Fri

01

Mar

2013

(St. James) Reference Guide to World Literature, 2 Volumes, Third Edition

I chanced upon this reference work published in 2003. It is supposed to include works in World Literature that are not in English. Took some quick look at it, and came to the conclusion that it is just a "trade" work that is not really not of solid academic quality in terms of its editing.

 

As someone interested in author / work list - I checked out 3 lists they have:

1. Chronological List of Writers

2. Chronological List of Works

3. Language Index

 

Problems that I saw through a quick scan:

- The list of writers don't have any non-Greek / Latin works until Tao Qian and Kalidasa

- The list of works  have the City of God of 5th century A.D. placed as 5th century B.C. between Sappho and Pindar - a pretty basic mistake

- In the list of authors have Herodotus, but it is not in the list of works - probably because the work is so structured that authors mostly have one main work is treated on one entry only. But if this is the case there really should be a combined list say using authors as the basis, and then merge with anonymous works, as they do with the Language Index

- In the language index, they treated Farsi as different from Persian (questionable); Chinese for Tao Qian treated as the same as Chinese for Mo Yan, while distinguishing Greek into ancient and modern (consistency?); classify The Bible as a Hebrew work (anachronism); and most serious, "Indian" is tagged as a language (!)

- In terms of balance, blatantly "market-driven", mostly western works. Among non-Western writers/works the mix by language is:

>Japanese (27)

>Chinese (20)

> Indian (14)

> Persian (7)

> Arabic (7) 

> Egyptian (4) (Egyptian Arabic?)

> Farsi (1)

> Kreol (1) (I have not heard of this language)

> Kurdish (1)

> Sumerian (1)

> Thai (1)

- Within each entry, there is some good general coverage about an author's works and basic biographic details. I looked at the entry for Adam Mickiewicz and the one for Pan Tadeusz, I find the bibliographical data useful (e.g. when translation into English happened). Not sure how accurate they are - it said Pan Tadeusz was written in Paris, but my recollection was that it was written in Rome (?). Well, it may be right, but given the quality of the indices, I would not bet on it.

- Oh, there is no entry for Gogol.

 

Enough said.

 

 

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