The Handy Literature Answer Book: An Engaging Guide to Unraveling Symbols, Signs and Meanings in Great Works

BURT, Daniel S. & . 450p. index. Visible Ink. Jul. 2018. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781578596355.
Gr 8 Up—Arguing that literature is more about asking essential questions than providing answers, Burt and Felder teach readers to analyze poetry, short stories, novels, drama, and literary nonfiction. The authors summarize the plots of works such as William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders, and Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," placing each title within its cultural or historical period. Although the subtitle implies extensive discussion of symbols, signs, imagery, themes, and literary devices, the authors concentrate on specific literary generalities. It would have been helpful to have listed the additional resources bibliography at the end of each chapter and tied literary theory more closely to the literary criticism discussions. The "Recommended Essential Works of Literature" is particularly valuable.
VERDICT A solid addition to classroom libraries and most useful as a resource for middle and high school English teachers. Not a replacement for Salem Press's "Critical Insights," "Magills Literary Annual," or "Critical Surveys" or the Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism.

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