Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing

Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing

by Edgar V. Roberts

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Technology continues to play a major role with the success of Literature through the online study resource. This site is a comprehensive resource that is organized according to the chapters within the text and features a variety of learning and teaching modules.

  • Reference Modules contain Web Destinations and Net Search options

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Technology continues to play a major role with the success of Literature through the online study resource. This site is a comprehensive resource that is organized according to the chapters within the text and features a variety of learning and teaching modules.

  • Reference Modules contain Web Destinations and Net Search options that provide the opportunity to expand upon information presented in the text.
  • Study Guide Modules present a variety of exercises and features designed to help students with self-study for every fiction and drama selection and over half of the poetry. These modules include:
    • Essay questions
    • Multiple choices
    • Built-in e-mail routing options that give students the ability to forward essay responses and computer-graded quizzes to their instructors
  • Communication Modules include tools such as Live Chat and Message Board to facilitate online collaboration and communication.
  • A "Writing about Literature" section offers students prompts for setting up an outline.
  • A "Living Timeline" for literature gives students perspectives on historical, political, and cultural information.

The Companion Website™ makes integrating the Internet into your course exciting and easy.

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Preface to the Sixth Edition

Like the past editions of Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, the sixth edition is a carefully chosen anthology. Most of the works here are by American, British, and Canadian authors, but classical writers from ancient Greece and Rome are also represented, along with more recent writers who lived in or came from Italy, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Ceylon, Indonesia, and Russia. In total, 281 authors are represented, not including anonymous writers. One hundred eighty of the authors—roughly sixty-five percent—were born after 1900. Interestingly, of the writers born since 1935, forty-one are women and thirty-five are men—a number that dramatizes the major importance of women in modern literature. The book includes a total of 491 separate works, not counting portions of critical essays. There are sixty-two stories, 410 poems, and nineteen dramatic works. Each work is suitable for discussion either alone or in comparison. Three plays, seven stories, and forty-one poems are new in this edition.

Readers will note that some of the new stories are classic, like those by Conrad, Forster, and Hardy, and some, such as those by Bambara, Gilchrist, and Oates, are well on their way to becoming classic. The new stories complement the other fifty-five stories, such as those by Atwood, Faulkner, Carver, Crane, Hawthorne, Hodgins, Joyce, Gaines, Gilman, Laurence, Porter, Twain, and Welty, that are retained from earlier editions.

The anthology includes representative poems from late medieval times to our own day, including poets such as Shakespeare, (Dray, Wordsworth, Byron, Keats,Tennyson, Rossetti, Pound, and Eliot. The forty-one new poems represent a wide variety of American, British, and Canadian poets. Most of these poets are widely recognized. Berry, Cowper, Queen Elizabeth I, Chief Dan George, Hardy, Jacobsen, Levertov, Longfellow, Lux, Mueller, Van Duyn, and Wilbur come readily to mind. More recent poets, most of them with multiple prizes and awards to their credit, are Collins, Francis, Gluck, Merwin, Momaday, and Schnackenberg. Even with the many new poems in the sixth edition of Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, the book still retains 369 poems that were included in the fifth edition. A poet new in the fifth edition and' retained in the sixth is Michael Ondaatje, who achieved wide recognition because of the many Academy awards received by the film version (1996) of his novel The English Patient.

In the drama section, the plays newly included are the medieval Visitatio Sepulchri, Wilder's The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden, and Kauffmann's The More the Merrier. As in the fifth edition, Ibsen's An Enemy of the People is included with A Dollhouse to make up a special dramatic career chapter (31) matching the careers chapters for fiction and poetry. Chapter 11, the fiction career chapter, now includes five short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, who is acknowledged as a pioneering theorist of the short story as a genre. Chapter 24, the poetic career chapter, contains Wordsworth, Dickinson, and Frost, as in the fifth edition. Of special note is the inclusion of selected critical essays for special case studies of Poe, Dickinson, and Ibsen. Instructors who choose to do so can use these essays for research-based essays on these writers, and they may wish to use the selected bibliographies for more comprehensive research assignments.


The sixth edition reaffirms a principle to which the book is dedicated—flexibility. Earlier editions have been used for introduction-to-literature courses, genre courses, and both composition and composition-and-literature courses. Adaptability and flexibility have been the keys to this variety. Instructors can use the book for classroom discussions, panel discussions, essay or paragraph-length assignments, and special topics not covered in class. Students will find incentives for understanding and writing about literature through questions, study and writing guides, and also through many suggestions for strengthening their own writing—both on essays and examinations.

FICTION. The fiction section consists of eleven chapters. Chapter 2 is a general introduction to fiction while Chapters 3-10—the "topical" chapters central to each section of the book—introduce students to such important topics as structure, character, point of view, and theme. Chapter 11 is the career chapter on Poe, and Chapter 12 consists of ten stories for additional study.

POETRY. The thirteen poetry chapters are arranged similarly to the fiction chapters. Chapter 13 is introductory. Chapters 14-23 deal with topics such as symbolism, imagery, symbolism, and myth. Chapter 24 is the poetic career chapter, consisting of selections by Wordsworth, Dickinson, and Frost. Chapter 25 contains one hundred thirty-nine poems for additional study. In Appendix II we include the biographies of each of the anthologized poets to make the poetry section parallel with the drama and fiction sections.

DRAMA. In the drama section Chapter 26 is introductory. Chapters 27 trough 29 concern tragedy, comedy, and realism and nonrealism. At the suggestion of a number of instructors who introduce film in their courses, a unique feature begun in the third edition—Chapter 30, on film—is retained, and the discussion matches those in the other chapters. We have kept the scenes from Citizen Kane, by Welles and Mankiewicz, and The Turning Point, by Laurents. Chapter 31 is the special chapter on Ibsen. There is no "plays for additional study" chapter to match Chapters 12 and 25 because most plays are quite long, and adding more would extend the book beyond reasonable limits.

Nine of the longer plays from the previous edition have been retained because they are important in an introductory study of drama (Oedipus the King, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Love is the Doctor, Death of a Salesman, The Glass Menagerie, Mulatto, A Dollhouse, An Enemy of the People). In an anthology of this scope, the eight short plays (Am I Blue, The Bear, Before Breakfast, Tea Party, The Visitatio Sepulchre, The More the Merrier, The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden, Trifles) are valuable because they may be covered in no more than one or two classroom hours, and also because they may be enlivened by having parts acted, out by students. Indeed, the Visitatio Sepulchri and Keller's Tea Party are brief enough to permit classroom reading and discussion in a single period.


SPECIAL WRITING TOPICS. In the sixth edition we have retained the section titled "Special Writing Topics about Literature," which follows the drama section. This section, new in the fifth edition, contains four chapters (32-35) that were formerly appendices, but on the advice of many readers they are now a main part of the book. These chapters, which contain general literary assignments, are newly arranged to place emphasis on research and recent critical theories.

THE GLOSSARY. In the discussions to the various chapters, key terms and concepts are boldfaced, and these are gathered alphabetically and explained briefly, with relevant page numbers in the text, in the comprehensive Glossary following Appendix II. The terms in the Glossary are also listed, with page numbers from the text, in the inside back cover. Because Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing may sometimes serve for reference purposes, the Glossary is intended for general use.

QUESTIONS. Following each anthologized selection in the detailed chapters are study questions designed to help students in their exploration and understanding of literature. Some questions are factual and may be answered quickly. Others provoke extended thought and classroom discussion and may also serve for both in-class and out-of-class writing assignments. At the ends of twenty-six chapters, we include a number of more general "Special Topics for Writing and Argument about (Character, Symbolism, Tragedy, etc.)." Many of these are comparison-contrast topics, and a number of them—at least one in each chapter—are assignments requiring creative writing (for example, "Write a poem" or "Compose a short scene"). What is unique about these topics is that students are asked not only to write creatively and argue cogently, but also to analyze their own creative processes. As already indicated, the sixth edition contains questions designed to add a research component to the study of the chapter topics.

DATES. To place the various works in historical context, we include the life dates for all authors. Along with the title of each anthologized work, we list the year of publication.

NUMBERING. For convenient reference, we have adopted a regular style of numbering the selections by fives:

  • Poems: every fifth paragraph
  • Stories: every fifth line
  • Poetic plays: every fifth line, starting at 1 with each new scene and act
  • Prose plays: every fifth speech, starting at 1 with each new scene and act
  • GLOSSES. For the poetry and poetic plays, we provide brief marginal glosses wherever they are needed. For all works, including poetry, we supply explanatory footnotes when necessary. Words and phrases that are glossed or footnoted are highlighted by a small degree sign. Footnotes are located according to line, paragraph, or speech numbers.

    BOXED DISCUSSIONS WITHIN THE CHAPTERS. In some of the chapters, particularly Chapters 1, 19, 26, and 32, separately boxed sections contain brief discussions of a number of important and related matters. The topics chosen for this treatment—such as the use of tenses in discussing a work, the use of authorial names, and the concept of decorum—were based on the recommendations of instructors and students.

    THEMATIC TABLE OF CONTENTS. To make Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing as flexible as possible, we have continued the Thematic Table of Contents that was first added in the fourth edition. In this table, which is located immediately following the organizational Contents, a number of thematic topics are provided, such as Women and Men; Conformity and Rebellion; Women and Their Roles; Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality; Endings and Beginnings; and Innocence and Experience. Under these topics, generous numbers of stories, poems, and plays are listed (many in a number of categories), so that entire thematic units may be created should instructors wish to use them.

    PHOTOGRAPHS AND ART REPRODUCTIONS. We also include a number of art reproductions and photographs, some within the chapters and some in special ,colored inserts. We hope that these reproductions, together with others that instructors might add, will encourage comparison-and-contrast discussions and essays about the relationship of literature and art.

    FICTION AND DRAMATIZATION. To strengthen the connection between fiction and dramatization, a number of stories are included that are available on videocassettes, which can be used as teaching tools for support and interpretation. A discussion of the videocassettes is included in the Instructor's Manual. In addition, we include two versions of the same subject matter for comparison—a short story and a one-act play—by the same author: Susan Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers" (Chapter 4) and Trifles (Chapter 26).


    There is little in the sixth edition that has not been reexamined, revised, or rewritten. Particularly noteworthy are the general introduction (Chapter 1), the introduction to poetry (Chapter 13), and the introduction to drama (Chapter 26), together with the introductory sections on Poe, Wordsworth, Dickinson, and Frost (Chapters 11 and 24), the chapters on figures of speech and prosody (17 and 19), and the chapters on research and taking examinations (32 and 34). Throughout, all subheads are no longer topics but have been fashioned into complete sentences. This change is made in the hope that pointed sentences will enable students to assimilate the following content more easily than before. The Glossary has been corrected and amended in a number of places. Of special importance in each of the main chapters are the sections "Questions for Discovering Ideas" and "Strategies for Organizing Ideas," which have been revised in the light of the continuing goal to help students concentrate on their writing assignments. In the sixth edition the MLA guidelines for the arrangement and dimensions of atypical essay are illustrated in Appendix I, along with the MLA recommendations for the handling of electronic references.

    Wtiting and Reading

    The sixth edition of Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, like all the previous editions, is dedicated throughout to the interlocking processes of writing and reading. There is no chapter in the book that does not contain essential information and guides for writing. Moreover, we do not simply say what can be done with a topic of literary study, but we also show ways in which it might be done. In most of the chapters there is a demonstrative student essay exemplifying the strategies and methods brought out in the chapter. Following each essay is an analytical commentary showing how the writing principles of the discussion have been carried out. The emphasis throughout these sections is the openness of the writing process along with the unique nature of writing for each topic—while fully acknowledging the need to produce more polished drafts.

    Because writing is a major mode of thinking, it is an essential reinforcement of reading. Students who write about what they read learn twice, for as they plan and develop their writing they necessarily grow as thinkers. Such a combined approach is the bedrock idea of this book.


    A logical extension (and a major hope) of this combined approach is that the techniques students acquire in studying literature as a reading-writing undertaking will help them in every course they may ever take, and in whatever profession they follow. Students will always read—if not the authors contained here, then other authors, and certainly newspapers, legal documents, magazine articles, technical reports, business proposals, and much more. Although students may never again be required to write about topics like setting, structure, or prosody, they will certainly find a future need to write.

    Indeed, the more effectively students learn to write about literature when taking their literature courses, the better they will be able to write later on—no matter what the topic. It is undeniable that the power to analyze problems and make convincing written and oral presentations is a major quality of leadership and success in all fields. To acquire the skills of disciplined reading and strong writing is therefore the best possible preparation that students can make for the future, whatever it may hold.

    While we stress the value of our book as a teaching tool, we also emphasize that literature is to be enjoyed and loved. Sometimes we neglect the truth that study and delight are complementary, and that intellectual stimulation and emotional enjoyment develop not only from the immediate responses of pleasure, involvement, and sympathy, but also from the understanding, contemplation, and confidence generated by knowledge and developing skill. We therefore hope that the selections in the sixth edition of Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing will teach students about humanity, about their own perceptions, feelings, and lives, and about the timeless patterns of human existence. We hope they will take delight in such discoveries and grow as they make them. We see the book as a steppingstone to lifelong understanding and joy in great literature.


    As the book goes into the sixth edition, I wish to acknowledge the many people who have offered helpful advice, information, and suggestions. To name them, as Dryden says in Absalom and Achitophel, is to praise them. They are Professors Eileen Allman, David Bady, Andrew Brilliant, Rex Butt, Stanley Coberly, Betty L. Dixon, Elizabeth Keats Flores, Alice Griffin, Robert Halli, Rebecca Heintz, Karen Holt, Claudia Johnson, Matthew Marino, Evan Matthews, Ruth Milberg-Kaye, Nancy Miller, JoAnna Stephens Mink, Ervin Nieves, Michael Paull, Bonnie Ronson, Dan Rubey, Margaret Ellen Sherwood, Beverly J. Slaughter, Keith Walters, Chloe Warner, Scott Westrem, Mardi Valgemae, Matthew Winston, and Ruth Zerner, and also Christel Bell, Linda Bridgers, Catherine Davis, Jim Freund, Edward Hoeppner, Anna F. Jacobs, Eleanor Tubbs, Nanette Roberts, April Roberts, David Roberts, and Eve Zarin. The skilled assistance of Jonathan Roberts has been essential and invaluable at every stage of all the editions.

    A number of other people have provided sterling guidance for the preparation of the sixth edition. They are Professors Peggy Cole, Arapahoe Community College; Loren C. Gruber, Missouri Valley College; Edward Martin, Columbus State Community College; and Pearl McHaney, Georgia State University.

    I wish especially to thank Carrie Brandon, Senior English Editor at Prentice Hall. Her understanding, creativity, cheerfulness, and helpfulness have made working with her an honor and a pleasure. I also thank Phil Miller, 'President, Humanities and Social Sciences; Leah Jewell, Editor in Chief, English; and Maggie Barbieri, Nancy Perry, Alison Reeves, Kate Morgan Jackson, Bill Oliver, and Paul O'Connell, earlier Prentice Hall English editors, for their imagination and foresight, and also for their patience with me and support of me over the years. Of major importance was the work of Ray Mullaney, former Editor in Chief, Development, for his pioneering work with the text and for his continued support. I am additionally grateful to Marlane Miriello, Viqi Wagner, Anne Marie Welsh, and (especially) Kathryn Graehl. Special words of thanks are reserved for Joan Foley of Prentice Hall, our Production Editor, who has devoted her knowledge, intelligence, diligence, and skill to the many tasks needed to bring a book of this size to fruition. Additional thanks are due to Fred Courtright for his work on securing permissions, and to Carolyn Gauntt for research into the various photographs and illustrations. I also extend my gratitude to Rachel Falk, Literature Marketing Manager, to her assistant, Chrissy Moodie, and to Literature Assistant, Sandy Hrasdzira. I give final thanks to Gina Sluss, Director of Marketing, of Prentice Hall for her constant support and enthusiasm.

    My sorrow is undiminished for the loss of my associate, Professor Henry E. Jacobs (1946-1986) of the University of Alabama. His energy and creativity were essential in planning and writing the first edition, but Fate intervened before we could work together on the later editions, which are nevertheless, in effect, ,extended collaborations.

    Edgar V. Roberts

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