Best Selling Books by Seth Lerer

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release date: Sep 01, 2010
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The Consolation of Philosophy

In this highly praised new translation of Boethius’s The Consolation of Philosophy, David R. Slavitt presents a graceful, accessible, and modern version for both longtime admirers of one of the great masterpieces of philosophical literature and those encountering it for the first time. Slavitt preserves the distinction between the alternating verse and prose sections in the Latin original, allowing us to appreciate the Menippian parallels between the discourses of literary and logical inquiry. His prose translations are lively and colloquial, conveying the argumentative, occasionally bantering tone of the original, while his verse translations restore the beauty and power of Boethius’s poetry. The result is a major contribution to the art of translation.

Those less familiar with Consolation may remember it was written under a death sentence. Boethius (c. 480–524), an Imperial official under Theodoric, Ostrogoth ruler of Rome, found himself, in a time of political paranoia, denounced, arrested, and then executed two years later without a trial. Composed while its author was imprisoned, cut off from family and friends, it remains one of Western literature’s most eloquent meditations on the transitory nature of earthly belongings, and the superiority of things of the mind. In an artful combination of verse and prose, Slavitt captures the energy and passion of the original. And in an introduction intended for the general reader, Seth Lerer places Boethius’s life and achievement in context.

release date: Aug 25, 2015
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Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language
Seth Lerer tells a masterful history of the English language from the age of Beowulf to the rap of Eminem. Many have written about the evolution of grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary, but only Lerer situates these developments within the larger history of English, America, and literature. This edition features a new chapter on the influence of biblical translation and an epilogue on the relationship of English speech to writing. A unique blend of historical and personal narrative, Inventing English is the surprising tale of a language that is as dynamic as the people to whom it belongs.
release date: Sep 01, 2009
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Children's Literature: A Reader's History, from Aesop to Harry Potter

Ever since children have learned to read, there has been children’s literature. Children’s Literature charts the makings of the Western literary imagination from Aesop’s fables to Mother Goose, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to Peter Pan, from Where the Wild Things Are to Harry Potter.

The only single-volume work to capture the rich and diverse history of children’s literature in its full panorama, this extraordinary book reveals why J. R. R. Tolkien, Dr. Seuss, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beatrix Potter, and many others, despite their divergent styles and subject matter, have all resonated with generations of readers. Children’s Literature is an exhilarating quest across centuries, continents, and genres to discover how, and why, we first fall in love with the written word.

“Lerer has accomplished something magical. Unlike the many handbooks to children’s literature that synopsize, evaluate, or otherwise guide adults in the selection of materials for children, this work presents a true critical history of the genre. . . . Scholarly, erudite, and all but exhaustive, it is also entertaining and accessible. Lerer takes his subject seriously without making it dull.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Lerer’s history reminds us of the wealth of literature written during the past 2,600 years. . . . With his vast and multidimensional knowledge of literature, he underscores the vital role it plays in forming a child’s imagination. We are made, he suggests, by the books we read.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“There are dazzling chapters on John Locke and Empire, and nonsense, and Darwin, but Lerer’s most interesting chapter focuses on girls’ fiction. . . . A brilliant series of readings.”—Diane Purkiss, Times Literary Supplement

release date: May 01, 1996
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Literary History and the Challenge of Philology: The Legacy of Erich Auerbach (Figurae: Reading Medieval Culture)
A century after his birth and fifty years after the composition of Mimesis, Auerbach still stands as a touchstone for contemporary academic debates on the place of historical criticism in the construction of literary history, on the relations between intellectual activity and political action, and on the function of the critic in recording―or effecting―social change. More than an occasion to review past accomplishments or revel in the nostalgias of prewar Marburg or postwar New Haven, the papers offered in this volume seek to reassess Auerbach's work and his example for the modern academic. Their genesis lay in a conference at Stanford University held in October 1992, and while they do not represent a consensus of opinion or a uniformity of school or approach, they all share the recognition of the timeliness of such a reassessment.
release date: Nov 30, 2016
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Tradition: A Feeling for the Literary Past: The Literary Agenda
The Literary Agenda is a series of short polemical monographs about the importance of literature and of reading in the wider world and about the state of literary education inside schools and universities.The category of "the literary" has always been contentious. What is clear, however, is how increasingly it is dismissed or is unrecognised as a way of thinking or an arena for thought. It is skeptically challenged from within, for example, by the sometimes rival claims of cultural history, contextualized explanation, or media studies. It is shaken from without by even greater pressures: by economic exigency and the severe social attitudes that can follow from it; by technological change that may leave the traditional forms of serious human communication looking merely antiquated. For just these reasons this is the right time for renewal, to start reinvigorated work into the meaning and value of literary reading.

Seth Lerer presents an original take on tradition in the literary imagination. He asks how we can have an unironic, affective relationship to the literary past in an age marked by historical self-consciousness, critical distance, and shifts in cultural literacy. Tradition: A Feeling for the Literary Past ranges through a set of fiction, poetry, and criticism that makes up our inherited traditions and that also confronts the question of a literary canon and its personal and historical meaning. How are we taught to have a felt experience of literary objects? How do we make our personal anthologies of reading to shape social selves? Why should we care about what literature does both to and for us? This book affirms the value of close and nuanced reading for our understanding of both past and present. Its larger goal is to explore the ways in which the literary past makes us, and in the process, how we create canons for reading, teaching, and scholarship. The writers discussed here were all great readers--Dickens and Orwell, Rushdie and Bradbury, Dickinson and Frost, Anne Bradstreet and Gjertrud Schnackenberg, Chaucer, Dante, Virgil--they all built their literary structures on the scaffold of their bookshelves. Lerer demonstrates how reading the past generates the literary present, and imagines our literate future.
release date: May 31, 2009
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The Wind in the Willows: An Annotated Edition


Begun as a series of stories told by Kenneth Grahame to his six-year-old son, The Wind in the Willows has become one of the most beloved works of children’s literature ever written. It has been illustrated, famously, by E.H. Shepard and Arthur Rackham, and parts of it were dramatized by A.A. Milne as Toad of Toad Hall. A century after its initial publication it still enchants. Much in Grahame’s novel—the sensitivity of Mole, the mania of Toad, the domesticity of Rat—permeates our imaginative lives (as children and adults). And Grahame’s burnished prose still dazzles. Now comes an annotated edition of The Wind in the Willows by a leading literary scholar that instructs the reader in a larger appreciation of the novel’s charms and serene narrative magic.




In an introduction aimed at a general audience, Seth Lerer tells us everything that we, as adults, need to know about the author and his work. He vividly captures Grahame’s world and the circumstances under which The Wind in the Willows came into being. In his running commentary on the novel, Lerer offers complete annotations to the language, contexts, allusions, and larger texture of Grahame’s prose. Anyone who has read and loved The Wind in the Willows will want to own and cherish this beautiful gift edition. Those coming to the novel for the first time, or returning to it with their own children, will not find a better, more sensitive guide than Seth Lerer.

release date: Jul 12, 1993
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Chaucer and His Readers

Challenging the view that the fifteenth century was the "Drab Age" of English literary history, Seth Lerer seeks to recover the late-medieval literary system that defined the canon of Chaucer's work and the canonical approaches to its understanding. Lerer shows how the poets, scribes, and printers of the period constructed Chaucer as the "poet laureate" and "father" of English verse. Chaucer appears throughout the fifteenth century as an adviser to kings and master of technique, and Lerer reveals the patterns of subjection, childishness, and inability that characterize the stance of Chaucer's imitators and his readers. In figures from the Canterbury Tales such as the abused Clerk, the boyish Squire, and the infantilized narrator of the "Tale of Sir Thopas," in the excuse-ridden narrator of Troilus and Criseyde, and in Chaucer's cursed Adam Scriveyn, the poet's inheritors found their oppressed personae. Through close readings of poetry from Lydgate to Skelton, detailed analysis of manuscript anthologies and early printed books, and inquiries into the political environments and the social contexts of bookmaking, Lerer charts the construction of a Chaucer unassailable in rhetorical prowess and political sanction, a Chaucer aureate and laureate.

release date: Jun 21, 2021
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The History of the English Language DVDs:  The Teaching Company (The Great Courses)
This course of 36 lectures surveys the history of the English language, from its origins as a dialect of Germanic-speaking peoples, through the literary and cultural documents of its 1,500-year history, to the state of American speech of the present day. The course is in three parts. Part I focuses on the development of English in its earliest forms. We begin with the study of Indo-European, the posited 5,000-year-old original from which the modern and classical European, Iranian, and Indian languages emerged. The lectures move to the Germanic branch of languages and to the Anglo-Saxons who settled the British Isles beginning in the fifth century. Old English emerges as the literary vernacular of the Anglo-Saxons and flourishes until the Norman Conquest in the mid-eleventh century. The interplay of English, French, and Latin from the eleventh to the fifteenth century generates the forms of Middle English in which Chaucer, among others, wrote, and gives us a sense of a trilingual medieval British culture. Part II begins with the emergence of English as an official language after the decline of French in the fifteenth century. This set of lectures charts the changes in pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary that distinguish Middle English from Modern English. It looks closely at the rise of an English literary vernacular, and it suggests some ways in which we can trace changes in word meanings by using the resources of historical dictionaries. Part III focuses on American English and the modes of studying the history of the language today. Professor Seth Lerer is Avalon Foundation Professor in Humanities and Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Stanford University. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
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release date: Jun 21, 2021
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History of the English Language, 2nd Edition
This course offers an overview of the English language that is literary, historical, cultural, political, and scientific in its scope and designed to give you greater insight into the written and spoken word. The lectures provide a thorough understanding of the history of the English language - from its origins as a dialect of the Germanic-speaking peoples through the literary and cultural documents of its 1,500-year span to the state of American speech today. Professor Lerer defines concepts by illustrating them with copious examples. He often speaks in the dialect appropriate to each lecture - be it Old English, Chaucer's Middle English, or the colloquial style of Mark Twain's most unforgettable characters.
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release date: Jun 21, 2021
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The History of the English Language, Parts 1-3
36 lectures on 18 tapes.
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