Sturrock, John

Sturrock, John (ed.). The Oxford Guide to Contemporary Writing

New York: Oxford University Press, 1996

ISBN 0-19-818262-7

In 28 chapters, this guide covers literary developments since about 1960 around the world. Organized by country or, sometimes, by region (e.g., African countries, Arab countries), the chapters cover both the area’s individual literary scene and its place in world literary development. Each chapter, written by an expert in the field, is, according to editor Sturrock, “succinct but thorough, naming the names that were thought most important and picking out the stylistic and ideological trends that have marked the literature in question over the past three decades” (p. vii).

Note that the title refers to “contemporary writing,” not “contemporary literature.” “There is more to a literature than simply poetry and fiction,” Sturrock says in his editor’s introduction, “and the contributors to this Guide were invited to look beyond those privileged genres when deciding what to include, to take in writing for the theatre, say, or autobiography, or essays, or criticism, where it seemed of a high enough quality locally to merit attention. In the main, however, it is novelists and poets who dominate these pages” (p. vii).

The scope of the work—dealing with a country’s literature over the past 30 years in just a few pages—can lead to some odd juxtapositions (such as, in the United States chapter, discussion of Tom Wolfe and Scott Turow in the same paragraph). Nonetheless, this is a handy reference for anyone looking to become acquainted with a new body of literature, to compare one country’s literature with another’s, or to place a particular national literature in the larger, world context.

© 2000 by Mary Daniels Brown

All material on these pages is © as indicated by Mary Daniels Brown