Below is a list of in-print works in this collection, presented in series order or publication order as applicable.
Twentieth-Century Literature in Retrospect
The essays collected here are divided into two groups: the first, concerned mainly with poets and novelists who have reached an almost canonical status; the second, dealing with earlier writers whose positions have been radically altered through interpretation and criticism of the past forty years.
Uses of Literature
“The life of a literary work depends on readers whose existence it confirms or (the valuable possibility) augments,” writes Monroe Engel. The essays collected here concern the related thesis that “the vitality of the literary enterprise is related to its usability, its capacity to strengthen or alter our options.” The first group of essays is theoretical—discussion of habit, originality, religious perspectives, and self-evaluation. The second group approaches specific issues and authors within the American context. The collection concludes with five essays on teaching literature to students whose previous literary exposure has been limited.
The Learned and the Lewed: Studies in Chaucer and Medieval Literature
Shakespeare: Aspects of Influence
The ten essays in this volume are devoted to various manifestations of Shakespeare’s influence, on individual writers and on the popular consciousness, from the early seventeenth century to the present.
Studies in Biography
Studies in Biography, a volume in the series Harvard English Studies, contains eleven essays which point to some of the new directions biography and biographical criticism have taken since the nineteenth century.
Allegory, Myth, and Symbol
The essays in this volume, ranging in time from the Middle Ages to the present and in subject from poetry to philosophy, explore the multiple interpretations of allegory, as well as the important distinctions among allegory, myth, and symbol.
Emerson: Prospect and Retrospect
Published to mark the centenary of his death, this book helps us take measure of the work and influence of one of America’s foremost thinkers, Ralph Waldo Emerson. These nine essays attempt both to come to terms with Emerson’s modernity and to look back at his origins and development. They suggest how extensively Emerson is linked to the present and show how firmly he was rooted in America’s past.
The thirteen essays in this volume range freely over the literature of the modernist period, from about the turn of the century to World War II. The contributors were invited to examine less familiar works—or aspects of the work—of major writers; to reconsider authors not usually thought of as modernist; or to explore received opinions about modernist theories and the assumptions that inform the literature of the time.
Johnson and His Age
Published in the bicentennial year of Samuel Johnson’s death, Johnson and His Age includes contributions by some of the nation’s most eminent scholars of eighteenth-century literature. It includes sections on Johnson’s life, major figures of the age, and the novel.
Renaissance Genres: Essays on Theory, History, and Interpretation
Today genre studies are flourishing, and nowhere more vigorously perhaps than in the field of Renaissance literature, given the importance to Renaissance writers of questions of genre. The eighteen essays in this volume are striking in their diversity of stance and approach. Three are addressed to genre theory explicitly, and all reveal a concern with theoretical issues.
Teaching Literature: What Is Needed Now
Hugh Kenner, Helen Vendler, Harry Levin, Nathan A. Scott, Jr., Barbara Johnson, J. Hillis Miller, and seven other scholars, critics, and metacritics at the forefront of intellectual developments in their fields offer provocative statements on the teaching of literature and on their own practices as teachers. The authors, differing widely in their areas of interest and their approaches to literature, stress an inherent relation between the classroom and their published writings, integrating teaching strategies with critical or theoretical positions.
Theoretical Issues in Literary History
Literary history, the dominant form of literary scholarship throughout the nineteenth century, is currently recapturing the imaginations of a new generation of scholars eager to focus on the context of literature after a half-century or more of “close” readings of isolated texts. This book represents current thinking on some of the theoretical issues and dilemmas in the conception and writing of literary history, expressed by a group of scholars from North America, Europe, and Australia.
The Ballad and Oral Literature
Francis James Child, compiler and editor of the monumental English and Scottish Popular Ballads, established the scholarly study of folk ballads in the English-speaking world. His successors at Harvard University discovered new ways of relating ideas about sung narrative to the study of epic poetry and what has come to be called—though not without controversy—“oral literature.” In this volume, sixteen distinguished scholars from Europe and the United States offer original essays in the spirit of these pioneers.
The Return of Thematic Criticism
How can we determine the theme of a given text? May the focus on form be the theme of a certain moment? Can the motif be understood as a formal category? What operations permit us to say that three or four texts constitute variants of the same theme? The contributors challenge the conventional dismissal of “merely” thematic approaches and offer the reader different ways of tackling the issue of what a piece of writing is “about.”
Black Columbiad: Defining Moments in African American Literature and Culture
What finding the New World meant to those who never sought it—and how they made the hostile, unfamiliar continent their own—is the subject of this volume, the first truly international collection of essays on African American literature and culture.
American Babel: Literatures of the United States from Abnaki to Zuni
If ever there was a polyglot place on the globe (other than the Tower of Babel), America between 1750 and 1850 was it. Here three continents—North America, Africa, and Europe—met and spoke not as one, but in Amerindian and African languages, in German and English, Spanish, French, and Dutch. How this prodigious multilingualism lost its voice in the making of the American canon and in everyday American linguistic practice is the problem American Babel approaches from a variety of angles.