A classic reference work for more than sixty years, Masterplots analyzes the most important works in all genres—long fiction, short fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction—throughout history and around the world, helping to define and critique the literary canon.
Masterplots, Fourth Edition is an expanded and updated version of 1996's Masterplots, Third Edition which was itself a culmination of the Masterplots sets published at intervals since 1949. Masterplots, Fourth Edition, in twelve volumes, retains the original purpose of the Masterplots concept: providing fundamental reference data, plot synopses where applicable, and critical evaluations of a comprehensive selection of English-language and world literature that has been translated into English. The essays are in alphabetical order by title, and each includes an annotated bibliography to aid readers in further study.
New Content & Revision Details
Masterplots, Fourth Edition features 2,220 essays in 12 volumes: 438 essays are newly written, 98 feature thoroughly revised or replaced plot synopses or critical evaluations; and 1,684 have been previously published but reedited for this new edition. No titles from the previous edition were dropped. The 1,684 titles from the 1996 set were carefully reviewed for currency, accuracy, biased language, and quality of critical analysis before inclusion in the new edition. In adding new titles, the editors considered classroom curricula at both high school and college levels, as well as the broader context of literary culture both within and beyond North America. Editors added classics that had been previously overlooked and contemporary classics that represent a range of cultural identities and diverse modern experiences.
Titles new to this edition include:
- Angel's Ashes - Frank McCourt
- The Bean Trees - Barbara Kingslover
- The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje
- Harry Potter novels - J.K. Rowling
- The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
- Ode on Grecian Um - John Keats
- The World According to Garp - John Irving
- and many more!
Organization & Format
Masterplots essays are intended to be efficient reference sources; they have been formatted to provide the available factual information about a work at a glance. All essays open with ready reference data on the type of work, the author, and the date of first publication and, where applicable, first English translation. For all works of fiction, the opening section also provides information on the "Type of Plot," "Time of Plot," and "Locale." In addition, there is for most works of fiction a section entitled "Principal Characters," which lists the work's main characters, along with brief descriptions.
Also retained from the 1996 Masterplots edition is the use of two types of format for the essays: the synopsis review and the essay review. The synopsis reviews, which treat works that have an identifiable narrative line, provide five categories of information: the opening reference data; "Principal Characters;" "The Story" or "The Poem," a straightforward summary of the plot; "Critical Evaluation," a critical analysis that discusses significant aspects of the work's artistry and history; and "Further Reading," a brief, annotated list of significant secondary sources. The essay reviews cover collections of poetry and short stories, as well as nonfiction. In this format, the essay has three subdivisions: the reference data, the analytical essay, and an annotated bibliography. Occasionally, as for some autobiographical and travel writing, an additional category—"Principal Personages"--is included. This category features a list and brief descriptions of historical figures mentioned in the work.
- List of Contents per Volume
- Complete List of Contents
- Chronological Index
- Geographical Index
- Title Index
- Author Index
- Genre Index
- Themes & Issues Index