LMC Guide: Literature
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Below is a selected list of titles that may be helpful in researching an author or literary topics. Reference books can help you get a consensus of opinion and basic information so that other critical works will be more meaningful.

Specialized Encyclopedias and Handbooks identify authors, define terms, and give brief information on important writers, literary works, and literary terms.

  • Encyclopedia Americana (Ref AE5 .E333 2002)
  • A Handbook to Literature (Ref PN 41 .H355 1996)
  • Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia (Ref PN 41 .B4 1996)
  • Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature (Ref PS 21 .R4)
  • Webster's new World Companion to English and American Literature (Ref PR 19 .W4 1973)

General Information. These books provide information on story plots, themes, writer's style, etc. They are a good place to get a basic understanding of poems, stories, plays, novels.
  • Masterplots (Ref PN 44 .M33)
  • Masterplots II - Short Story series (Ref PN 3326 .M27)
  • Masterplots II - American Fiction series (Ref PN 846 .M37)
  • Masterplots II - Women's Literature series (Ref PN 471 .M37)
  • Critical Survey of Drama (Ref PR 625 .C74)
  • Critical Survey of Poetry (Ref PN 111 .C7)
  • Critical Survey of Long Fiction (Ref PN 3451 .C7)
  • Critical Survey of Short Fiction (Ref PN 3321 .C7)

Biographical Sources, which may contain either brief or extensive biographical data, may also be good sources for information about the importance and critical reception of an author's works. Some examples of biographical sources are:
  • American Writers (Ref PS 129 .A55)
  • Contemporary Authors (Ref PN 466 .C6). This is a major source for information on 20th century authors. It is a good source for biographical information and for indexing literary criticism source - Contemporary Literary Criticism, Twentieth Century Literary Criticism, and Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography series (Ref PS 21 .D5)
  • African American Writers (Ref PS 153 .N5 A344 2001)
  • Latin American Writers (Ref PQ 7081 .A1 L37 2002)

Collections of Literary Criticism contain analytical essays about selected works and provide references to other works of criticism. Use the indexes that accompany the volumes to locate specific works and authors.
  • Asian American Literature (Ref PS 153 .A84 A82 1999)
  • Black Literature Criticism (Ref PS 153 .N5 B556)
  • Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism (Ref PN 88 .C552)
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism (Ref PN 771 .C59)
  • Drama for Students (Ref PN 1701 .D73)
  • Hispanic Literature Criticism (Ref PQ 7081 .A1 H573)
  • Novels for Students (Ref PN 3385 .N68)
  • Poetry Criticism (Ref PN 1010 .P499)
  • Poetry for Students (Ref PN 1101 .P64)
  • Shakespeare for Students (Ref PR 2987 .S47)[at the Information Desk]
  • Short Story Criticism (Ref PN 3373 .S389)
  • Short Stories for Students (Ref PN 3373 .S56)
  • Twentieth Century Literary Criticism (Ref PN 771 .T86)
  • Nineteenth Century Literature Criticism (Ref PN 761 .N56)

Indexes to analyses of literary works that appear in both books and journals include the following:

  • Dramatic Criticism Index (Ref PN 1861 .B84)
  • Guide to American Poetry Explication (Ref PS 201 .G85 1989)
  • Magill's Bibliography of Literary Criticism (Ref PN 523 .M35)
  • Twentieth Century Short Story Explication (Ref PN 3373 .W33 1977)
  • Twentieth Century Short Story Explication: New Series (Ref PN 3373. W35 1993)

From the Library home page, use "Books and Media" to locate books and media items in our collection and other libraries in the MCCCD system. Search by author or title, or as a subject. If you enter the author's name as a subject, you often will find biographical information as well as works of criticism about their works (usually as a subheading, such as SMITH--CRITICISM AND INTERPRETATION). In the Library of Congress Classification system, books by and about and author normally will be shelved in the same area.

MAGAZINE, JOURNAL, AND NEWSPAPER articles can also be located using Periodical Indexes or Electronic Databases.

  • Periodical Indexes (Print/Paper) : Essay and General Literature Index, Humanities Index. These two indexes provide citations to articles in journals about literary topics. The Essay and General Literature index also includes references to books and chapters in books that are relevant to the subject. When using these indexes you will need to use our catalog to determine if the library has the book or journal.

  • Databases The library subscribes to a number of databases. Some literary databases you may want to use include:
    • Literature Resource Center (LRC) provides criticism, biographies, bibliographies, work overviews, web site links, articles, etc. It includes the Gale Literary Index to all Thomson-Gale print collections, and an Encyclopedia of Literature, a good source for definitions.
    • Literature Online (LION) from ProQuest is an excellent database for researching English and American literature. LION features "Knowledge Notes" which provides chapter and act summaries of selected notable books, plays, and poetry. To get a list of titles: Go to LION, click on Criticism & Reference, choose Reference (change search to Reference), and check "Knowledge Notes Student guides."
    • JSTOR is a database that provides extensive backfile coverage full-text articles in many literary journals
    • eBooks is an e-book collection that can be accessed from the database page or the catalog. Cliffs Notes are popular resources in this collection that provide plot summaries, character analyses, themes, etc. about major literary works. To find Cliffs Notes for a particular work, enter the name of the work or author in the first eBooks search box and select TI Title from the drop down menu to the right of the box. In the next box, enter "Cliffs Notes" and select PB Publisher from the drop down menu to the right of this box. Then click search to find the Cliffs Notes.

      Two general databases you may want to use are:

    • General OneFile - this database contains full-text articles in popular magazines and scholarly journals. Search for your writer as a subject.
    • EBSCOhost MasterFILE Premier - another general database that provide full-text articles.

WEB SITES Some web sites that you may want to consult include the following:

  • The Internet Public Library Online Literary Criticism Collection - excellent site with links to critical and biographical websites about authors and their works. [http://www.ipl.org/ref/litcrit/]
  • Literary Resources on the Net - a collection of links to sites dealing especially with English and American literature. [http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Lit/]
  • Literature Web - Glendale Community College English Department's extensive collection of literature sites on the web. [http://www.gc.maricopa.edu/English/lit.html]
  • Voice of the Shuttle - an extensive guide to web sites dealing humanities. Look at the contents for sections on Literature (in English), Literatures (other than English), and Literary Theory. [http://vos.ucsb.edu/index-netscape.asp]

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Last modified: Tuesday October 09 2012