Welcome to this sample collection which gathers together articles from notable contributors that appear in this archive, and provides you with links to view the articles on the Gale Primary Sources platform.
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John Betjeman (1906-1984) is a unique figure in twentieth-century English poetry, enjoying a degree of fame and success unequaled by any poet since Byron. His Collected Poems of 1958 reputedly sold more than 100,000 copies, and they are read by millions of people who normally never read poetry, while he has become a household name through his many appearances on television panels and on programs about architecture. He is also quintessentially English, a pillar of the so-called establishment and he has, during a long and diverse career, accumulated several honorary doctorates, a CBE, and a knighthood before being created the Poet Laureate in 1972. Despite such public recognition (or perhaps partly because of it) Betjeman’s stature as a poet has remained singularly hard to assess. Some critics have always maintained that he is a poet of mediocre talents, a competent versifier whose adroit exploitation of the television medium in its early years enabled him to carve out for himself a reputation he does not deserve. (Adapted from: Clarke, John. “John Betjeman.” British Poets, 1914-1945, edited by Donald E. Stanford, Gale, 1983).
As one of Italy’s most prominent writers Umberto Eco (1932-2016) remains resolutely Italian. Yet he is also a cosmopolitan intellectual whose personality and work are well known throughout the world. The enormous success of his novels, the first two in particular, has made him perhaps the most influential of contemporary European intellectuals. As such, he has restored Italy and its intellectual tradition to a position of prominence in European cultural life. Eco’s novels represent only a fraction of his output and cannot be separated from his work as a philosopher, historian, literary critic, and aesthetician. His novels issue from and elaborate upon themes that are treated extensively in his other writings. He and his work stand as convincing testimony against intellectual arrogance in all its forms. That one cannot know everything, he argues, does not mean that one knows nothing; if one cannot say everything, neither is one permitted to say just anything. His is a plea for sanity in an age given to ruinous extremes. (Adapted from: Rubino, Carl A. “Umberto Eco.” Italian Novelists Since World War II, 1965-1995, edited by Augustus Pallotta, Gale, 1999).
T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), the 1948 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, is one of the giants of modern literature, highly distinguished as a poet, literary critic, dramatist, and editor/publisher. Eliot was almost as renowned a literary critic as he was a poet. From 1916 through 1921 he contributed approximately one hundred reviews and articles to various periodicals. This early criticism was produced at night under the pressure of supplementing his meager salary--first as a teacher, then as a bank clerk--and not, as is sometimes suggested, under the compulsion to rewrite literary history. A product of his critical intelligence and superb training in philosophy and literature, his essays, however hastily written and for whatever motive, had an immediate impact. Eliot is also an important figure in 20th century drama. He was inclined from the first toward the theater--his early poems are essentially dramatic, and many of his early essays and reviews are on drama or dramatists. (Adapted from: Brooker, Jewel Spears. “T. S. Eliot.” Nobel Prize Laureates in Literature, Part 1, Gale, 2007).
Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) was an Irish poet known for his regional themes and sensibilities. Much of his work reflects his upbringing in an atmosphere of deeply divided political and religious beliefs. He became widely recognized in the 1960s as a founding member of the “Northern School” of Irish letters and is acknowledged as one of the most popular and admired poets of modern times. Heaney has enjoyed critical acclaim since the publication of Death of a Naturalist, which was praised for the poet’s deft use of allusion and respect for things past. Heaney has been lauded for his use of the natural places of his youth to address the strife between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Critics have consistently observed Heaney’s use of language to evoke history and place. He gained widespread attention after his third and fourth books, and became a notable influence on other poets. (Adapted from: “Seamus Heaney.” Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited by Jeffrey W. Hunter, vol. 309, Gale, 2011).
Philip Larkin (1922-1985) managed to capture a loyal, wide, and growing audience of readers. He has been acclaimed the “unofficial poet laureate” of England and the “laureate of the common man,” as a representative spokesman for the British sensibility since World War II. He emerged as the center, if not the starting point, of most critical debate over postwar British verse. He is the best known and most acclaimed—critically and popularly—of the figures who made up the so-called Movement in the early 1950s and as an avowed enemy of the literary modernism scorned by The Movement. His scant four collections of poems, written over thirty years, as well as the two novels he brought out shortly after the war, continue to go into new printings, hardcover and paperback, on both sides of the Atlantic. With his well-known reluctance to grant interviews, he insisted that, rather than meet his interviewers face-to-face, he be sent a series of questions, the first set of which he took five months in answering. The paradox of his consenting to the interview but on such a condition—his sense of a place on the literary map yet his refusal to be a public figure—accords with the combination of wariness and fascination toward all relationships, even the most private, seen throughout his poetry. (Adapted from: Martin, Bruce K. “Philip (Arthur) Larkin.” Poets of Great Britain and Ireland, 1945-1960, edited by Vincent B. Sherry, Gale, 1984).
David Lodge (1935-) is the author of some of the most clever, ambitious, and funny fiction written in England during the past four decades. He has combined the writing of fiction with a keen interest in its theory and, in addition to his novels, has written eleven books of literary criticism and scores of articles for academic journals. While carrying on this prolific writing career he worked as a professor of English literature at the University of Birmingham until his early retirement in 1987. Since then he has worked full-time as a freelance writer. Lodge’s novels have all focused largely on his own experiences and on the environments he has known best--lower-middle-class Catholic family life in a South London suburb; a childhood spent in wartime England and an adolescence in austerity-ridden postwar London; life as a graduate student and as a literature professor; married life; and life inside the Catholic Church after World War II. For his characters and for his settings he seldom ventures from academia or the Catholic Church. In most of his novels his protagonists are literature students or college professors, and a majority of them are also enlightened Catholics. (Adapted from: Jackson, Dennis. “David (John) Lodge.” British Novelists Since 1960: Second Series, edited by Merritt Moseley, Gale, 1998).
Marina Warner (1946-), cultural critic, novelist, historian, and children’s author, has made significant contributions to fields as diverse as religious studies, contemporary art, and the history of the fairy tale. Her fiction has ranged over many genres, from novels and short stories to children’s books, movie scripts, and opera librettos. Her work appears in a variety of venues and media, including popular and scholarly journals, television, and exhibition catalogues. Warner’s fiction provides the reader with a challenging and ultimately satisfying combination of writerly prose; strongly drawn, complex characters; compelling plots; and an erudite handling of history. Her books have been translated into many languages, and she has held several prestigious visiting lectureships at universities around the world. Warner continues to publish at a prodigious rate, not only major works but also an astonishing number and range of short stories, reviews, and essays in scholarly and popular journals. In addition she has served on the National Council for One-Parent Families, the Advisory Council for the British Library, and other civic and cultural boards. (Adapted from: McBride, Kari Boyd. “Marina Warner.” British Novelists Since 1960: Second Series, edited by Merritt Moseley, Gale, 1998).
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was one of the most innovative and influential literary figures of the 20th century, as well as one of the most controversial. A prolific author of essays, journals, letters, and long and short fiction, Woolf is probably best remembered for her provocative experimental novels. As an early practitioner of stream-of-consciousness writing, Woolf subordinates dramatic action and plot development in her novels, exploring instead the inner thoughts and feelings of her characters. Through her revolutionary writings, she questions both the nature of reality and the significance of the individual human being in an alienating and dehumanizing world. Her works offer a unique, early twentieth-century perspective on such topics as sexuality, feminism, life and death, madness and sanity, and the disintegration of society. Critics have suggested that writing, though a physically and psychologically taxing process, served Woolf as an outlet for self-exploration. Her writings reflect an attempt to reconcile the dual nature of her sexuality, her unfulfilled desire to bear a child--she often compared the writing process with childbirth--her consuming fear of failure, and an overwhelming sense that she might lose control over her life. (Adapted from: “(Adeline) Virginia Woolf.” Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2004).
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