Dr Vaidehi Nathan
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (Fourth Edition), Princeton University Press, Pp 1639 (PB), $34.95
THE Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics is a stupendous work. It packs information and reference on such a vast subject as poetry, from world over. The Fourth Edition of the encyclopedia is out. The first edition was published in 1964, second in 1974 and third in 1993.
What makes it unique and extremely valuable is the exhaustive entries. Almost all the major languages of India are included with Sanskrit receiving a substantial write-up. Region specific entries have been included in this edition, from world over making it highly comprehensive. Say the editors, “This wave of locality and specificity changes the character of the Encyclopedia and brings into the book a wide-ranging cast of contributors, new approaches, and topics of different dimensions.”
A reading of the essays on Sanskrit gives more than cursory information on poetry and poetics, including a summary history of Sanskrit poems and poets. The note on Ramayana says, “Few if any works of world literature have had as great an impact on the theorization and production of poetry as the monumental ancient Indian epic poem the Ramayana…”
One of the interesting entries is ‘Science and Poetry.’ It discusses Science and Literary Theory, The History of Science and Poetry and Poetry versus Science. “Scientists themselves have also been critics, readers, writers, and even experimental researchers of poetry. Darwin found poetry difficult but owed a conceptual as well as stylistic debt to his reading of Milton and Shakespeare. Such cross-pollination in modern science is still an under-researched area of the modern history of science.”
The editors note that poetry as a discipline is having something of a revival. While it was considered antiquarian till a while ago, today the discipline has turned toward “historical and cross-cultural questions.”
The Encyclopedia has been edited by a team — Roland Green (Stanford University) is the Editor in Chief, Stephen Cushman (University of Virginia) is the General Editor, Clare Cavanagh (Northwestern University), Jahan Ramazani (University of Virginia) and Paul Rouzer (University of Minnesota) are the Associate Editors and Harris Feinsod (Northwestern University), David Marno (University of California, Berkeley) and Alexandra Slessarev (Stanford University) are the assistant editors.
Running into 1639 pages, in single volume, this is a huge contribution to the study of poetry and poetics. Any student of literature and linguistics should have a copy as it introduces the reader to every nuance of poetry, in its finest. A marvelous work indeed.
(Princeton University Press, 41 William Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08540)