Browse the Collection

Please search the collection as a library catalogue or database. For example, to retrieve all results related to sociology, you may want to use sociolog* as this will include books with any ending to the root ~ sociology, sociological, sociologist, and sociologists ~ in the title or description.

Literature, the Humanities, and Humanity

textbook cover image
and read all over (https://flic.kr/p/e32shB) by Jonathan Cohen (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonathancohen/) used under a CC-BY-NC license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/)

Description: Literature, the Humanities, and Humanity attempts to make the study of literature more than simply another school subject that students have to take. At a time when all subjects seem to be valued only for their testability, this book tries to show the value of reading and studying literature, even earlier literature. It shows students, some of whom will themselves become teachers, that literature actually has something to say to them. Furthermore, it shows that literature is meant to be enjoyed, that, as the Roman poet Horace (and his Renaissance disciple Sir Philip Sidney) said, the functions of literature are to teach and to delight. The book will also be useful to teachers who want to convey their passion for literature to their students. After an introductory chapter that offers advice on how to read (and teach) literature, the book consists of a series of chapters that examine individual literary works ranging from The Iliad to Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. These chapters can not substitute for reading the actual works. Rather they are intended to help students read those works. They are attempts to demystify the act of reading and to show that these works, whether they are nearly three thousand or less than two hundred years old, still have important things to say to contemporary readers.

Author: Dr. Theodore L. Steinberg, SUNY Fredonia

Original source: opensuny.org

Adoption (faculty): Contact us if you are using this textbook in your course

Adaptations: Support for adapting an open textbook

Open Textbook(s):

  1. DOWNLOAD PDF file. This icon is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution 3.0 License. Copyright Yusuke Kamiyamane. Print (.pdf) (0.89 MB)
  2. DOWNLOAD EPUB file. This icon is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution 3.0 License. Copyright Yusuke Kamiyamane. eReader (.epub) (0.51 MB)
  3. PRINT Buy a print copy
  4. DOWNLOAD WORD file. This icon is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution 3.0 License. Copyright Yusuke Kamiyamane. EDITABLE: Word file (.docx) (0.64 MB)

Review this book

Reviews for 'Literature, the Humanities, and Humanity'

Number of reviews: 3
Average Rating: 3.7 out of 5

1. Reviewed by: Dale Martelli
  • Institution: Simon Fraser University
  • Title/Position: Sessional Lecturer
  • Overall Rating: 4.4 out of 5
  • Date:
  • License: Creative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

Dr. Steinberg’s introduction was clearly presented and engaging. Any literature teacher or professor should attend carefully to his arguments. Too much of literature is lost in the classroom or lecture hall. Steinberg’s emphasizes the enjoyment of literature as opposed to its surgical dissection often practiced in secondary and post-secondary classrooms. There are no prescriptive mechanisms for literary interpretation throughout his discussions of the literary selections in the text book. Rather, the selections are opened to multiple interpretations and rich discussion of meaning.

The selections of the text are canonical within the tradition of English literature (and I mean “English” in geographical terms) and represent a sufficient range of literary genres. I do wish there might have been a selection or two from the 20th century perhaps post Great War. The text ends with Middlemarch and I am not sure why we stop in the Victorian era of the late 19th century.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

There were no issues with content accuracy. What is appreciated is that the proffered text interpretations encourage not discourage debate over meaning.

Content Accuracy Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

Given the nature of the text book, it really is not subject to becoming obsolete at least with respect to the western literary tradition. While Dr. Steinberg does explain the relative absence of women in literature prior to the 19th century, this text book, with the exception of Homer, is not “world” literature. It is English literature. It might be useful to make that clear either in the title or in the introduction in order to clarify relevancy.

Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

While I had some grammatical quibbles, Dr. Steinberg is a very engaging and clear writer. There is a real sense of listening to someone’s love of literature in way that does not deter someone form picking up a play of Shakespeare, a sonnet of Sidney, or a Victorian novel; there is something in his prose that I can’t adequately label that makes me want to read again the Iliad or the Great Expectations. This is what he intended (there might be a pun here) and the text succeeds.

Clarity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

There is no inconsistency with respect to terminology. I just suggest that the framework would be made more consistent if the title and/or introduction clearly defined the scope.

Consistency Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

I have no criticism of the modularity of the text.

Modularity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

From Homer on, the organization, structure, and flow is logical and clear; within the tradition of English literature. As it has been noted below, both the title and the introduction does ask why Goethe or Rilke is not included in the selections. And there might be some so-called “post-modern” questions why selections were not made from other cultural traditions outside of the Western European canon. This, again, could be dealt with in clarifying the actual intended scope of the text.

Organization Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

Interface is not an issue with respect to this text.

Interface Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

I am afraid that criticism here might reflect grammatical bias. I do use Strunk and White’s Elements of Style as my source for grammatical convention. There are odd spots of run-on sentences. An example of this is on page 2: “Because few of us can agree on the meaning of “a liberal education,” however, that definition is of little help, though the early connection between the notion of the humanities and an educational system is significant.” I think my issue is in the use of “however” and the signification of the phrases that follows. I will also argue that the use of “1990’s” is grammatically incorrect. A year or decade cannot possess anything and the use of “’s” is confusing. I am of the school that one should just write “1990s”; this is in accord with journalistic standards.

Grammar Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

While not insensitive or offensive in any way, I think, to say it once more, that the textbook needs a tighter sense of scope not to leave it open to any critique of canon selection. (I do wish “races” would be placed in the dustbin of language as the term does not have any empirical or notional valid content.)

Cultural Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

This text is appropriate as a resource for anyone teaching “English” literature along with the possible foray into a Greek Classic. The principles of textual treatment, however, are universal in my view.

2. Reviewed by: Sonia Perna
  • Institution: SAIT Polytechnic
  • Title/Position: Instructor
  • Overall Rating: 3.8 out of 5
  • Date:
  • License: Creative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

Literature, the Humanities, and Humanity by Dr. Theodore L. Steinberg provides a comprehensive introduction to the study of literature (twenty-five pages). The text has a worthwhile goal of “[showing] the value of reading and studying literature” (page v) and emphasizing the importance of this endeavour. The text is comprehensive in the sense that it contains detailed analyses of classic literary texts although twentieth century texts are unfortunately not included. While I believe that breadth is important, it is also recommended that textbooks included modern and post-modern selections so that students have insight into literature written in the last hundred years, including current literature that addresses modern, relevant issues.

Useful examples are provided in the introduction and each chapter provides a critical analysis of very important and influential literary works. The discussions are thorough, insightful, and thought-provoking. They are an excellent resource for students wanting to delve deeper into these works and provide support in the form of secondary research for their ideas, as required in their writing assignments. It is also useful to address misunderstandings around literature and emphasize the importance of language. Steinberg asserts, “Good writers use language very carefully, and readers must learn how to be sensitive to that language” and that “there is no single correct way to read a good piece of literature” (page 7). I couldn’t agree more, as an English instructor and writer. I also like the assertion that we should not focus on the author’s intentions and that reading is an “interactive engagement” (p. 15); however, I do think it is necessary to focus on the context in which the work was written. The chapters do this well and discuss the author’s background (when possible) as well. It would also be useful to include reflection questions at the end of each chapter. It would also be helpful to discuss the structure and characteristics of each work such as epic poems in order to have a stronger understanding of genre.

Like Steinberg, I too hope my students will continue to read literature after they graduate.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

The content is accurate and error-free; however, there is certainly a bias toward classic literature versus modern literature and, in that sense, the text is lacking. Steinberg “encourages students to see the contemporary relevance of older literatures” (page v), yet I still think that these can be presented as a context for modern literature as well.

Content Accuracy Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

As mentioned, the text is not up-to-date in the sense that it is missing criticism of twentieth-century literature, thus limiting its scope and potentially its appeal to educators and students. It is also unclear if the book is meant for educators or students. It is confusing if it’s meant for both. I feel that a text should have students as the audience with instructor resources that address educators.

Relevance Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

The prose used in the text is at an appropriate level for students although the tone is sometimes too formal and may detract from approachability for students. For example, literature is touted as important “in the development of civilized life” (page v). Students may view this as an archaic assertion. Teachers, too, may not appreciate the assertion that the text “will inspire other teachers to emphasize the value and delight of reading literature without watering it down, without cheapening it” (p. 1). On the other hand, I certainly agree that “the humanities are increasingly vital to our individual and collective wellbeing” (p. 2).

Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

The text is consistent in terms of terminology and framework, demonstrating the same tone and approach throughout. It would be nice to provide a glossary of literary terms at the end.

Consistency Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

The text is divided into an introduction and a chapter of analysis for each literary text, making it easy to assign as supplementary reading for students before the text is discussed in class. That being said, there are long pages of text without headings, making it less reader-friendly and less accessible for students. More examples in each chapter would also be helpful for students in understanding the texts and increasing their interest.

Modularity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion in chronological order.

Organization Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

The text is free of any technical issues that would be problematic when reading.

Interface Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

The text is well written and free of grammatical errors. It demonstrates to students how to analyze and write about literature in a sophisticated way.

Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

In his introduction, Steinberg acknowledges that literature “was written by people (often white males) who have since died and is about times and places that have nothing to do with us” (p. 4). Unfortunately, his literary selections uphold this lack of diversity with no modern literature and no world literature. As a teacher of literature, I endeavour to choose more diverse pieces and authors. The text could certainly be more inclusive and capture various perspectives. This is an essential part of breadth, even if the focus is on classical literature. If literature is meant to force readers “to confront other people who may be unlike them” (p. 15), then it makes sense to include a diversity of characters, created by a diverse group of writers.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

The text does not include any Canadian literature, so I would need to find other resources to teach works by Canadian authors, which I include in almost every course I teach. In fact, Canadian content is mandated in the literature upgrading courses I teach that follow the high school curriculum.

3. Reviewed by: Annette Lapointe
  • Institution: Grande Prairie Regional College
  • Title/Position: English Instructor
  • Overall Rating: 2.9 out of 5
  • Date:
  • License: Creative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

This book approaches the humanities very much in terms of “great works” in the Western Canon: The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Astrophel and Stella, Shakespeare (generally), Pope’s “Rape of the Lock,” Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, Jane Austen (generally), Dickens’ Bleak House, and Eliot’s Middlemarch. This approach explicitly re-links “great” British authors to Classical ones, and in doing so culturally shores up a hegemonic/imperial approach to what constitutes the humanities (and, indeed, humanity). The book does not actually include the texts of those works; only Steinberg’s summaries and basic commentaries are included. No supplementary material is included. The book has a basic table of contents, but no index or glossary. The “Selected Bibliography” indicates only which translations of the classical texts Steinberg has used.

The content is largely a personal approach to the texts – interesting as reflective reading, but not useful from a student-learner perspective or a critical perspective.

The book thus has significant gaps, is not comprehensive or detailed, and largely ignores critical developments since about 1970.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 1 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

The text is largely error-free and describes the texts in an accurate if limited way. Its bias resides primarily in an approach to the humanities that excludes the bulk of human experience. Contentious issues, or even fairly basic ones (questions of gender politics) are largely avoided.

Content Accuracy Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

The text is heavily dated (to almost half a century ago) in approach and focus. It has little relevance to current approaches to teaching literature and culture, and is not easily updated.

Relevance Rating: 1 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

The prose is generally accessible, avoiding jargon and defining terms wherever needed. Clarity is this text’s strength: a student interested in a basic overview of the works covered might wish to read this book in place of the ones being examined. That student would easily be able to “keep up” without instructor support.

Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

The text is consistent in terms of terminology and framework. However, this is rarely an issue in discussions of literature and the humanities.

Consistency Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

The book is not easily divisible into modules. It does have chapters which are coherent in themselves, but further sub-division would be extremely difficult. Few sub-headings are present, and large blocks of text predominate. Its chapters comment on previous ones in a way that would create difficulty in reorganization.

Modularity Rating: 2 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

The book begins with a statement of purpose and a refutation of “common misconceptions” about literature (of the type most instructors would give in the first or second class in an introductory literature course). Thereafter, the book is organized chronologically, and is reasonably easy to follow on that basis.

Organization Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

The text is free of interface issues. It makes no use of even basic hyperlinks, and as such, functions as a simple PDF/epub/docx digitization of a print book. No graphics or illustrations are included.

Interface Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

The text does not contain grammatical errors. It is impeccably edited.

Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

The text is extremely poor in this area. Its focus is entirely on Classical and “great” British authors, the latter only from the Renaissance to the 19th century. Only two women authors, Jane Austen and George Eliot, are addressed, and no non-white/non-Imperial authors are considered. Race, gender, and class are not discussed or acknowledged as issues. While the book’s statements are rarely overtly offensive, its refusal to acknowledge difference (or the last 40-50 years of critical progress) is problematic.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 1 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

This textbook is clearly intended for an audience no more advanced than First Year, but it does not match current pedagogical approaches in Canadian colleges and universities. The book includes no Canadian content.

I would like to stress that while the book is technically well-produced, its content and approach make it unsuitable for classroom use.