Read The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors by M.H. Abrams Free Online
Book Title: The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors|
The author of the book: M.H. Abrams
Format files: PDF
ISBN 13: 9780393961508
The size of the: 317 KB
Edition: W.W. Norton & Co Inc.
Date of issue: December 28th 2000
Read full description of the books The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors:Chaucer: Canterbury Tales
How disappointing; I guess I should have paid more attention to the table of contents. It had the Prologue, Retraction, and 4 1/2 of the 22 tales. The book didn't indicate that it was only a selection, leaving me wondering if anything was redacted from the four tales as it stands. It was claimed that spelling was changed to make Chaucer's Middle English more readable; I went with this work over a "translation" to modern English I have on the shelf because Chaucer is a poet and changing the language undoes the poetry. Now I wonder as well if more than just spelling changes were made. The "scholarly" notes and explanations were terrible. Some explanations for certain words were in the margin, while others were in footnotes, with no apparent rhyme or reason for one or the other. Some explanations were unnecessary or even misleading. Norton even felt the need to explain the word "debate" in the margins (I'm sorry to say I'm not making that up). Worst of all, the notes explaining Chaucer give the reader background as to some of Chaucer's references and allusions, to include St. Jerome. The folks at Norton go on to explain St. Jerome as an "anti-feminist" and his writing as "anti-feminism." As if Jerome were responding to a contemporary feminist movement. Indeed, if one interprets St. Jerome's teaching as antithetical to modern feminism, one would have to characterize feminism as "anti-Jeromism" to avoid being anachronistic about it. Anyway, this sort of "anti-scholarship" on the part of Norton ranges between disappointing and astounding.
So I would give Norton one star but for Chaucer. His work I would give four, at least from this presentation. He is hilarious, insightful, and downright raunchy. Those maintaining various myths about the Middle Ages, from the dark, dreary, drab picture painted by modern rationalists to the romantic picture painted by the likes of Chesterton, G.K. are both demolished here. Not only is Chaucer a medieval person writing in his own authentic style, but he represents (exaggerated, to be sure) archetypes of figures familiar to his readers. The hypocrisy, lewdness, and blasphemy of many of the characters refute the idealized notions Chesterton likes to promote about the Middle Ages and Christendom. At the same time, Chaucer's own irreligion (and the contemporary popularity of his works) is proof positive against an overbearing Church squashing the least bit of blasphemy; the merry state of his character reveal a color, zest, and humor to the era that is frequently not represented in modern depictions.
Now I have to go in search of a complete compilation of the Tales that isn't ruined by "translation" or other editing and start again. Based on what I was able to read here, I am definitely interested in tackling the whole work when I find a suitable source.
Read information about the authorMeyer Howard Abrams is an American literary critic, known for works on Romanticism, in particular his book The Mirror and the Lamp. In a powerful contrast, Abrams shows that until the Romantics, literature was usually understood as a mirror, reflecting the real world, in some kind of mimesis; but for the Romantics, writing was more like a lamp: the light of the writer's inner soul spilled out to illuminate the world. Under Abrams' editorship, the Norton Anthology of English Literature became the standard text for undergraduate survey courses across the U.S. and a major trendsetter in literary canon formation.
Abrams was born in a Jewish family in Long Branch, New Jersey. The son of a house painter and the first in his family to go to college, he entered Harvard University as an undergraduate in 1930. He went into English because, he says, "there weren't jobs in any other profession, so I thought I might as well enjoy starving, instead of starving while doing something I didn't enjoy." After earning his baccalaureate in 1934, Abrams won a Henry fellowship to the University of Cambridge, where his tutor was I.A. Richards. He returned to Harvard for graduate school in 1935 and received his Masters' degree in 1937 and his PhD in 1940. During World War II, he served at the Psycho-Acoustics Laboratory at Harvard. He describes his work as solving the problem of voice communications in a noisy military environment by establishing military codes that are highly audible and inventing selection tests for personnel who had a superior ability to recognize sound in a noisy background. In 1945 Abrams became a professor at Cornell University. As of March 4th, 2008, he was Class of 1916 Professor of English Emeritus there.
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