An outline history of English literature
An outline history of English literature The purpose and plan of this little book may easily be gathered from the introductory chapter. Only a few words of preface, therefore, are needed.
An outline history of English literature Pdf
As I conceive it, a history of English literature, however brief, should still be a history of English literature in fact as well as in name; and for a history, something more is required than a list of authors and their books, and even than a chronologically-arranged collection of biographical sketches and critical appreciations.
It is true that a nation’s literature is made up of the works of individual writers, and that for the ordinary purposes of study these writers may be detached from their surroundings and treated separately.
But we cannot get a history of such literature unless and until each one has been put into his place in the sequence of things and considered with reference to that great body of the literary production of which his work must now be regarded as a part.
A history of English literature, then, must be interested primarily in English literature as a whole. Its chief aim should be to give a clear and systematic account, not of the achievements of successive great writers merely, as such, but of national changes and development.
This does not imply neglect of the personal factor. On the contrary, it brings the personal factor into relief ; for if each writer is to be considered with reference to literature as a whole, one main subject of inquiry must be the nature and value of his particular contribution to that whole.
But it does mean that, together with the personal factor, the great general movement of literature from age to age has to be investigated, and that every writer has to be interpreted in his connection with this general movement.
To exhibit the interplay of the personal and the impersonal in the making of history is, indeed, one of the fundamentals of the historian’s task ; and since history, properly understood, is as much concerned with the explanation of facts as with the facts themselves, it follows that a history of English literature must also include some record of the forces which, period by period, have combined in the transformation of literary standards and tastes.
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