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NONFICTION : THE OXFORD COMPANION TO THE LITERATURE OF WALES, compiled and edited by Meic Stephens.

July 27, 1986|Joseph Falaky Nagy

Reading through this eminently readable reference work is an opportunity to appreciate anew the degree to which literary tradition can become a vehicle for national identity. The Welsh have preserved their language and a great deal of their culture into the modern era despite centuries of political domination and other, more subtle pressures. Their literature reflects the adaptive process whereby the notions of "Wales" and "The Welsh" evolved out of the traditional Celtic ideologies of the ancient Britons, who preceded the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, and the Normans in the occupation of England.

The entries, written by a battery of the most distinguished scholars working today in Welsh and Celtic Studies, cover both literature in Welsh and literature by Welshmen writing in Latin or English. Most welcome are the numerous entries on Welsh cultural phenomena (including folklore and mythology), important historical figures and events, and aspects of style and meter. The "Companion" will be of great help to the specialist and non-specialist alike trying to keep up with the Joneses (more than 30 pages' worth!) as well as the many other great names and works in the history of Welsh literature.

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