A Student's Guide to Literature (R. V. Young)

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Puritanboard Clerk
Young, R. V. A Student’s Guide to Literature. Wilmington, DE: InterCollegiate Studies Institute, 2000.

The first part of the book(let) is mediocre. The second part of the book(let) borders on outstanding. It only borders, though. The author will tell us that X believed Y, but never demonstrates it from X’s work.The first part is a collection of one paragraph bios on major literary figures. It attempts (but does not succeed) in connecting them with key literary devices.

His argument is that the essence of literature is mimesis or representation. From this he begins with Homer, showing the key techne of each major writer. That’s what he tries to do. I don’t think he is successful. He does explain each writer and some key literary concepts, but we never really see how that writer used those concepts.

For example, he has a good paragraph explaining Cervantes and then moves directly to the Iliad (although he had already dealt with Homer). The reader is left confused.

The Good

* I do give him credit for noting Neoplatonic elements in Milton’s Comus (and his corpus).

* There is a decent annotated bibliography at the end.

* It ends with a section on literary criticism, noting its beginning in English with Sir Philip Sidney. Assuming he is correct, the following literary criticism breaks down accordingly:

Sidney: rethinks Aristotelian tradition through Italian humanism.

T.S. Eliot: influenced the American New Criticism/Southern Agrarian criticism.
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