recently published Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature.

    This single-volume reference book is the product of a joint effort of the editorial staffs of Merriam-Webster and the Encyclopedia Britannica. Not surprisingly, the most innovative aspect of this book is the merger of two traditional reference tools: the encyclopedia and the dictionary. It offers a rich source of information about world literature and provides detailed, up-to-date coverage of authors, works, and literary terms and topics. Its information on non-English-speaking authors and authors of various ethnicities (including their works and influences) is particularly useful and convenient for those who are working on and interested in the subject of multiculturalism.

    The comprehensiveness of Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature sets it apart from other literary reference books in that it has more than 10,000 entries and 250 illustrations for authors, works, terms, and topics, which reflect the diversity of world literature throughout time. It not only includes a variety of literature, such as children's literature, science fiction, detective fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction, but also covers a wide range of literary forms and genres, such as novels, poems, plays, essays, and literary criticism.

    A few examples from each category provide a rough picture of the comprehensiveness of this book. It includes the introduction of literary works such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Odyssey, The Thousand and One Nights, and Wuthering Heights; classic authors of the past such as Aphra Behn, Dante Alighieri, Omar Khayyam, Lope de Vega, Cao Zhan, and Francois Villon; well-known authors of today such as Chinua Achebe, Maya Angelou, Sandra Cisneros, Maxine Hong Kingston, Toni Morrison, and Salman Rushdie; mythological and folkloric figures such as Agamemnon, Lorelei, Odin, and Osiris; fictional characters such as Captain Ahab, Dorothea Brooke, Anna Karenina, and Sam Spade; literary terms such as accentual verse, chiasmas, New Criticism, and poststructuralism; literary styles and movements such as Baroque, Harlem Renaissance, Socialist Realism, and Transcendentalism; scholars and critics such as Harold Bloom, Jacques Derrida, Stanley Fish, and Elaine Showalter; literary landmarks such as the Algonquin Round Table and Mermaid Tavern; literary prizes such as the Hugo Award and Newbery Medal; and literary journals such as The Kenyon Review and Poetry.

    Apart from its comprehensiveness, this volume can boast in-depth coverage of literary topics as well. The Encyclopedia has, for example, biographical sketches of authors, literary theorists, and literary scholars; definitions and etymologies of literary terms; plot summaries and dates of publication of major literary works; and listings for literary characters, landmarks, journals, and prizes. For instance, the entry for Murasaki Shikibu, a well-known eleventh-century Japanese female novelist, includes information on her background, writing style, representative works, major contributions to Japanese literature, and so forth. Meanwhile, the entry for The Tale of Genji, Shikibu's most famous novel, gives detailed information about the theme of the story, major characters, its social significance, writing technique, and when and by whom it was translated into English.

    Overall, Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature is a very good literary reference book. Students, teachers, writers, editors, and all literature lovers will appreciate the vast trove of literary information this volume provides.

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    Script, Counterscript, and Underlife in the Classroom
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    Book Notes

    Other People's Children
    By Lisa Delpit

    National Issues on Education
    Edited by John F. Jennings.

    U.S. Educational Policy Interest Groups
    By Gregory S. Butler and James D. Slack.

    Education at a Glance
    By the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation.

    School Choice
    By Peter W. Cookson Jr.

    Edited by Lance W. Roberts and Rodney A. Clifton

    Framing Questions, Constructing Answers
    By Noel F. McGinn and Allison M. Borden

    Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature

    Changing the Subject
    Edited by Sue Davies, Cathy Lubelska, and Jocey Quinn.

    Rewriting Literacy
    Edited by Candace Mitchell and Kathleen Weiler.

    The Return of the Political
    By Chantal Mouffe

    Black Popular Culture
    Edited by Gina Dent.

    Thirteen Questions
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