Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory (Penguin) is a book which most of the students studying literature have in their self-funded library. A voluminous book, this is indeed a companion for the novice as well of the pros and experts as well. First published in 1977, the book, since then, has been published several times and came to Penguin in 1992. Highly popular, the book is widely used as a versatile reference by literature students and professors alike. As a guidebook and reference book, Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory covers almost all the possible ramifications and areas a literature student might be interested – technical terms, critical terms, literary and critical movements, various schools of literary theories, and also the genres. More than that, the book also covers widely used words in ‘literature’ which cannot be classified. A handy and useful book by all means.
Measuring the merits of such versatile books of literature might be a task which can be deemed so tough and so vague at times. However, as a reviewer and as a book critic, one has to do the things which might be bluster in the eyes of others. And here is my honest attempt at giving you my opinion about this grand reference book.
The book, in fact, a literary dictionary, has almost all the terms which might occur in the minds of people curious about literature as well as the experts in the field, professors or the students. The definitions that the book offers are elaborated and simplified so that the meaning gets delivered to the people looking for it. For example, on page number 112, you will find the meaning of the term “Carol” and it is defined, dated and traced for you! You will get the simple meaning when it came to exist and the calendar years when we had our first of the carols. And thus, the looker leaves the room satisfied!
However, in spite of the longer definitions, the book can seldom meet the quests in the terms of a full full-satisfaction. For example, though the definition of for the term “Deconstruction” is long and detailed, Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory cannot tell you the nuances of the theory in a way you should understand them. As a matter of fact, it is a reference book and a wise learner must not expect it to meet the standards of a textbook and there, the book is justified. On the page number 682, I was expecting a lot as the definition of poetry but there the book disappoints and we have just a paragraph there.
However, the book is indeed very useful on various fronts. From prosody and technicalities of writing, you can just browse for any of the terms (almost) and you are in! It defines “clausula,” “enallage,” “encomium” and many other terms very aptly!
I have liked the book now that I am just a literary enthusiast most of the times! As a student, I have learnt a lot from the book and as a casual literature teacher, the book is more than just help! So, it’s my opinion that a person interested in literature must have the book at a distance just as much as a single hand could reach without stretching! All the best!
You can grab your copy from the Amazon India link below:
review by a contributor