The eighth edition of The Norton Anthology of English Literature came out late last year in two humongous volumes. Each has over 3,000 pages plus a few hundred appendix pages that are numbered separately. Each is a veritable doorstop of a book.
It's been a while since I took my last survey course in English literature and I've been thinking lately that it was time to go back and re-read some of this stuff. And to read for the first time that part of it which nobody made me read in my youth.
So I bought the new edition and put its two volumes in a prominent place on my shelves intending to pick it up, and read a bit of it during the odd free moment. Ha.
Now it's time to give this project a little structure and put the anthology on my list of New Year's Resolutions (NYR.) I realize of course that my NYR list is a bit longer than I can finish in a year. Well, let's face it, it's a lot longer. But since I expect to get at least part way into each of the tasks I decided to be realistic and start this task with Volume II, which covers works from about 1785 to late last week.
I could have begun with Volume I, of course, but I know better than to think I'm going to get through much of Beowulf or "Caedmon's Hymn," even if the first is translated by Seamus Heaney and the latter is only half a page long (but given in the Old English albeit with interlinear translation.) One has one's limitations.
I wouldn't mind Chaucer as that's in Middle English, which is an improvement on the Anglo-Saxon of Beowulf, but not that much of an improvement. Therefore it seemed sensible to start with the second volume of the Norton anthology, all of whose contents are in Modern English.
I've made a good-faith effort to read the preface to this eighth edition (boring) and I'm about to read the Introduction to the Romantic Period. Then on to the poetry of Anna Letitia Barbauld, of whom I had never heard before the other night when I opened this book.