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Visions and Revisions

Studies in Literature and Culture


Edited By Grzegorz Czemiel, Justyna Galant, Anna Kędra-Kardela, Aleksandra Kędzierska and Marta Komsta

Collected under the theme of Visions and Revisions, the papers included in this volume examine different aspects of literature and culture of the Anglophone world. The first part gathers articles dealing with poetry of such epochs as the seventeenth century, the Victorian era and the modern times. Part two focuses on prose works representing such conventions and modes as the romance, the Gothic novel, the condition of England novel, Victorian and neo-Victorian fiction, the science fiction novel and gay fiction. Part three concerns various aspects of British and American culture, including the new media, drama and journalism, and advertising. In its diversity the volume reflects the dynamics of change in literature and culture, enabling the readers to investigate the multifaceted canon.
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How It Was, How It Is: Literary Histories across the Decades

← 212 | 213 →Wojciech Nowicki


The paper examines the histories of English/British literature published over the last fifty years or so. Because the size of the material under inspection is forbiddingly vast and thus hardly manageable, we propose to examine only changes recorded in the paratexts of the various histories, leaving the texts themselves to future investigators.1

Three words have notably, and rather obviously, defined the scope and purpose of contemporary literary histories: “English” (less often “British”), “History” and “Literature.”

Within just a few decades the meaning of “English” has changed from that denoting “of England” to that meaning “in the English language.” The monumental Oxford History of English Literature, whose volumes continued to be published from World War II to almost the end of the last millennium, concentrated prevalently on English writers (with a glance at Scotland, though never Ireland), and so did David Daiches’s A Critical History of English Literature (1960). This situation began to change in the 1970s and 1980s when first The Sphere History of Literature in the English Language made its way to the bookshops, with two volumes about American literature, followed by the Longman Literature in English Series. The latter has now been taken over by Routledge and houses the literatures of America, India, Africa, the Caribbean as well as criticism and context, thus testifying to the changed idea of what “English” and even of what “literature” mean. Titular declarations can sometimes ← 213 | 214 →be tricky and will need annotations, as in John Peck and...

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