Library Journal - Library JournalThis wide-ranging encyclopedia of American literature consists of three chronological volumes, each covering an era in American history. Volume 1, which treats the Colonial and Revolutionary era, was written by Berkin (history, Baruch; Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution), while Volumes 2 (The Age of Romanticism and Realism) and 3 (The Modern and Postmodern Period) were written by Paddock and Rollyson, respectively, who coauthored Herman Melville A to Z and hold Ph.D.s in English. All three volumes feature an introductory essay followed by alphabetically arranged entries and a chronology. The entries, which range from literary figures, genres, and literary characters to specific works, topical entries such as "Lost Generation," and musicals, provide not just facts but interpretation of the topic's importance as well. They are usually brief often only one to two paragraphs, although a few run over one page and conclude with a list of sources. The greatest downfall of this set is the lack of consistency. For example, only Volume 1 includes citations to works by the person under discussion, as well as a few secondary sources. Also, the cross references refer only to articles within a volume, not across the set. Thus, volumes 2 and 3 both include articles on detective fiction, but neither indicates that the other volume covers the same topic in a different time period. Worst of all, although each volume has a cumulative "List of Entries," there is no cumulative index. Authors are included here who do not appear in Continuum's recent Encyclopedia of American Literature, such as John Kennedy Toole and Patricia Highsmith. However, such authors do appear in the wonderful Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia, which remains more authoritative and larger in scope. Given these drawbacks as well as the steep price, this title is not recommended unless your library is in need of a chronological approach to American literature or a more current reference. Cynthia A. Johnson, Barnard Coll. Lib., New York Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
BooknewsThis three-volume set for high school and above covers American literature from the colonial period through the 20th century. Presented in three chronological volumes and arranged alphabetically within each one, entries (mostly half a page long) include writers, works, literary movements, characters, and influential historical events. Volume I (the revolutionary era from 1607-1814, by Carol Berkin, Baruch College) deals with the beginnings of American literature and its relationship to the events of the period. Volume II (the age of romanticism and realism, 1815-1914, by Lisa Paddock, author of scholarly articles on literature) describes the maturing of the American romantic movement. Volume III (the modern and postmodern period from 1915, by Carl Rollyson, Baruch College) addresses major social and political changes reflected by the literature of that time. About 1,500 entries on writers present key biographical facts, short descriptions of their works and critical evaluations, and the writer's significance. Each volume includes bibliographies, an index, and a chronology. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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