For any and all lovers of English and her great works, The Norton Anthology of English Literature is the book for you. I must say, I have never been so happy to come home and find a textbook waiting for me. Yes, this is required reading for college and yes, I am going to love it. How could I not? I have some of the greatest pieces of English literature all bound into one book and have it sitting in my hands!
The Anthology is a great collection of works dating from the 7th century, with works like Caedmon’s Hymn and Beowulf, to the 14th century with works by Chaucer and the Pearl Poet. It continues though the reformation and all the beautiful religious works, the writings about and by the royalty of England, and ending with works well into the Modern Period around the 1800’s. Truly, this is an impressive collection. I have only read so far ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, but over the course of the next few months, and presumably years, I will find more works to enjoy and write about.
In addition to the works of these famous writers, there are multiple introductions to the different periods of English history – both the language and the people. This begins with the Anglo-Saxons, to the Norman conquest, then on to the Medieval Period to the Renaissance, up through Shakespeare and into the Modern period. And for those, like myself, who are interested in a brief discourse on how to pronounce words in Middle English, there is a small section with that as well. With the works, bibliographies, two maps, a small dictionary, a list of the royal lines of the kings of England, and other interesting pieces of information, it makes for an impressive book.
If you are simply looking for something interesting to read, or perhaps just wish to have a reference to some of the greatest works English has to offer, consider this book. For honestly, can you ever really have too many books? I hope to write about my thoughts on some of these works soon, but until then, I hope you will find and enjoy the book!