Posted on 2 March 2017
A concise and authoritative survey of the Welsh and English language literatures of Wales, from the earliest period up to the present day, has been re-published by the University of Wales Press.
Published last month, The Literature of Wales is a revised version of Professor Dafydd Johnston’s volume in the University of Wales Press Pocket Guide series, and includes a new chapter on contemporary writing.
This illustrated guide, originally published in 1994, contains extracts from original texts with English translations and provides a concise and informative guide to Welsh literature from the earliest surviving poetry of Taliesin and Aneirin in the sixth century - the oldest attested vernacular literature in Europe.
The book traces the flowering of medieval Welsh literature and the developments of the Renaissance period in Wales up to the Welsh literary revival of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which also saw the rapid burgeoning of 'Anglo-Welsh' writing - literature in English written out of a Welsh background.
Now, with this revised edition, Professor Johnston brings the work up to date with a new chapter focusing on contemporary post-devolution Welsh writing.
Professor Dafydd Johnston is Director of the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies in Aberystwyth. Formerly Professor of Welsh at Swansea University, his main research interest is medieval Welsh poetry, though he has published extensively on Welsh literature of all periods, including some of the English-language writers of Wales.
Speaking about the publication as whole, Professor Johnston described how it was quite a difficult task to summarize the whole history of Welsh literature:
"There is so much to say about the whole history of Welsh literature, which was in Welsh mainly up to the 20th century. Presenting the facts, and giving readers a taste and the highlights of the literature of Wales was quite a challenge, especially the most recent period, where there is a lot to say about literature in both languages.”
As Professor Johnston details in the new chapter, one of the features of the latest period is authors that work in both languages, and he examines work by English authors from Wales alongside Welsh language authors.
“To some extent the two literatures have come closer to each other over recent years.” Professor Johnston explains. “There are more translations from Welsh and more influence from the Welsh side on English writers. There is merit in looking at the whole picture at present across both languages, and then also reflecting back on the literature of Wales over the past centuries.”
This authoritative volume condenses fifteen hundred years of literary achievement into a compact yet extraordinarily comprehensive and highly readable publication. Having introduced a generation of students and general readers to Wales’s rich literary history in both of its languages with the first edition, this revised edition gives a balanced critical assessment relating the literature to its historical background, and brings the work up to date.
The Literature of Wales is available to purchase now from the University of Wales Press website - http://www.uwp.co.uk/editions/9781786830210
The Literature of Wales by Dafydd Johnston (University of Wales Press, February 2017)
£12.99 • PB • 9781786830210 • 129 x 198 mm • 208pp