Literature: Posts

Daniel Robinson introduces the Routledge Engagements with Literature Series

The new Routledge Engagements with Literature series presents engagement as a means of discovery. Unlike other books that simply provide references and overviews, this series offers students and instructors new ways to engage with the literature they are studying, teaching, or researching. We talked to series editor Daniel Robinson to find out more.

1 – How did this series develop?

The idea for the series emerged out of conversations with Polly Dodson [Literature Editor] at Routledge. We both felt that the “genre” of the handbook, companion, casebook, etc. had become stale and seemed practically like boilerplate. We also recognized that students need to be engaged with the literature in order for any of that other work that those books do to be successful. Polly and I wanted books that led readers to the thrill of discovering themselves in literature. It’s probably true that an overemphasis on history and context has obscured what is most unique about the discipline of English—reading literature as literature and finding out why literary texts are special.

2 – How do you decide which areas to cover and how do you go about finding the right person to write each title?

We want to cover the traditional periods, eventually, as they continue to be taught at colleges and universities; but we also want the books to help readers make their own lenses through which to read and study. Some of these lenses—in addition to period, nationality, canon—include genre and mode but also strategies for reading. So we have launched the series with two fantastic books, one on the practice of close reading and one on ways to understand how and why narrative works.

We want to find authors who are themselves excellent teachers with experience teaching at all levels. Although I’d like to think of the books in the series as aimed at many different kinds of readers, I understand that the primary audience is undergraduates—but we want to find authors who want to write engaging (ha!) critical books that do not seem like textbooks.

Obviously, Polly and I have pretty fixed ideas about the kinds of topics we want books in the series to include, but we don’t want to make stencils. So, eventually, there needs to be a Shakespeare one, a Romanticism one, a Modernism one, etc. and my job is to find good people to write them. But I would be very interested, now that the first two books are out, to consider unsolicited proposals from potential authors who get what we’re doing here.

3 – The first two titles are Engagements with Close Reading and Engagements with Narrative. What can readers expect next?

We are developing several titles at the moment; the next two in the series are Engagements with Nature Writing by Jason Goldsmith and Engagements with Contemporary Critical Theory by Evan Gottlieb—and they are going to be dynamite books.

4 – How do you see the books in the series being used on courses?

I see them as being tools for students—and also for their instructors in that the books can help them teach content by providing critical strategies for reading and appreciating that content. For example, Janine Utell’s superb Engagements with Narrative covers many different kinds of narratives—including video games, movies, and comic books—but I would use her book, for example, in my British novel course to help my students engage with narrative writing by Smollett, Austen, the Brontës, and Dickens. She demonstrates methods for understanding specific examples of interesting narrative works that could apply to any kinds of narratives. Annette Federico’s brilliant Engagements with Close Reading works in a similar way and could be used in an intro to lit course, an advanced literary methods course, even a period-specific course. But again, there’s no set format for the books in the series because it’s hard to be engaging if you’re following a predetermined formula. Each book will be unique.

5 – What makes the series different from others available?

I think it is that openness to different ways of approaching literature—the eschewing of a set format—is one major difference. We want our authors to write accessible, informative, even inspiring books. I for one think that we need to recover some of the old ways of reading and of teaching but with greater diversity, inclusivity, and awareness than the canon-formers and New Critics of the past. I think that the study of literature must be the study of “the best that has been thought and said”; now, because of new ways of reading, new models for criticism and scholarship, we have a whole lot of new material to work with and new ways of asking questions. But our discipline—English or literary study in general—needs new ways of inspiring students and instilling in them a lifelong love of literature.

  • Engagements with Narrative

    By Janine Utell

    Balancing key foundational topics with new developments and trends, Engagements with Narrative offers an accessible introduction to narratology. As new narrative forms and media emerge, the study of narrative and the ways people communicate through imagination, empathy, and storytelling is…

    Paperback – 2015-10-19
    Routledge Engagements with Literature

  • Engagements with Close Reading

    By Annette Federico

    What should we do with a literary work? Is it best to become immersed in a novel or poem, or is our job to objectively dissect it? Should we consult literature as a source of knowledge or wisdom, or keenly interrogate its designs upon us? Do we excavate the text as an historical artifact, or…

    Paperback – 2015-10-19
    Routledge Engagements with Literature