The Englishness of English Literature: “English Literature” by Jonathan Bate

English Literature: A Very Short Introduction - Jonathan Bate

Published 2010.



“Once upon a time, a very long, long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders.”


What you get contents-wise:


Once Upon a Time;

What it is;

When it Began;

The Study of English;

Periods and Movements;

Among the English Poets;

Shakespeare and Dramatic Literature;

Aspects of the English Novel;

The Englishness of English Literature?


Last year I read a book entitled: “Why Read?”. There are points of connection between the two books. Bate’s book is more specific, whereas Edmondson’s is more generic. Both give us a fine view of what it means to be a (compulsive/immersive) reader.


Does reading make me “smarter”? I’m not sure I can devise a method to measure my ability to understand the world as it-is or as it-should-be due to my deep immersion in Literature. I’m pretty certain because I started reading in English at a tender age, my ability to understand and be able to talk about English Literature is greater than my aptitude to discuss Portuguese Literature. I usually say I’m not really an example to anyone in this regard, because I neglected reading my own literature in my own mother-tongue at a very early age. I only read what I was compelled to read. When I got older, in college, that’s when I started reading (and discovering) Portuguese Literature. But English literature (or Literature in English if one feels so inclined because it has a wider scope) will always be my first love reading-wise. My English synapses were formed when I was very young, so there’s nothing to be done about it. I am who I am, accept me, reject me, but I'm still me. Later on I discovered German Literature. And nothing was ever the same…


"What do they know of England who only England knowI’m not sure I agree with Bate on the interpretation of this Kipling’s quote. I’ve always read this as we will know ourselves better if we can view ourselves through the eyes of others. Those who know other languages have, in general, a better understanding of English than those who do not. Of course, the word "English" may be replaced by any other, namely, Portuguese, German, etc. I’d be interested in knowing your take on this.


The rest of this review can be found elsewhere.