The essays in this volume are intended to give a modern reader a sense of the many contexts within which literature exists. The particular angle or emphasis is the contributor's choice. Thus Spenser's work is discussed in relation to his life and times; Shakespeare's sonnets are explored as transforming a specific genre; while Marvell is read in the context of the Caroline circle. Writers such as Sidney, Donne and Milton are discussed in more than one context. There are substantial chapters on genres, such as the epyllion or minor epic, the lyric and the prose of the period, as well as chapters on individual writers, and there is a bibliography and a table of dates. Published in ten volumes, "The Penguin History of Literature" is a critical survey of English and American literature covering 14 centuries, from the Anglo-Saxons to the present.
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