It takes some hubris to suppose that you can even sweep through 600 years of British poetry and prose in a 5.3-hour program. The attempt has yielded a listenable and informative production. The narrative is occasionally off the mark and there are lapses. But it is Derek Jacobi's amiable, precise, and lyrical narration, always fresh and committed, that gives the exercise distinction and renders it pleasurable.
English literature may very well be the greatest body of imaginative writing the world has yet seen. The human experience has been understood, interpreted, and conveyed by writers of genius in a tradition stretching through six or more centuries, from Chaucer to Philip Larkin, from Defoe to William Golding. Here, accompanied by a wealth of examples, is the story of a literature that has touched the hearts and stirred the minds of countless readers through the ages.
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© (P)2001 NAXOS AudioBooks Ltd.
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The work provides a brief and accessible introduction to some of the most famous figures in English literature. In that sense, it contains the dates, basic biographical sketches, historical context, and stylistic themes one might expect. However, the author does not even attempt the pretense of an unbiased narrative and the book as a whole comes off as a specimen of unreliable history. I say this because, for the authors whose lives and works I am quite familiar with, the author presents his subjective opinion as objective fact. While readers with considerable knowledge on the subject will simply dismiss this blemish, those without may regard it as true. In a word, this analysis proved the author to be subject to the simple-minded intellectual fallacy which accompanies all ages. That is, that we live "in the best age of them all; the modern."
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