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Literature & Literary Criticism
Prepared by Karilyn Jaap
When looking for critical material on an author, it is best to treat the author as a subject. (In the library’s online catalog open the “Browse Organized Lists box, highlight “Subject All,” and type the author’s name in the search box: lastname, firstname.) When the “Brief Recs” screen appears, look for the subheading –CRITICISM AND INTERPRETATION. Clicking on that line will bring up a list of relevant titles.
Literature titles are on the third floor of the library (broadly under PR for English and PS for American). Books by and about an individual author can be found together; biographical and interpretive material usually follows the original work on the shelf.
Indexes scholarly journals across the broad range of topic areas from arts and humanities through the natural sciences and technology. Use the author’s name linked with “and criticism” [e.g., Toni Morrison and criticism] to bring up a list of journal articles, most of which will be full-text onscreen. Poynter Library subscribes to about half the journals indexed in this database.
Essay and General Literature Index. 1985 to date. Libraries of the USF System Paper: 1900-1996 [Index Row D].
Indexes essays and articles that have been published in collections as books. This is a good source for literary criticism published as chapters in books rather than as journal articles.
Literature Resource Center . Dates vary.
Provides access to biographies, bibliographies, and critical analyses of authors from every era, nationality, and literary discipline. Searches can be made by literary movement, publishing company, or literary theme as well as the more customary subject-author-title. Combines the material in three print reference sources: Contemporary Authors, Contemporary Literary Criticism, and Dictionary of Literary Biography (see the next section–General Collections–for individual descriptions of these titles).
MLA International Bibliography. 1963 to date. Libraries of the USF System Paper: 1921-1993 [Index Row D].
Indexes materials of critical literary scholarship published in books, journals, dissertations, and essay collections. Citations do not carry abstracts.
WilsonOmnifileFull-Text . Abstracts: 1984 to date. Full-text: 1994 to date.
Gives full-text of periodical articles indexed in six H. W. Wilson databases, including Humanities FullText (a good source for criticism articles).
Contemporary Authors . REF Z1224 .C592.
A multi-volume set, this publication gives up-to-date biographical information on current authors in many fields and from many countries. In addition to personal facts, most of the sketches include an analysis of the author’s work. There is a separate paper index to the complete set.
CLC: Contemporary Literary Criticism. REF PN771 .C59
An ongoing series of selected excerpts from critical writings on contemporary authors (defined as either now living or who have died since January 1, 1960). There is a cumulative author index at the back of each volume.
Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism. REF PN761 .N5
Follows the same format as CLC (above) but is limited to writers who lived between 1800 and 1900.
DLB: Dictionary of Literary Biography . REF PS221 .D5.
“An [ongoing] series of separately edited volumes, each a collection of biographical, bibliographical, and critical essays on authors. . . . Each volume . . . is devoted to a single type, genre, geographic era or time period. . . . Because each volume has a single focus, an author may appear in more than one volume: the approach in each will be different.” There is a cumulative index at the back of each volume.
Reader’s Guide to Literature in English. REF PR85 .R42 1996.
Provides description and evaluation of the critical writing on a range of topics and individual authors in Great Britain and the U.S. There are both alphabetical and thematic lists of entries at the beginning of the book.
In the following selective list, each title uses the same general format: biographical material about the author coupled with a list of writings and a lengthy critical essay.
African American Writers. REF PS153 .N5 A344.
African Literature and Its Times. REF PL8010 .M65.
African Writers. 2 v. REF PL8010 .A453.
American Nature Writers. 2 v. REF PS163 .A6.
American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. 1979-1994. 5 v. REF PS147 .A4.
American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies. REF PS129 .A55.
Black Literature Criticism. 3 v. REF PS153 .N5B556.
British Writers. 1979-1996. REF PR85 .B688.
Contemporary Dramatists. REF PR737 .C57.
Contemporary Poets. REF PR603 .C6.
Contemporary Southern Writers. REF PS261 .C569.
Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature. REF PS21 .E537.
Encyclopedia of American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes. REF PS169 .S42 E53.
Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature. REF PQ7081 .A1 E56.
Feminist Writers. REF PN451 .F46.
Gay and Lesbian Literature. 2 v. REF PN56 .H57.
Latin American Writers. 3 v. REF PQ7081 .A1L37.
Latino and Latina Writers. 2 v. REF PA153 .H56 L39.
Mystery and Suspense Writers. 2 v. REF PR830 .D4 M97
Native American Literatures. REF PS153 .I52W47.
Notable American Novelists. 3 v. REF PS371 .N68.
100 Masters of Mystery and Detective Fiction. 2 v. REF PN3448 .D4 A16.
Reader’s Guide to 20 th Century Science Fiction. REF PN3433.8 .R44.
Reference Guide to Short Fiction. REF PN3373 .R36.
Short Story Writers. 3 v. REF PN3373 .S398.
Each series listed below is constructed in a similar manner. Entries are alphabetical by either the author or the title of a work; each contains a list of characters, a plot summary, and a critique and interpretation of the work. An overall index may be used to locate a particular title (Magill’s Books Index [REF PN44 .M332 1980]). In addition, there is a 4-volume Magill’s Bibliography of Literary Criticism [REF PN523 .M25], a 4-volume Critical Survey of Literary Theory [REF PN45 .C74], and a 6-volume Research Guide to Biography and Criticism [REF PR85 .R47].
1) Critical Survey of Drama. REF PR623 .C75.
2) Critical Survey of Long Fiction. REF PN3451 .C75.
3) Critical Survey of Mystery and Detective Fiction. REF PN3448 .D4C75.
4) Critical Survey of Poetry. REF PN1111 .C74.
5) Critical Survey of Short Fiction. REF PN3321 .C7.
6) Magill’s Literary Annual. REF PN44.M31.
7) Masterplots: Plot Stories and Critical Evaluations of the World’s Finest Literature. 1 st and 2 nd revised editions. REF PN44 .M33.
8) Masterplots II: African American Literature Series. REF PS153 .N5M2645.
9) Masterplots II: American Fiction Series. REF PN846 .M37
10) Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series. REF PR881 .M39.
11) Masterplots II: Drama Series. REF PN6112.5 .M37.
12) Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series. REF PN44 .M345.
13) Masterplots II: Poetry Series. REF PN1110.5 .M37.
14) Masterplots II: Short Story Series. REF PN3326 .M27.
15) Masterplots II: World Fiction Series. REF PN3326 .M28.
Explicators are lists of those books and articles that tend to engage in detailed analysis of a single text or author.
American Drama Criticism. 4 v. REF PS332 .E32. Covers 1890 through 1990.
American Novel: A Checklist of Twentieth-Century Criticism. 2 v. Z1231 .F4G4. v. 1: 1789-1959. v. 2: 1960-1968.
American Novel Explication. 1969-1980 and 1991-1995. REF PS371 .G56.
Contemporary Novel: A Checklist of Critical Literature on the British and American Novel Since 1945. Z1231 .F4A34.
English Novel, 1578-1956. Z2014 .F4B4. 20 th century criticisms.
English Novel Explicator. 7 v. REF Z2014 .F5P26. Continues the above through 1997.
Guide to American Poetry Explication. 2 v. REF PS201 .R85. Critical material from Colonial times through 1989.
Guide to British Poetry Explication. 4 v. REF PR502 .M37. Critical material written from 1925-1990; covers Old English poetry to present.
Poetry Explication. REF PR502 .K86. British and American poets, past and present; precedes the two above guides.
Twentieth-Century Short Story Explication. 7 v. REF PN3373 .W33 Covers 19 th and 20 th century stories.
Twentieth-Century Short Story Explication. New Series. 5 v. REF PN3373 .S5W35. Continues above, 1989-1998.
Guides, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias
Dictionary of Literary and Thematic Terms. REF PN44.5 .Q56 1999.
Short, alphabetically arranged entries, most of which are followed by an annotated list of suggested references. An index is at the back.
Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. REF PN41 .C83 1998.
Entries cover all literatures and time periods giving the definitions currently in use. Etymology and examples of use are usually included.
Cambridge Companion to English Literature, 1500-1600. REF PR413 .C29 2000.
A comprehensive account of English Renaissance literature. Essays provide commentary on the most notable literature of the period, including the height of lyrical poetry, narrative romance, and the sonnet. Chronologies of authors, events, and texts are included as well as an index.
Encyclopedia of Literary Critics and Criticism. 2 v. REF PN86 .E63 1999.
Signed, alphabetical entries include individuals as well as theories and concepts. A list of further readings follows each. Title and subject indexes are at the back of the second volume.
Encyclopedia of the Novel. 2 v. REF PN41 .E487 1998.
Signed, alphabetical “entries on novelists and their work, on types of novels [and] on critical approaches and theoretical frameworks . . . for discussing the genre.” A list of reading and, where applicable, a short biography follows each. A title and a subject index are at the back of volume two.
Harper Handbook to Literature . REF PN41 .F75 1997.
Alphabetical list of entries giving definitions of terms, concepts, schools, and movements in literature. There are numerous cross-references, and some entries carry bibliographical references. An appendix gives a chronology of literature and world events and a name index.
Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism. REF PN81 .J554 2005.
An alphabetical grouping of signed articles on critics and theorists, schools and movements, and historical periods. Each entry carries a bibliography; author and subject index at the back.
Oxford English Dictionary. 20 v. REF PE1625 .O87 1989.
Usually referred to simply as the OED, this dictionary is considered to be the greatest in the language. Briefly, it provides the history and development of English words through the last 800 years, excluding only those words that were obsolete by 1150 CE, illustrating them with numerous quotations from the works of some 5,000 authors. It is essential to the literature for its breadth and depth of coverage (it lists about 420,000 English words) and, while not intended to be an encyclopedia, it gives encyclopedic information, going well beyond the range of most dictionaries.
Twentieth-Century Literary Movements Dictionary. REF PN597 .T94 2000.
An international compendium on over “500 major and minor literary movements and schools associated with twentieth-century world literature.” Short entries are followed by a bibliography. Four indexes (movement, author, title, and nationality) are at the back.