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History of English Literature is a comprehensive, eight-volume survey of English literature from the Middle Ages to the early twenty-first century. This reference work provides insightful and often revisionary readings of core texts in the English literary canon. Richly informative analyses are framed by the biographical, historical and intellectual context for each author.
Volume 8 continues with the 1920s and the 1930s, when the Depression, the Spanish Civil War, Fascist dictatorships, and the threat of a second war challenged apolitical Modernism. Poets led by Auden, novelists like Orwell and figures such as Lawrence of Arabia defined the period. By the end of the Second World War, a realist, satirical or comic tradition resurfaces in the novel, while in poetry the affirmation of a pre-war neo-Romantic vein, especially with Dylan Thomas, is reacted against by various movements that lead poetry back to the common man. Two important years are 1953, when Waiting for Godot by Beckett is staged, and 1956, when Look Back in Anger by Osborne gives life to the ‘angry’ novel and theatre. Extensive discussions not only of writers now become classics (Doris Lessing, Iris Murdoch, Heaney, Hill and Ted Hughes) but also of other leading ones (such as Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis and Ian McEwan) are included.