Review by Choice Review
The reader who encounters a "guide to literature" immediately envisions an endless and paralyzing list of names, dates, titles, and movements. Birket and Kearns do indeed treat an incredible number of authors, from Rabelais (1491-1553) to Julia Kristeva (b. 1941), but they do so with an enormous difference. They carefully place writers in their time and place among their contemporaries, revealing the importance of their work at the time of publication and its influence on the literature and language of the future. The authors illuminate the role of religion and politics in the development of the essay, poetry, novel, and the theater of France, differentiating the historical, the classical, the comic, morality, revolution, the scientific, romanticism, realism, symbolism, and naturalism. The role of structuralism in contemporary criticism is well defined; semiotics is treated briefly; deconstruction is not considered. One of the most informative sections of the guide is that devoted to the women's movement and the rise of feminist literature. Equally interesting is the material on francophone literature from Canada to sub-Saharan Africa. Written in a smooth, flowing style, this is a thought-provoking, solid addition to French literary studies. Undergraduates through faculty. F. C. St. Aubyn; emeritus, University of Pittsburgh
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.