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Overview

Covering a wide range of literary topics, this classic textbook utilizes a process approach to writing that includes readings and sample essays. Each chapter begins with a discussion of an important literary topic - such as character, setting, and point of view. To relate this material to students' writing needs, each chapter concludes with guides to writing about the topic, followed by a sample essay, a brief analysis of that sample, and a list of special writing topics. Principles are illustrated by references to the twenty-nine stories, poems, and plays included throughout the book and in a special appendix.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780130978011
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall
  • Publication date: 7/10/2002
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 10
  • Pages: 382
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Edgar V. Roberts, Emeritus Professor of English at Lehman College of The City University of New York, is a native of Minnesota. He graduated from the Minneapolis public schools in 1946, and received his Doctorate from the University of Minnesota in 1960. He taught English at Minnesota, the University of Maryland Overseas Division, Wayne State University, Hunter College, and Lehman College. From 1979 to 1988, He was Chair of the English Department of Lehman College.

He served in the U.S. Army in 1946 and 1947, seeing duty in Arkansas, the Philippine Islands, and Colorado.

He has published articles about the plays of Henry Fielding, the subject of his Ph.D. dissertation. In 1968 he published a scholarly edition of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1728), and in 1969 he published a similar edition of Fielding's The Grub-Street Opera (1731), both with the University of Nebraska Press. He first published Writing About Literature (then named Writing Themes About Literature) in 1964, with Prentice Hall. Since then, this book has undergone eleven separate revisions, for a total of twelve editions. In 1986, with Henry E. Jacobs of the University of Alabama, he published the first edition of Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. After Professor Jacobs's untimely death in the summer of 1986, Professor Roberts continued working on changes and revisions to keep this text up to date. The Ninth Edition was published early in 2009, with Pearson Longman. The Fourth Compact Edition of Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing was published in 2008.

Professor Roberts is an enthusiastic devoté of symphonic music and choral singing, having sung in local church choirs for forty years. Recently he has sung (bass) with the New Choral Society of Scarsdale, New York (where he lives), singing in classic works by Handel, Beethoven, Bruckner, Bach, Orff, Britten, Brahms, and others. He is a fan of both the New York Mets and the New York Yankees. When the two teams play in inter-league games, he is uneasy because he dislikes seeing either team lose. He also likes both the Giants and the Jets. He has been an avid jogger ever since the early 1960s, and he enjoys watching national and international track meets.

Professor Roberts encourages queries, comments, and suggestions from students who have been using any of the various books. Use the following email address: .

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Table of Contents

To the Instructor
1 Preliminary: The Process of Reading, Responding, and Writing About Literature 1
2 Writing About Likes and Dislikes: Responding to Literature 40
3 Writing About Plot and Structure: The Development and Organization of Narratives and Drama 49
4 Writing About Character: The People in Literature 61
5 Writing About Point of View: The Position or Stance of the Work's Narrator or Speaker 73
6 Writing About Setting: The Background of Place, Objects, and Culture in Literature 88
7 Writing About an Idea or Theme: The Meaning and the Message in Literature 97
8 Writing About Imagery: The Work's Link to the Senses 107
9 Writing About Metaphor and Simile: A Source of Depth and Range in Literature 116
10 Writing About Symbolism and Allegory: Keys to Extended Meaning 126
11 Writing About Tone: The Writer's Control over Attitudes and Feelings 138
12 Writing About a Problem: Challenges to Overcome in Reading 150
13 Writing for Comparison and Contrast: Learning by Seeing Literary Works Together 158
14 Writing About Prosody: Rhythm and Sound in Poetry 167
15 Writing About Rhyme: Line-Ending Sounds That Clinch Ideas 189
16 Writing an Essay Based on the Close Reading of a Poem or Short Prose Passage 199
17 Writing About Film: Drama on the Silver and Color Screens 206
18 Writing the Research Essay: Using Extra Resources for Understanding 219
Appendix A: Taking Examinations on Literature 247
Appendix B: The Integration of Quotations and Other Important Details, and the Use of Tenses in Writing About Literature 258
Appendix C: Critical Approaches Important to the Study of Literature 264
Appendix D: Works Used for Sample Essays and References 278
Glossary 353
Index 363
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Preface

To the Instructor

In this tenth edition of Writing About Literature, I have kept and strengthened those features that so many of you have valued over the years. As in the past, I base my approach not on genres, with specific assignments to be determined, but rather on topics for full-length essays on texts in any genre. While the constant emphasis is on writing complete essays about literature, the chapters may also be used as starting points for classroom study and discussion, and thus may also be adapted for shorter writing assignments. In a one-semester course the book offers selective choices for study and writing; whereas in a two- or three-semester sequence, it is extensive enough to offer the possibility of complete or close-to-complete use.

The various chapter discussions may actually be considered as essay assignments, for that is how they were developed. Many years ago, when I was just starting out as a teacher of literature, and, inevitably, as a teacher of writing, I learned that there was a direct connection between the ways I made my assignments and the quality of student work. The more I explained to students what I wanted from them, the better their final essays turned out to be. Soon, however, I found myself taking up entire classroom periods in making assignments, and it was then that I began to write and hand out my directions, thus saving considerable classroom time. When I put these directions together, Writing Themes About Literature, now Writing About Literature, was the result, first published in 1964. Every assignment was tried out in the classroom, and I was able to make changes and improvements based on the questions Iwas asked and also based on the written assignments my students turned in.

Organization

As in each past edition of Writing About Literature, each chapter consists of two parts. The first is a discussion of a literary approach, and the second consists of suggestions for writing, together with a demonstrative essay or essays showing how students might deal with the approach.

A major characteristic preserved in this edition is that, after the preliminary discussion in Chapter 1, the chapters are arranged in a loose order of increasing difficulty. Beginning with Chapter 2, which helps students connect their reading with their responses and preferences, the chapters contain topics relevant to all the genres. The comparison-contrast chapter (Chapter 14), for example, illustrates the ways in which the earlier techniques may be focused on any of the chapter-title topics in the book. The chapter also demonstrates how an extensive comparison-contrast technique may be applied simultaneously to fiction, poetry, and drama. The later chapters, such as those on form in poetry, on film, and on research (Chapters 13,16, and 18, respectively), are increasingly involved, but they also combine and build on the various techniques of analysis presented in the earlier chapters.

Although you might assign the chapters in sequence throughout your course, you may also choose them according to your objectives and needs. One instructor, for example, might pass over the earlier chapters and go directly to the later ones. Another might choose the chapter on comparison-contrast for separate assignments such as comparative studies of symbolism, structure, character, and point of view. Still another might use just a few of the chapters, assigning them two or more times until students overcome initial difficulties. No matter how the chapters are used, the two parts—discussion and illustration—enable students to improve their skills as readers and writers.

The illustrative parts of the chapters—the demonstrative essays—are presented in the belief that the word imitation need not be preceded by adjectives like slavish and mere. These demonstrative essays represent suggestions and guidance for thematic development, and therefore represent a full treatment of each of the various topics. Nevertheless, they have been kept within the approximate lengths of most assignments in undergraduate courses. If students are writing outside of class, they can readily create full-length essays. And even though the demonstrative essays treat three or more aspects of particular topics, there is nothing to prevent assigning only one aspect, either for an impromptu or for an outside-class essay. Thus, using the chapter on setting, you might assign a paragraph about the use of setting in only the first scene of a story, or a paragraph about descriptions of interior settings, colors, or shades of color and light.

I emphasize that the purpose of the demonstrative essays is to show what might be done—not what must be done—on particular assignments. It is clear that students writing about literary works are facing a complex task. First, they must read a work for the first time; second, they must attempt to understand it; and third, they must then apply new or unfamiliar concepts to that work as they begin to write about it. By guiding them in developing a thematic form in which to express their ideas, the demonstrative essays are intended to help them overcome the third difficulty. Guidance is key here, not prescription. At first, of course, some students may follow the demonstrative essays closely, whereas others may adapt them or else use them as points of departure. My hope is that students will free themselves to go their own ways as they become more experienced as writers.

Following the demonstrative essays are commentaries, something students recommended that I include in the fourth edition and that I have kept ever since. These are designed to connect the precepts in the first parts of the chapters to the demonstrative writing in the second parts.

Additions. Revisions. Other Changes, and Retentions

All changes in the tenth edition of Writing About Literature, as in earlier editions, are designed to help students read, study, think, plan, draft, and write. I have left no part of the book untouched. A number of chapters are extensively revised; some are almost entirely rewritten. This is particularly true of the revisions in Chapter 1, "Preliminary: The Process of Reading, Responding to, and Writing About Literature." There are many changes here, and also the addition of some drawings that I hope will prove helpful to students beginning to write about literature on a serious level. Of particular note is the addition of Chapter 13, "Writing About Poetic Form." This chapter, here for the first time in the tenth edition, replaces the chapter on prosody from all the earlier editions, but it also contains introductory material on rhythm and rhyme. This change has also required the addition of more specimen poems than were included previously in the book. Also of particular note is the chapter on review essays (Chapter 15) included in the ninth edition and continued here. The reason for retaining this chapter is a practical one: Of all the writing about literature that students may be called on to do in their lives and future careers, review writing is the most likely, whether for general audiences or for audiences united by a common concern.

Another major change is the repositioning of Chapters 3 through 7, which now include a chapter on a close reading of texts, a preliminary technique for all students just beginning the actual study of literature. These five chapters, all of which are suitable for fiction and three of which are suitable for drama, are now arranged in the order of close reading, character, point of view, plot and structure, and setting. In this edition the description of the extended comparison-contrast essay in Chapter 14 has been added at the request of reviewers of the ninth edition. This addition, together with the full chapter on research (Chapter 18), makes for two challenging extended assignments that instructors might give students.

There are many other changes designed to improve the tenth edition. In making the many revisions, alterations, repositionings, and additions (as well as subtractions), I have tried to clarify, improve, and freshen the underlying information and examples. Many of the titles, headings, and subheadings have been retained as complete sentences so as to make them encapsulate the discussions they precede. My hope is that these informative headings will assist students in their understanding of the various topics. In a number of the chapters, the writing sections headed "Raise Questions to Discover Ideas" are augmented, and in the various "Special Topics" sections I have kept the topics designed to help students do library research.

Of the major sections retained from the eighth and ninth editions, Appendix A is worthy of note. This appendix contains brief descriptions of important critical approaches such as New Criticism, structuralism, feminism, deconstructionism, and reader-response criticism. Also of major importance in the tenth edition are the lists of "Special Topics for Studying and Discussing" at the ends of the chapters. These are mainly keyed to the works anthologized in Appendix C, but you are encouraged to adapt them to the selections in whatever anthologies you may be using. In several chapters, there are short related topics that are boxed and shaded to set them apart for emphasis. These discussions, such as "Using the Names of Authors When Writing About Literature," "Vehicle and Tenor;" and "DVD Technology and Film Study;" are designed as short notes to help students think about and develop their own writing. Users of previous editions have singled out these short boxed discussions for praise.

Aside from the extensive revisions and improvements, the chapters are internally different because of changes in Appendix C. The additions are Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death," Hardy's "The Man He Killed," Herbert's "Virtue," Randall's "Ballad of Birmingham," Wordsworth's "Lines Written in Early Spring, 'and Yeats's "The Second Coming." (And Chapter 13 now includes Herbert's "Easter Wings," Tennyson's "The Eagle," and Whitman's "Reconciliation.") Also, a few poems from the ninth edition have been omitted. To accompany these changes, there are changes in the topics of the demonstrative essays. I hope that these will make the book richer and, within the confines of the short number of selections, timely. With all the changes, the tenth edition of Writing About Literature remains a comprehensive guide for composition courses in which literature is introduced, and also for literature courses at any level.

An innovation of the sixth edition that has been retained in all subsequent editions is the glossary, which is based on the terms set in boldface in the text. The increasing number of students taking entrance examinations and the GRE has justified this continuation. A student may consult the glossary, which includes definitions and page numbers for further reference, and thereby develop full and systematic knowledge of many important literary concepts.

A particular word is in order about the works included in Appendix C. At one time I believed that clarifying references could be drawn from a pool of works commonly known by advanced high school and college students, and I therefore thought that no reference anthology was necessary. I presented a small number of works in the second edition, keyed to some but not all of the demonstrative essays, but reviewers recommended against it for subsequent editions. Recently, however, readers have emphasized that references to unknown works, even complete and self-explanatory ones, do not fully explain and clarify. Therefore, after the fifth edition, I made the book almost completely self-contained with the increased number of works in Appendix C. (For the chapter on problems, however, I have continued to assume that students are acquainted with Shakespeare's Hamlet; and for the essay on film I have assumed that they might know or learn to know Welles's Citizen Kane.) The result is that both references and demonstrative essays may be easily verified by a reading of the works included in the book. Experience has shown that the unity and coherence provided by these works help students understand and develop their own assignments.

Writing and Literature

The tenth edition brings into focus something that has been true of Writing About Literature since it first appeared in 1964. The book is primarily a practical guide for writing; the emphasis throughout is on how the reading of literature may improve writing. This emphasis is made to help students not only in composition and literature but also in most of their classes. In other subjects such as psychology, economics, sociology, biology, and political science, instructors use texts and ask students to develop papers from raw data. Writing is based on external, written materials, not on the student's own experiences or opinions. Writing is about reading.

Yet instructors of writing and literature face the problems we have always faced. Throughout all our colleges and universities, the demands for good student writing have gone beyond a requirement and a goal, and have now reached a clamor. The needs of other departments have been brought into strong focus by the creation of programs for writing across the curriculum. Such demands have correspondingly imposed a wide diversification of subject matter, straining the general knowledge of English department staffs and also creating a certain topical and thematic pressure on English composition and literature courses. Writing programs that stress internalized subject matter, such as personal experiences or occasional topic materials, have little bearing on writing for other courses. We as English faculty, with a background in literature, have the task of meeting the service needs of our institutions without compromising our own disciplinary commitment.

The approach in this book is aimed at these problems. English teachers can work within their own discipline—literature—while also fulfilling their primary and often required responsibility of teaching writing that is externally, not internally, directed. The book thus keeps the following issues in perspective:

  • The requirement of the institution for composition
  • The need of students to develop writing skills based on written texts
  • The responsibility of the English faculty to teach writing while still working within their own expertise

It is therefore gratifying to claim that, for close to four decades, Writing About Literature has been offering assistance to meet these needs. The approach works, but it is still novel. It gives coherence to the sometimes fragmented composition course: It also provides for adaptation and, as I have stressed, variety Using the book, you can develop a virtually endless number of new topics for essays. One obvious benefit is the possibility of entirely eliminating not only the traditional "theme barrels" of infamous memory in fraternity and sorority houses but also the newer interference from online "enterprises" that provide critical essays to order. I find it difficult to find words to express my contempt for such businesses.

Although Writing About Literature is designed, as I have said in the past, as a rhetoric of practical criticism for students, it is based on profoundly held convictions. I believe that true liberation in a liberal arts curriculum is achieved only through clearly defined goals. Just to make assignments and let students do with them what they can is to encourage frustration and mental enslavement. If students develop a deep knowledge of specific approaches to subject material, however, they can begin to develop some of that expertness that is essential to freedom. As Pope said in An Essay on Criticism,

  • True Ease in Writing comes from Art, not Chance,
  • As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.

It is almost axiomatic that the development of writing skill in one area (in this instance, the interpretation of literature) has an enabling effect for skills in other areas. The search for information with a particular goal in mind; the asking of pointed questions; the testing, rephrasing, and developing of ideas—all these and more are transferable skills for students to build on throughput their college years and beyond.

I have one concluding article of faith. Those of us whose careers have been established in the study of literature have made commitments to our belief in its value. The study of literature is valid in and of itself; but literature as an art form employs techniques and creates problems for readers that can be dealt with only through analysis, and analysis means work. Thus the immediate aim of Writing About Literature is to help students to read and write about individual literary works. The ultimate objective (in the past I wrote "primary objective") is to promote the lifelong pleasurable study and love of literature.

Acknowledgments

As I complete the tenth edition of Writing About Literature, I renew my deepest thanks to all of you who have been loyal to the earlier editions. Your approval of the book is a great honor. As I think about the revisions for the tenth edition, I am impressed with how much Writing About Literature has been influenced by the collective wisdom of many students and teachers. The reviewers who have been particularly helpful for the tenth edition are Michael Stedillie, Casper College; John Stratton, Ashland University; Elizabeth Velez, Georgetown University; Lisa Williams, Jacksonville State University; John Landry, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth; Dale Carter, California State University; and Troy Nordham, Butler County Community College. Conversations and discussions with many others have influenced my changes in innumerable and immeasurable ways.

I thank Carrie Brandon, Prentice Hall's Senior Acquisitions Editor for English, for her thoughtfulness, encouragement, and helpfulness. Phil Miller of Prentice Hall has given me firm and friendly support over a number of years. In addition, I thank Kari Callaghan Mazzola of Big Sky Composition, and, especially, Mary Anne Shahidi, who copyedited the manuscript and offered many, many corrections and improvements. I particularly thank Jonathan Roberts for his skilled and unfailing help in preparing the manuscripts and disks of the halting and tentative drafts leading to the final copy. Thank you each and every one.

Edgar V. Roberts

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Introduction

To the Instructor

In this tenth edition of Writing About Literature, I have kept and strengthened those features that so many of you have valued over the years. As in the past, I base my approach not on genres, with specific assignments to be determined, but rather on topics for full-length essays on texts in any genre. While the constant emphasis is on writing complete essays about literature, the chapters may also be used as starting points for classroom study and discussion, and thus may also be adapted for shorter writing assignments. In a one-semester course the book offers selective choices for study and writing; whereas in a two- or three-semester sequence, it is extensive enough to offer the possibility of complete or close-to-complete use.

The various chapter discussions may actually be considered as essay assignments, for that is how they were developed. Many years ago, when I was just starting out as a teacher of literature, and, inevitably, as a teacher of writing, I learned that there was a direct connection between the ways I made my assignments and the quality of student work. The more I explained to students what I wanted from them, the better their final essays turned out to be. Soon, however, I found myself taking up entire classroom periods in making assignments, and it was then that I began to write and hand out my directions, thus saving considerable classroom time. When I put these directions together, Writing Themes About Literature, now Writing About Literature, was the result, first published in 1964. Every assignment was tried out in the classroom, and I was able to make changes and improvements based on thequestions I was asked and also based on the written assignments my students turned in.

Organization

As in each past edition of Writing About Literature, each chapter consists of two parts. The first is a discussion of a literary approach, and the second consists of suggestions for writing, together with a demonstrative essay or essays showing how students might deal with the approach.

A major characteristic preserved in this edition is that, after the preliminary discussion in Chapter 1, the chapters are arranged in a loose order of increasing difficulty. Beginning with Chapter 2, which helps students connect their reading with their responses and preferences, the chapters contain topics relevant to all the genres. The comparison-contrast chapter (Chapter 14), for example, illustrates the ways in which the earlier techniques may be focused on any of the chapter-title topics in the book. The chapter also demonstrates how an extensive comparison-contrast technique may be applied simultaneously to fiction, poetry, and drama. The later chapters, such as those on form in poetry, on film, and on research (Chapters 13,16, and 18, respectively), are increasingly involved, but they also combine and build on the various techniques of analysis presented in the earlier chapters.

Although you might assign the chapters in sequence throughout your course, you may also choose them according to your objectives and needs. One instructor, for example, might pass over the earlier chapters and go directly to the later ones. Another might choose the chapter on comparison-contrast for separate assignments such as comparative studies of symbolism, structure, character, and point of view. Still another might use just a few of the chapters, assigning them two or more times until students overcome initial difficulties. No matter how the chapters are used, the two parts—discussion and illustration—enable students to improve their skills as readers and writers.

The illustrative parts of the chapters—the demonstrative essays—are presented in the belief that the word imitation need not be preceded by adjectives like slavish and mere. These demonstrative essays represent suggestions and guidance for thematic development, and therefore represent a full treatment of each of the various topics. Nevertheless, they have been kept within the approximate lengths of most assignments in undergraduate courses. If students are writing outside of class, they can readily create full-length essays. And even though the demonstrative essays treat three or more aspects of particular topics, there is nothing to prevent assigning only one aspect, either for an impromptu or for an outside-class essay. Thus, using the chapter on setting, you might assign a paragraph about the use of setting in only the first scene of a story, or a paragraph about descriptions of interior settings, colors, or shades of color and light.

I emphasize that the purpose of the demonstrative essays is to show what might be done—not what must be done—on particular assignments. It is clear that students writing about literary works are facing a complex task. First, they must read a work for the first time; second, they must attempt to understand it; and third, they must then apply new or unfamiliar concepts to that work as they begin to write about it. By guiding them in developing a thematic form in which to express their ideas, the demonstrative essays are intended to help them overcome the third difficulty. Guidance is key here, not prescription. At first, of course, some students may follow the demonstrative essays closely, whereas others may adapt them or else use them as points of departure. My hope is that students will free themselves to go their own ways as they become more experienced as writers.

Following the demonstrative essays are commentaries, something students recommended that I include in the fourth edition and that I have kept ever since. These are designed to connect the precepts in the first parts of the chapters to the demonstrative writing in the second parts.

Additions. Revisions. Other Changes, and Retentions

All changes in the tenth edition of Writing About Literature, as in earlier editions, are designed to help students read, study, think, plan, draft, and write. I have left no part of the book untouched. A number of chapters are extensively revised; some are almost entirely rewritten. This is particularly true of the revisions in Chapter 1, "Preliminary: The Process of Reading, Responding to, and Writing About Literature." There are many changes here, and also the addition of some drawings that I hope will prove helpful to students beginning to write about literature on a serious level. Of particular note is the addition of Chapter 13, "Writing About Poetic Form." This chapter, here for the first time in the tenth edition, replaces the chapter on prosody from all the earlier editions, but it also contains introductory material on rhythm and rhyme. This change has also required the addition of more specimen poems than were included previously in the book. Also of particular note is the chapter on review essays (Chapter 15) included in the ninth edition and continued here. The reason for retaining this chapter is a practical one: Of all the writing about literature that students may be called on to do in their lives and future careers, review writing is the most likely, whether for general audiences or for audiences united by a common concern.

Another major change is the repositioning of Chapters 3 through 7, which now include a chapter on a close reading of texts, a preliminary technique for all students just beginning the actual study of literature. These five chapters, all of which are suitable for fiction and three of which are suitable for drama, are now arranged in the order of close reading, character, point of view, plot and structure, and setting. In this edition the description of the extended comparison-contrast essay in Chapter 14 has been added at the request of reviewers of the ninth edition. This addition, together with the full chapter on research (Chapter 18), makes for two challenging extended assignments that instructors might give students.

There are many other changes designed to improve the tenth edition. In making the many revisions, alterations, repositionings, and additions (as well as subtractions), I have tried to clarify, improve, and freshen the underlying information and examples. Many of the titles, headings, and subheadings have been retained as complete sentences so as to make them encapsulate the discussions they precede. My hope is that these informative headings will assist students in their understanding of the various topics. In a number of the chapters, the writing sections headed "Raise Questions to Discover Ideas" are augmented, and in the various "Special Topics" sections I have kept the topics designed to help students do library research.

Of the major sections retained from the eighth and ninth editions, Appendix A is worthy of note. This appendix contains brief descriptions of important critical approaches such as New Criticism, structuralism, feminism, deconstructionism, and reader-response criticism. Also of major importance in the tenth edition are the lists of "Special Topics for Studying and Discussing" at the ends of the chapters. These are mainly keyed to the works anthologized in Appendix C, but you are encouraged to adapt them to the selections in whatever anthologies you may be using. In several chapters, there are short related topics that are boxed and shaded to set them apart for emphasis. These discussions, such as "Using the Names of Authors When Writing About Literature," "Vehicle and Tenor;" and "DVD Technology and Film Study;" are designed as short notes to help students think about and develop their own writing. Users of previous editions have singled out these short boxed discussions for praise.

Aside from the extensive revisions and improvements, the chapters are internally different because of changes in Appendix C. The additions are Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death," Hardy's "The Man He Killed," Herbert's "Virtue," Randall's "Ballad of Birmingham," Wordsworth's "Lines Written in Early Spring, 'and Yeats's "The Second Coming." (And Chapter 13 now includes Herbert's "Easter Wings," Tennyson's "The Eagle," and Whitman's "Reconciliation.") Also, a few poems from the ninth edition have been omitted. To accompany these changes, there are changes in the topics of the demonstrative essays. I hope that these will make the book richer and, within the confines of the short number of selections, timely. With all the changes, the tenth edition of Writing About Literature remains a comprehensive guide for composition courses in which literature is introduced, and also for literature courses at any level.

An innovation of the sixth edition that has been retained in all subsequent editions is the glossary, which is based on the terms set in boldface in the text. The increasing number of students taking entrance examinations and the GRE has justified this continuation. A student may consult the glossary, which includes definitions and page numbers for further reference, and thereby develop full and systematic knowledge of many important literary concepts.

A particular word is in order about the works included in Appendix C. At one time I believed that clarifying references could be drawn from a pool of works commonly known by advanced high school and college students, and I therefore thought that no reference anthology was necessary. I presented a small number of works in the second edition, keyed to some but not all of the demonstrative essays, but reviewers recommended against it for subsequent editions. Recently, however, readers have emphasized that references to unknown works, even complete and self-explanatory ones, do not fully explain and clarify. Therefore, after the fifth edition, I made the book almost completely self-contained with the increased number of works in Appendix C. (For the chapter on problems, however, I have continued to assume that students are acquainted with Shakespeare's Hamlet; and for the essay on film I have assumed that they might know or learn to know Welles's Citizen Kane.) The result is that both references and demonstrative essays may be easily verified by a reading of the works included in the book. Experience has shown that the unity and coherence provided by these works help students understand and develop their own assignments.

Writing and Literature

The tenth edition brings into focus something that has been true of Writing About Literature since it first appeared in 1964. The book is primarily a practical guide for writing; the emphasis throughout is on how the reading of literature may improve writing. This emphasis is made to help students not only in composition and literature but also in most of their classes. In other subjects such as psychology, economics, sociology, biology, and political science, instructors use texts and ask students to develop papers from raw data. Writing is based on external, written materials, not on the student's own experiences or opinions. Writing is about reading.

Yet instructors of writing and literature face the problems we have always faced. Throughout all our colleges and universities, the demands for good student writing have gone beyond a requirement and a goal, and have now reached a clamor. The needs of other departments have been brought into strong focus by the creation of programs for writing across the curriculum. Such demands have correspondingly imposed a wide diversification of subject matter, straining the general knowledge of English department staffs and also creating a certain topical and thematic pressure on English composition and literature courses. Writing programs that stress internalized subject matter, such as personal experiences or occasional topic materials, have little bearing on writing for other courses. We as English faculty, with a background in literature, have the task of meeting the service needs of our institutions without compromising our own disciplinary commitment.

The approach in this book is aimed at these problems. English teachers can work within their own discipline—literature—while also fulfilling their primary and often required responsibility of teaching writing that is externally, not internally, directed. The book thus keeps the following issues in perspective:

  • The requirement of the institution for composition
  • The need of students to develop writing skills based on written texts
  • The responsibility of the English faculty to teach writing while still working within their own expertise

It is therefore gratifying to claim that, for close to four decades, Writing About Literature has been offering assistance to meet these needs. The approach works, but it is still novel. It gives coherence to the sometimes fragmented composition course: It also provides for adaptation and, as I have stressed, variety Using the book, you can develop a virtually endless number of new topics for essays. One obvious benefit is the possibility of entirely eliminating not only the traditional "theme barrels" of infamous memory in fraternity and sorority houses but also the newer interference from online "enterprises" that provide critical essays to order. I find it difficult to find words to express my contempt for such businesses.

Although Writing About Literature is designed, as I have said in the past, as a rhetoric of practical criticism for students, it is based on profoundly held convictions. I believe that true liberation in a liberal arts curriculum is achieved only through clearly defined goals. Just to make assignments and let students do with them what they can is to encourage frustration and mental enslavement. If students develop a deep knowledge of specific approaches to subject material, however, they can begin to develop some of that expertness that is essential to freedom. As Pope said in An Essay on Criticism,

  • True Ease in Writing comes from Art, not Chance,
  • As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.

It is almost axiomatic that the development of writing skill in one area (in this instance, the interpretation of literature) has an enabling effect for skills in other areas. The search for information with a particular goal in mind; the asking of pointed questions; the testing, rephrasing, and developing of ideas—all these and more are transferable skills for students to build on throughput their college years and beyond.

I have one concluding article of faith. Those of us whose careers have been established in the study of literature have made commitments to our belief in its value. The study of literature is valid in and of itself; but literature as an art form employs techniques and creates problems for readers that can be dealt with only through analysis, and analysis means work. Thus the immediate aim of Writing About Literature is to help students to read and write about individual literary works. The ultimate objective (in the past I wrote "primary objective") is to promote the lifelong pleasurable study and love of literature.

Acknowledgments

As I complete the tenth edition of Writing About Literature, I renew my deepest thanks to all of you who have been loyal to the earlier editions. Your approval of the book is a great honor. As I think about the revisions for the tenth edition, I am impressed with how much Writing About Literature has been influenced by the collective wisdom of many students and teachers. The reviewers who have been particularly helpful for the tenth edition are Michael Stedillie, Casper College; John Stratton, Ashland University; Elizabeth Velez, Georgetown University; Lisa Williams, Jacksonville State University; John Landry, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth; Dale Carter, California State University; and Troy Nordham, Butler County Community College. Conversations and discussions with many others have influenced my changes in innumerable and immeasurable ways.

I thank Carrie Brandon, Prentice Hall's Senior Acquisitions Editor for English, for her thoughtfulness, encouragement, and helpfulness. Phil Miller of Prentice Hall has given me firm and friendly support over a number of years. In addition, I thank Kari Callaghan Mazzola of Big Sky Composition, and, especially, Mary Anne Shahidi, who copyedited the manuscript and offered many, many corrections and improvements. I particularly thank Jonathan Roberts for his skilled and unfailing help in preparing the manuscripts and disks of the halting and tentative drafts leading to the final copy. Thank you each and every one.

Edgar V. Roberts

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