“… economic and social factors began significantly to change patterns of cultural production and consumption at the end of the nineteenth century. Of most relevance to literature (and fiction in particular) were changes in publishing practices and increased levels of literacy, education and disposable income among the general population.”
Paul Poplawski 502
I have invested myself in studying literature in context. This is the latest occupation I have chosen for myself. The inspiration has come from studying a lot about Structuralism, literary theories and mind-boggling concepts like Langue and Parole, signifier and signified, and many others in the same sequence. By chance, I have come across this wonderful title by Paul Poplawski – English Literature in Context. This article is a book review, in fact.
English Literature in Context by Paul Poplawski tries to analyse events, decisions, attacks, defence, wars, politics, rise and fall of leaders and empires. The book tries to put things in a sequence and relate the same to the development of English literature in England and associated ‘colonies’. The book will be useful for those who are preparing for examinations of different levels. BA, MA, NET, SET, and other competitive and academic students of English literature can use this book to add to their understanding of English literature with exclusive access to behind the scenes events, both-ups and hook-ups.
The author has written in an academic style that demands a holistic approach or an inclusive and broadened study. Many professors cook on the same philosophical idea that literature is directly proportional to society. A little extension to this argument will make it clear that an author writes the observations of society and nothing more. Imagination, style of writing, narrative and inclusion of historical materials are there, no doubt. However, the base always reflects society.
This book has eight chapters and about 700 pages of content (setting aside the index). Paul Poplawski, the contributing editor, has contributed two chapters and the rest six are by other scholars. The book covers English literature in its context from the medieval ages to the twenty-first century and a chapter on post-colonial literature is a separate one. The book tries to weigh and measure British literature when juxtaposed with its history, culture, colonial monsters and society in general. Though I would have loved to see how the scholar editor slaps the so-called British champions of the French revolution and the English revolution when they remained silent and toed the British colonial kings and queens of all the ages with blood not only on their hands but in their chests as well. However, like many other authors, Paul Poplawsky remains mum and tries hard in his act of monkey-balancing with The Defence of Lucknow and Round Tower of Jhansi bs. Though he pulls up, in a mild tone, Kipling for his burdens. After all, the author has disappointed and missed the entire bloodshed and the horrific silence of the British academic and literary fraternity who often taught lessons of humanity to their readers.
The chapters on the Romantic and Victorian periods have many remarkable points. The book provides an almost clear structure of the social and economic changes in England and how the same affected English literature. The coloured background notes are useful and there are images as well. In understanding the subject in context, these things help a lot.
The chapter on Post-colonial literature also fails to grasp the idea from the point of view of the colonised and after. However, there are a few important points raised in the same chapter and I believe those will be useful for students of English literature.
Overall, English Literature in Context by Paul Poplawski gets a few and misses a few… It is a good book for students no doubt. However, one should expect a better one on this topic with proper literary justice to those who could not do justice with their responsibilities as authors and poets.
You can get a copy from Amazon India by clicking the link below:
Review by Ashish for Indian Book Critics
English Literature in Context by Paul Poplawski – Book Review
- IBC Critical Rating
English Literature in Context by Paul Poplawski is a book that will partially help students understand English literature with references to the social, economic and colonial ‘growth’ of England.