9 Jul 2012
Blackwell’s Companion to Romanticism
I’ve had this book on my Amazon wishlist for quite some time but was being held back by the price. I finally bit the bullet on it and I’m relieved to find I’m really enjoying it. This companion to Romanticism contains 52 essays on all aspects of the Romantic movement. Part 1 of the book puts Romanticism in context with chapters on movements leading up to Romanticism and historical context, including the French Revolution. Part 2 has 23 essays discussing individual novelists and poets. Part 3 discusses genres of Romanticism; the novel, gothic, travel writing, etc. Part 4 is more eclectic with essays on various issues and debates. Feminism, historicism, psychological view points plus comparisons and influences such as England and Germany, Shakespeare and the Romantics, Milton, etc.
I’m currently on Chapter 5, Britain at War, and so far I’ve found the essays very well written. The authors seem to know their subject very well and express their points clearly with factual information to back it up. I’ll compare this to what I feel are some lesser and more jumbled essays next.
David Hume had taken the skepticism of the Enlightenment to its logical conclusions. In his Treatise of Human Nature Hume argued that the notions that we have of cause and effect are simply linked to the way which we experience the events in space and time and that such notions of causation have no objective existence. Thus, one’s knowledge of causation is a matter of habit or custom, not a logical certainty. Hume expressed radical skepticism about the nature of the human self, concluding that what one called the self was merely an ever-changing ‘bundle of sensations’. It was this position that ..laid the foundations for the Romantic Idealism
~Peter Kitson, Beyond the Enlightenment
The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel
I purchased the kindle version of this book and I’m glad that I did because I’m not very impressed with it. Unlike the Blackwell companion, the essays in the Cambridge companion can’t seem to express a complete thought or theory. This book has 11 essays putting the Victorian novel in historical context, discussing the industrial revolution, gender roles, race, etc. So far I’ve read 6 of the 11 and most of the essays are less about sharing with the reader “actual information” and more about the authors musings. I often felt like the authors were not expressing their opinion clearly and they jumped on to another topic or aspect of their topic before they had fully expressed or gave any backing evidence for their first opinion. The exception to this sort of scattered writing was chapter 2, Simon Eliot’s The business of Victorian publishing. Eliot seemed to know his topic very well and shared much interesting information and perspective.
I’m not sure if I will go ahead and finish this book or not. I was pretty disappointed with it but maybe the last couple chapters will surprise me.
The Cambridge Companion to The Brontes
Now after the Companion to Victorian novel mess, I was concerned that this title would also be a total flop. I bought this book on Amazon used for about $2.50, so at least I didn’t have much invested in it lol. To my relief though, this Cambridge companion is great. I haven’t been able to put it down. When I saw that the very first essay was by Juliet Barker my spirits and hopes where lifted. I have the humongous The Brontes by Juliet Barker on my shelf. I haven’t read it yet but I know she is one of THE experts on the Brontes. As expected her essay, The Haworth context, was very interesting. She gave me a whole new view point on the Bronte’s father Patrick.
I am now on Chapter 6, Shirley and Villette, so excited to read this today. Probably my favorite essay so far was Angela Leighton’s The Poetry. It lead me to looking up Emily Bronte’s poem Remembrance which I posted the other day. The first line: Cold in the earth- and the deep snow piled about thee, is still running around my mind.
‘Cold in the earth- and the deep snow piled above thee’, doubles not only the fact but also the sensation of cold. The line gets colder. It probes the buried source of coldness, making cold felt. By piling on snow as well, the poet transforms the sensation of cold into literal weight, as if to force or hold something down. Snow buries the dead doubly ‘deep’, as if earth itself were not deep enough.
~Angela Leighton, The Poetry
Jane Austen in Context, the Cambridge edition
I bought this title used from Amazon as well, in the hardcover. My edition, Jane Austen in context, is just one of the series that cover all of Austen’s novels, her juvenilia, and letters. I’ve flipped through the other titles online, and it looks like each includes a lengthy introduction, numerous notes on the text, and in some cases several appendixes. Not sure if I will make it a goal to collected each but I am tempted.
JA in Context covers in Part 1: Life and works, a short biography, essays on Austen’s language, literary influence, her poetry, etc. Part 2 Critical fortunes includes the reseption of Jane’s work, publishing history, and the cult of Austen. Part 3, Historical and cultural context, is the longest section. It has several essays detailing all aspects of Jane Austen’s times, Agriculture, Dress, Education, Money, and Rank, etc.
I read through the first essay, the biography. It was short but well written and it made its main focus something that is often over looked in other Austen bios, her personal finances. I’ve read snips of some of the other chapters and so far, they all look very interesting and well researched.
Edward Austen (Jane’s brother) eventually enjoyed an income greater than Mr. Darcy’s, nearly £15,000 a year, but he was not at first remarkably generous to his mother and sisters after his father’s death in 1805 left them virtually homeless. Still, his initial pledge or £100 a year did almost double his mother’s income, and eventually he housed her and his sisters in the cottage at Chawton that has become the Jane Austen museum.
~Jan Fergus, Biography Jane Austin in Context
If you are interested in flipping through any of these books you can find them in my Classics Book shop, under Companions and Context. Well, you won’t find the Cambridge Victorian companion becasue I don’t recommend that one lol but you will find the others plus some other goodies to boot. The Classics book shop is just a project I am working on for fun. It is an Amazon affiliate store that I don’t really expect any traffic on but it is hella’ fun picking out my favorite books to add to it lol.
You can find additional companions, literary criticism, and biographies in the book shop under the Lit movement category pages and under the individual authors. Note that the list price for each book is just the Amazon price, click through to check for deals on used editions. The main link for the Book Shop, if you feel like browsing, is at the top of the blog home page.