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The study of literature includes the study of literary texts, the history of literature, and criticism and can involve looking into historical, cultural, thematic, biographical or linguistic connections. This guide to resources for literary research presents a small sampling of the many reference tools available on writers and their works. It is far from complete; please don't hesitate to ask a librarian for assistance if you aren't finding what you need.
Table of Contents:
Indexes and Databases
For more information and additional suggestions, see the Databases Guide for English.
- MLA International Bibliography
The major research resource for information on English literature, foreign languages and linguistics. Includes references to scholarly articles, books, book chapters, book reviews, and dissertations; coverage dates back to the 1920's.
1923-present; updated 9 times yearly
- Academic Search Premier
The world's largest academic multi-disciplinary database, Academic Search Premier indexes nearly 8,050 publications and provides full text for nearly 4,600, including more than 3,500 peer-reviewed journals. Coverage also includes many newspapers and popular magazines and spans virtually every area of academic study since 1975. Updated daily. Access is provided by the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM). View our Academic Search Premier tutorial.
1975-present; updated daily
Full-text backfiles to over 350 scholarly journals from more than 25 academic disciplines published between the 19th and 21st centuries in the JSTOR Arts & Sciences I, Arts & Sciences II, and Language & Literature collections. JSTOR provides complete journal backruns from the date of initial publication up to a "moving wall" of 3 to 5 years before the present year. To limit your search to full text articles, make sure that the option to "include links to external content" is turned off.
- Year's Work in English Studies
Oxford University Press
An annual bibliographical review of scholarly work on English language and literature. Each volume includes a detailed overview and contains critical notices for about 1100 books. Coverage includes English Language, American Literature, New Literatures in English and English Literature; coverage of specialist periodicals; comprehensive indexing by critic, author, and subject; plus bibliographical endnotes for each chapter. Available in the library from 1950 (PE58.E6); most recent four years also available online.
1950-present; most recent four years also online
- Literary Research Guide: A Guide to Reference Sources for the Study of Literatures in English and Related Topics
New York: MLA
A guide to tools and methods for literary scholarship, emphasising English and American literature, describing reference sources with lengthy annotations. Core journals, library collections, databases, and important bibliographies are all listed, and there are sections on foreign language literatures, comparative literature, and translation.
Location(s): Ref PR 83 .H34 1998
- Bio-critical Information on Authors and their Works - General
- Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature
New York: Prentice-Hall
A thorough compendium of information on world literature written by women from early times to the present, presenting a wealth of detail in concise and informative articles. Includes lengthy regional surveys at the front of the book. Particularly good for covering non-Western women writers.
Location(s): Ref PN 471 .57 1992
- Contemporary Authors
This series gives biographical information, brief bibliographies of works by and about the author and sometimes further background information such as an interview. It is concerned solely with modern writers, and covers writers in fields outside of literature. Check the most recent cumulative index to locate biographies in any of the volumes and to locate biographies published in other Gale biographical series. Note: As of 2009, the library will no longer have an active subscription to Contemporary Authors, but the older editions will be kept in the Reference Collection.
Location(s): Ref PN 771 .C632
- Contemporary Literary Criticism
This "ongoing digest of current literary opinion" concerning contemporary works of literature gives substantial excerpts from reviews and critical articles as well as citations to the original sources and brief biographical sketches. Because a given writer may be covered in several different volumes, consult the most recent cumulative index, which includes cross-references to other Gale biographical series. This is a handy place to become familiar with a modern writer's critical reception, particularly for writers who are prominent enough to have their works reviewed at length, but who haven't become the subject of scholarly literary criticism.
Location(s): Ref PN 771 .C59
- Dictionary of Literary Biography
This set provides lengthy articles of biographical information and some critical appraisal of literary works. The volumes are arranged thematically, with a cumulative index in the last volume. Though emphasis is on American and British literary authors, there is some coverage of journalists, historians, and critics, as well as writers from other countries.
Location(s): Ref PS 221 .A5
- Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century
Detroit: St. James
Covers authors and movements as well as providing lengthy surveys of the literature of different countries in this century. It does not cover literary criticism as such.
Location(s): PN 771 .E5 1999
- Gay and Lesbian Literature
Detroit: St. James
Provides biographical and critical information on writers in all genres and periods who are gay or lesbian or who have exerted influence on the gay and lesbian community. Each article is followed by an extensive bibliography of works by and about the writer profiled.
Location(s): Ref PN 56 .H57 G36 1994
- Twayne Companion to Contemporary World Literature
New York: Twayne
Provides extensive explorations of regional literary traditions and contemporary writers throughout the world through analystical essays and reviews compiled from the venerable publication World Literature Today.
Location(s): Ref PN 771 .T93 2003 (2 vols.)
- African American Authors, 1745-1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook
Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press
Provides biographical information, covers major works and themes and literary criticism. Lesser-known authors such as Marita Bonner and Zara Wright are included. Each entry also has a bibliography of the author's works and a bibliography of books and articles about the author.
Location(s): Ref PS 153 .N5 A32 2000
- African American Writers
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons
Biographies of authors and critical examinations of their works are included in this resource.
Location(s): Ref PS153.N5 A344 2001
- American Women Writers
New York: Ungar
Invaluable for identifying women writers. It provides biographical and literary background on each writer as well as good bibliographies of works by and about them. See also the excellent Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (Ref PS 147 .O94 1995) which includes biographical entries, entries on works, and many thematic entries that make interesting connections and offer many leads for further research.
Location(s): Ref PS 147 .A4 (5 vols.)
- American Writers
New York: Scribner's
This series gives lengthy analyses of the life and work of major American writers, arranged chronologically and with an alphabetical index. There are similar series for British writers (Ref PR 85 .B688), Latin American writers (Ref PQ 7081 .A1 L37 1989), Ancient writers: Greece and Rome (Ref PA 3002 .A5 1982) and European writers (Ref PN 43 .B65 1981) put out by the same publisher.
Location(s): Ref PS 129 .A55 (4 vols. + supp.)
- Asian American Literature
Detroit: Gale Research
Divided alphabetically by author, contains critical reviews and essays compiled from various sources on each author's works. Some interviews are also included.
Location(s): Ref 153 .A84 A82 1999
- Chicano Literature: A Reference Guide
Westport, CT: Greenwood
Covers biographical and critical information for Mexican-American writers. Includes extensive bibliographies.
Location(s): Ref PS 153 .M4 C46 1984
- Columbia Literary History of the United States
New York: Columbia UP
The most recent in a series of standard literary histories, this work emphasizes contemporary approaches to literature and the rediscovery of literatures previously marginalized. Arrangement is thematic and chronological.
Location(s): Ref PS 92.C64 1987
- Dictionary of Writers and their Works
Focuses on British literature beginning in the fifteenth century. Also provides some coverage of non-fiction such as biographies, memoirs, and science, as well as inclusion of selected American and Commonwealth writers. There are 3,000 entries for writers with their nationality and birth/death dates, foll owed by a listing of their titles arranged chronologically by date of publication.
- Oxford Companion to English Literature
Oxford: Oxford UP
Gives brief descriptions of writers, works of literature, schools and movements, places of literary significance, etc. A 1996 concise edition is also available online. There are a number of similar works covering other national literatures, such as the Oxford Companion to American Literature (PS 21 .H3 1983 - also available online) and genres, such as Oxford Companions to children's literature (PN 1008.5 .C37 1984), film (PN 1993.45 .O9), and theater (PN 2035 .H3 1983).
Location(s): Ref PR 19 .D73 1985
- Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English
Offers articles on writers, genres by nationality or region, and topics such as "censorship." Entries were compiled by an international group of specialists and are intended to cover literatures in English from parts of the world influenced by imperialism from the moment of colonization to the present. Many of the writers covered are not profiled in other reference works.
Location(s): Ref PR 9080 .A52 E53 1994
- Reference Guide to American Literature
Detroit: St. James Press
Entries on writers and their works, each entry has a list of critical studies and a list of the writer's works. A section at the end contains critical essays on major works.
Location(s): Ref PS129 .R44 2000
- Native American Literatures: An Encyclopedia of Works, Characters, Authors, and Themes
Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO
Provides entries on major authors, their works and characters.
Location(s): PS 153. 152 W47 1999
- Oxford Companion to Classical Literature
Oxford: Oxford UP
A handy guide to writers and works from the Classical times, giving concise discussions on the social and cultural context of the literature. A concise version is available online.
Location(s): Ref PA 31 .H69 1989
- Dictionary of Modern French Literature From the Age of Reason through Realism
New York: Greenwood
Around three hundred entries on writers, literary works, and literary movements in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are given here, with bibliographies and a chronology of French history and literature.
Location(s): Ref PQ 41 .D65 1986
- Guide to French Literature, 1789 to the Present
Chicago: St. James
Lengthy biographical and critical appraisals of writers in the French language, including prominent colonial and post-colonial writers in the Caribbean and Africa. Some entries cover literary movements such as Dada. Each article is followed by a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.
Location(s): Ref PQ 41 .L46 1992
- New Oxford Companion to Literature in French
Covers people, works, topics, and concepts related to French literature and the literature of the francophone world.
Location(s): Ref PQ 41 .N48 1995
- Companion to Twentieth-Century German Literature
Covers contemporary authors in brief articles that recount the authors' biographies and list their major publications.
Location(s): Ref PT 401 .C65 1990
- Encyclopedia of German Literature
Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn
This resource contains both author and topical entries. Author entries provide brief biographical information and provide an overview of the author's works. Topical entries consist of a variety of topics related to German literature, including "Avant-garde", "Jewish culture and literature", "Nationalism and nationhood", "Literary salons" and "Utopianism."
Location(s): Ref PT41.E43 2000
- Oxford Companion to German Literature
Oxford: Oxford University Press
A collection of brief definitions and discussions of authors, works of literature, literary movements, and terms associated with language and literature. Includes all periods and all places where German is spoken and written.
Location(s): Ref PT41.G3 1997
- Women Writers of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland: An Annotated Bio-Bibliographical Guide
New York: Greenwood
Each author entry includes a brief biography, followed by a detailed listing of her works, with annotations. Appendices list the authors chronologically and geographically, and there is a bibliography of secondary literature.
Location(s): Ref PT167.W66 1989
- Dictionary of Russian Women Writers
Westport, CT: Greenwood
Covers 448 women writers who in most cases have been neglected in other works. Each entry includes biographical and critical information, a list of publications, and a bibliography of critical sources, most of which are in Russian language publications.
Location(s): Ref PG 2997 .D53 1994
- Handbook of Russian Literature
New Haven: Yale UP
Covers Russian writers, critics, topics such as "folk song," and literary movements. Each essay is concise, and is followed by a bibliography of works in Russian editions, in English translation, and selected secondary sources.
Location(s): Ref PG 2940 .H29 1985
- Dictionary of Russian Literature Since 1917
New York: Columbia UP
Covers over 100 Russian writers and a number of subjects such as "futurism," "fellow travelers," and "Novy Mir." Each entry is brief and includes a list of works and secondary literature.
Location(s): Ref PG 2991.4 .K313 1988
- Reference Guide to Russian Literature
Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers
A guide containing biographical sketches of 273 major Russian writers. Each entry also highlights the author's major works and includes a bibliography of the author's works and a bibliography of critical studies.
Location(s): Ref PG2940.R44 1998
- Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature
Contains articles about major writers and topics. Each entry concludes with bibliographies, including lists of each author's works, translations, and critical sources.
Location(s): Ref PT 7063 .D5 1990
- Spanish and Latin American Literature
- Dictionary of the Literature of the Iberian Peninsula
Westport, CT: Greenwood
Covers Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, and other literatures of the Iberian Peninsula in short articles devoted to writers, literary movements, styles, and topics in cultural history.
Location(s): Ref PN 849 .S6 D54 1993
- Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature
London: Fitzroy Dearborn
Covers writers, works and topics related to the literature of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
Location(s): Ref PQ 7081 .A1 E56 1997
- Spanish American Authors of the Twentieth Century
New York: Wilson
Provides profiles of major novelists and poets from Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Central, and South America. Each profile is substantial, includes autobiographical writing in many cases, and is followed by a bibliography of works by and about the author.
Location(s): Ref PQ 7081.3 .F57 1992
- Handbook of Latin American Literature
New York: Garland
Offers essays on the national literatures of Latin America, including Central America and some parts of the Caribbean, as well as covering the special topics of Latino writing in the U.S., paraliterature, and film.
Location(s): Ref PQ 7081 .A1 H36 1992
- Latin American Writers
New York: Scribner's
Surveys prominent writers from Latin America writing in Spanish and Portuguese, providing substantial bio-critical essays and
Location(s): Ref PQ 7081 .A1 L37 1989 (3 vols.)
- Literary Cultures of Latin America: A Comparative History
Oxford: Oxford UP
An ambitious set of essays covering the terrain of literary culture in Latin America, including indigenous literature, issues of gender and sexual orientation in the formation of culture, genres, and popular media. Each essay is thorough and scholarly.
Location(s): Ref PQ 7081 .A1 L525 2004
- Special Topics and Genres in Literature
- American Nature Writers
Offers lengthy biocritical sketches on writers from Edward Abbey to Ann Zwinger. The second volume also contains essays on topics such as African American nature writing, nature poetry, and the literature of mountaineering. Lengthy selective bibliographies are included.
Location(s): Ref PS 163 .A6 1996
- Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman's
Provides a means of linking Biblical texts, stories, and characters to literary works from the middle ages on. An excellent source for finding out how the Bible has influenced culture, and how the culture has interpreted the Bible in various ways over the years.
Location(s): Ref PR 149 .B5 D53 1992
- Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy
Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press
Volumes 1 and 2 cover 400 of the most popular themes found in both science fiction and fantasy literature, and includes their historical and cultural context. Volume 3 contains entries for a selected list of classic novels, films, and television series; these include entries for all the different Star Trek series, Dr. Who, Farscape, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Twilight Zone, and The X-Files.
Location(s): Ref PS 374 .S35 G74 2005
- Encyclopedia of Utopian Literature
Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio
Covers both utopian and dystopian literature of all periods, in articles on works, writers, thinkers, utopian places, topics related to the concept, etc.
Location(s): Ref PN 56 .U8 S66 1995
- Literature of Travel and Exploration: An Encyclopedia
New York: Fitzroy Dearborn
Offers over 600 entries on places and the people who have written about them, with additional coverage of topics related to travel writing such as genres and issues such as orientalism, romanticism, and tourism.
Location(s): Ref G 465 .L565 2003
- Mystery and Suspense Writers
New York: Scribner's
Provides lengthy essays on authors and themes such as "the ethnic detective," religious mysteries, female detectives, regionalism, and more.
Location(s): Ref PR 830 .D4 M97 1998
- New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics
Princeton: Princeton UP
Covers terms and concepts related to poetry and poetics in lengthy, scholarly articles, Each followed by a bibliography for further reading.
Location(s): Ref PN 1021 .N39 1993
- Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms
Terms such as "iamb," "imagery," and "new historicism" are defined here. This handbook is notable for its clear and concise discussions of terms used in current critical theory.
- Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory: Approaches, Scholars, Terms
Toronto: University of Toronto
Provides information in three sections: approaches such as Marxist, formalist, or feminist; scholars, covering the work of key theorists, and terms such as code, canon, and intertextuality.
Location(s): Ref PN 81 .E43 1993
- Dictionary of Concepts in Literary Criticism and Theory
New York: Greenwood
Defines terms such as "comedy," "symbol," and "deconstruction," and in short essays explains how the concepts developed. It is especially helpful for tracing an idea to its source and for providing a bibliographic trail for finding key essays and books.
Location(s): Ref PN 41 .H36 1993
- Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP
Excellent overview articles of theory, covering schools of thought such as feminist theory and reader-response, critical history by nationality, and theories developed by important individuals such as Bakhtin, Lacan, or Aristotle. Each essay is written by a specialist and helpful bibliographies are appended.
Location(s): Ref PN 81 .J554 2005
- Oxford Reference Online
Over 100 full text language and subject dictionaries and reference works. While many language and literature dictionaries are available, other topics covered include general reference, science and medicine, humanities, social sciences, and business.
- Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature
Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster
More dictionary than encyclopedia, this reference book covers writers, works of literature, characters, and other topics in the field, for all periods and nationalities. A good place to quickly verify a name or term.
Location(s): REF PN 41 .M42 1995
- Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
New York: HarperCollins
Contains an interesting collection of characters, places, and phrases such as "Gawain," "one-horse town," and "lake district." The definitions are brief, but often provide quick and easy access to literary references and phrases used in literature.
Location(s): Ref PN 43 .B65 1995
- Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary is the ultimate authority on the English language, speech in English, and the usage of words. It provides the meaning, history, and pronunciation of over half a million words and traces their usage through 2.5 million quotations from a wide range of international English language sources. The OED includes words from across the English-speaking world, from North America to Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Caribbean. A printed version of this dictionary in 20 volumes can be found at Reference PE1625 .O87 1989.
- For finding specific works in anthologies
- Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry
Poems in anthologies are indexed by subject, author, title, and first line. A good place to locate a text or to find poems with related themes.
Location(s): Ref PN 1022 .H39 1994
Browsing for Books
- Play Index
New York: Wilson
An author, title, and subject index to plays published in collections. Each play listing includes a description, number of acts and scenes, size of cast and number of sets, as well as indication of which are children's plays.
Location(s): Ref PN 1655 .P63
Books are shelved in general subject categories using the Library of Congress classification system. You may want to supplement your use of the catalog with browsing shelf areas for your topic. Below is a brief listing of some of the subject locations in the field of English.
- PA Classical Languages and Literature (Greek, Latin)
- PG 2001-3987 Russian
- PN 80-99 Criticism
- 441-1009 Folklore
- 1010-1551 Poetry
- 1600-3307 Drama
- 3311-3503 Prose Fction
- 4400-4599 Letters and Essays
- 6010-6790 Collections of General Literature
- PQ Romance Literatures (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese)
- 1-3999 French
- 4000-5999 Italian
- 6000-8999 Spanish
- 9000-9999 Portuguese
- PR English Language Literature
- 1-1369 by period and genre
- 1490-1799 Anglo-Saxon
- 1803-2165 Ango-Norman, Early English, Middle English
- 2199-3195 English Renaissance
- 3291-3785 17th and 18th centuries
- 3991-5990 19th century
- 6000-6049 1900-1960
- 6050-6076 1961-2000
- 6100-6126 2001-
- 8309-9680 Commonwealth Literatures
- PS American Literature
- 1-688 by period and genre
- 700-893 Colonial (17th and 18th centuries)
- 991-3390 19th century
- 3500-3549 1900-2000
- 3600-3626 2001-
- 8000-8599 Canadian literature
- PT Germanic Literatures
- 1-6593 German and Dutch
- 7001-7550 Scandinavian
In addition to the journals listed below, some additional titles of interest are available in full text in the Project Muse and JSTOR collections online.
Print journals are housed in the periodicals collection on the first floor of the library.
- American Literature
- American Poetry Review
- Analog Science Fiction and Fact
- Antioch Review
- English Journal
- English Language Notes
- English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920
- Gettysburg Review
- Great Plains Quarterly
- Great River Review
- Hemingway Review
- Hudson Review
- Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment
- Language in Society
- Massachusetts Review
- Michigan Quarterly Review
- New England Review
- North American Review
This literary magazine contains essays, book reviews, poetry, and short stories.
- Philological Quarterly
- Poets and Writers
- Publications of the Modern Language Association
- Review of Contemporary Fiction
no.76-77(autumn 1987:winter 1988)-
- Sewanee Review
- Southern Review
- Southwest Review
- Studies in Romanticism
- Studies in the Literary Imagination
- Twentieth Century Literature
- Victorian Literature and Culture
- Virginia Quarterly Review
- Western American Literature
- Western Humanities Review
- Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation newsletter and review
- Yellow Medicine Review
Includes access to Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, Roget's Thesauri, Simpson's Contemporary Quotations, and much more.
- Literary Index
Internet resources in Literature Information on doing literary research and writing as well as online texts can be found here.
[Resource no longer available]
This site contains electronic books, audio recordings, online journals, and thousands of links to arts and humanities sites.
- Electronic Text Center
From the University of Virginia, this site offers online texts in English, German, French, and Latin. Some texts are available only to U. of Virginia students and staff.
- Folklore and Mythology
Electronic texts Includes approximately 800 original texts, along with links to other collections.
- Online Books Page
This site contains links to over 12,000 e-books. Searchable by author, title, or subject.
- Poetry Archive
Particularly notable for its recordings of poets reading their works; text is also provided. Poems are browseable by theme and by form, as well as searchable by author or title.
Photo Credits (L to R)
- American and English Literature
Book - http://www.flickr.com/photos/nzbuu/3187354755/
Magnetic Letters - http://www.flickr.com/photos/gaetanlee/298178764/
Week 1: Stop Waiting for that Muse - http://www.flickr.com/photos/swimparallel/3160528007/
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