How to do Research on Literature

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Literature Research Guide 1How to do research on literature? When it comes to the study of literature or critical examination of famous authors, novelists, poets, and literary works, leading scholars and historians have compiled countless volumes of analysis, criticism, and research. For any research paper on the analysis, interpretation, evaluation, or comparison of literature, you can find many resources to help you understand and interpret the work you are studying. In print or electronic form, and on the Web, you can find articles, essays, book reviews, scholarly and popular journals, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks. With so many available resources, you may not know where to start. The following list of sources will assist you in your quest for research and information on any literary research paper topic, or literary figure.

Selected Subject Headings

Listed below is a sample of a few broad Library of Congress subject headings—made up of one word or more representing concepts under which all library holdings are divided and subdivided by subject—which you can search under and use as subject terms as well when searching online library catalogs for preliminary and/or additional research, such as books, audio and video recordings, and other references, related to your research paper topic. When researching materials on your topic, subject heading searching may be more productive than searching using simple keywords. However, keyword searching when using the right search method (Boolean, etc.) and combination of words can be equally effective in finding materials more closely relevant to the topic of your research paper.

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Suggested Research Topics in Literature:

  • American Literature
  • English Literature
  • Fiction and Juvenile Literatures
  • Literature
  • Literature and Society
  • Literature, Comparative
  • Literature, Dictionaries
  • Literature—History and collections
  • Literature—History and criticism
  • Literature Research
  • Romance Literature
  • Short Stories, American—History and criticism
  • Teutonic literatures

Suggested Research topics in Literary Criticism:

  • American Literature—History and criticism
  • British literature—History and criticism
  • English drama—History and criticism
  • Fiction—History and criticism
  • Literature—17th Century—History and criticism
  • Literature—18th Century—History and criticism
  • Literature—19th Century—History and criticism
  • Literature—20th Century—History and criticism
  • Poetry—History and criticism

Selected Keyword Search Strategies and Guides

Literature Research Guide 2Most online library indexes and abstracts and full-text article databases offer basic and advanced “keyword” searching of virtually every subject. In this case, combine keyword terms that best define your thesis question or topic using the Boolean search method (employing “and” or “or”) to find research most suitable to your research paper topic.

If your topic is “banned books and American literature,” for example, enter “banned books” and “American literature” with “and” on the same line to locate sources directly compatible with the primary focus of your paper. To find research on more specific aspects of your topic, alternate with one new keyword at a time with “and” in between (for example, “banned books and authors,” “banned books and the U.S. Constitution,” “banned books and politics,” “banned books and racism,” “banned books and religion,” etc.).

For additional help with keyword searching, navigation or user guides for online indexes and databases by many leading providers—including Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, EBSCO, H.W. Wilson, OCLC, Ovid Technologies, ProQuest, and Thomson Gale—are posted with direct links on library Web sites to guides providing specific instruction to using whichever database you want to search. They provide additional guidance on how to customize and maximize your search, including advanced searching techniques and grouping of words and phrases using the Boolean search method—of your research paper topic, of bibliographic records, and of full-text articles, and other documents related to your subject.

Selected Source and Subject Guides

As part of your preliminary research to find appropriate resources for your research paper, information source and research guides are available at most public and academic libraries and are keyword searchable through your library’s online catalog (to search and locate guides, enter your “subject” followed by these keywords one search at a time: “information sources,” “reference sources,” and “research guide”). Printed guides available for this subject area include

Literary Research Guide: An Annotated Listing of Reference Sources in English Literary Studies, 5th ed., by James L. Harner, 826 pages (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2009)

Reference Works in British and American Literature, 2nd ed., by James K. Bracken, 727 pages (Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1998)

A Reference Guide for English Studies, by Michael J. Marcuse, 790 pages (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990)

A Research Guide for Undergraduate Students: English and American Literature, 6th ed., by Nancy L. Baker and Nancy Huling, 96 pages (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2006)

In addition to these sources of research, most college and university libraries offer online subject guides arranged by subject on the library’s Web page; others also list searchable course-related “LibGuides” by subject. Each guide lists more recommended published and Web sources—including books and references, journal, newspaper and magazines indexes, full-text article databases, Web sites, and even research tutorials—that you can access to expand your research on more specific issues and relevant to the topic of your research paper.

Selected Books and References


Norton Anthology of American Literature, 7th ed., 5 vols., edited by Nina Baym et al., 2,600 pages (New York: W.W. Norton, 2007)

Classic, broadly focused anthology of American literature featuring the works of 212 well-known writers, including 38 new additions—many in their entirety—from Native American to postmodern women writers. Thirty complete works are included in this two-volume set, among them The Awakening, A Streetcar Named Desire, and newer entries, such as Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, and David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross.

Oxford Companion to American Literature, 6th ed., edited by James David Hart and Philip Leininger, 800 pages (New York: Oxford University Press 1995)

This anthology encompasses more than 5,000 scholarly entries treating all areas of American literature. Among the entries are more than 2,000 biographical profiles of U.S. and foreign authors examining each author’s style, subjects, and major literary works. In addition, 1,100 summaries discuss major American novels, biographies and autobiographies, essays, plays, poems, and stories. Many other subjects related to writing in America are highlighted as well, such as literary awards, literary and social history, and all are extensively cross-referenced and indexed for easy use.

Biography and Literary Criticism

Contemporary Authors, 296 vols. (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1962– )

Published since 1962, this multivolume source supplies biographical and bibliographic information on more than 120,000 modern fiction and nonfiction writers from many countries and fields, including novelists, poets, playwrights, scriptwriters, journalists, biographers, and essayists. This popular reference series is also available as an e-book and on the Web separately and as part of Gale’s Literary Index by subscription.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, 292 vols. (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1973– )

First published in 1973, this ongoing reference series offers critical essays of authors now living or deceased since 1960 originally published in books, scholarly and popular periodicals, and newspapers with bibliographical citations to the full critical study for further reference. A separate cumulative title index accompanies the set, and the entire series is also offered online.

Contemporary Novelists, 7th ed., edited by Josh Lauer and Neil Schlager, 1,166 pages (Detroit, Mich.: St. James Press, 2000)

This encyclopedic reference, originally published in 1972, includes biographies, bibliographies, and critical essays on approximately 650 contemporary English-language novelists, including 100 new entries. Includes nationality and title indexes. Also offered online as part of Gale’s Literary Index, a master index of literary references published by Gale, and in e-book form.

Contemporary Poets, 7th ed., 1,443 pages (Detroit, Mich.: St. James Press, 2000)

Fully revised and updated reference featuring biographical and bibliographical data on 787 contemporary English-language poets, with 120 new entries added. Coverage includes personal and career information, critical essays, and detailed bibliographies covering each poet’s works. Nationality and title indices are provided for cross-referencing of subjects. Written by noted experts, this reference is also accessible online as part of Gale’s Literary Index, featuring 130 literature references from Gale and other publishers’ imprints and in an e-book version.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, 357 vols. (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Group, 1978– )

With nearly 300 volumes published since 1978, this reference series provides detailed biographical and critical information on more than 10,000 authors grouped by period, genre, or movement from a wide range of historical periods and nationalities written by more than 8,000 editors and contributors. Each entry includes a biography, a complete listing of the author’s writings, and a selection of critical sources for further study. Mostly focusing on English or American authors, the series also covers 20th-century American and British science fiction and fantasy writers prior to World War I. Yearbooks, published annually since 1980, feature updates of previously included authors and new authors. The final volume indexes the authors by name and corresponds with entries to all volumes. The entire contents of the series are available as a single online database and also as part of Gale’s Literary Index, and in an e-book edition.

Magill’s Bibliography of Literary Criticism: Selected Sources for the Study of More Than 2,500 Outstanding Works of Western Literature, edited by Frank N. Magill, 4 vols., 2,380 pages (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Salem Press, 1979)

This four-volume set indexes criticism of more than 2,500 books and periodicals and all types of literature from biblical times through 1979. Each volume contains an author-title index, and Volume 4 is a title index.

Magill’s Critical Survey of Long Fiction, 2nd rev. ed., edited by Carl Rollyson and Frank N. Magill, 8 vols., 4,392 pages (Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2000)

Revised in 2000, this multivolume series, formerly edited by Frank N. Magill and first published in 1983, supplies critical studies and in-depth overviews of major authors of long fiction.

Magill’s Critical Survey of Poetry, 2nd rev. ed., edited by Philip K. Jason and Frank N. Magill, 8 vols., 5,352 pages (Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2002)

Revised version of the original 1982 edition edited by Frank N. Magill featuring scholarly articles and in-depth essays on 368 English-language poets, including 27 new entries, examining the work of major and minor poets. Each entry, averaging 10 pages each, surveys subjects’ backgrounds and achievements combined with critical analysis of their major works. Updated and annotated bibliographies accompany all entries.

Magill’s Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, edited by T. A. Shippey and A. J. Sobczak, 4 vols., 1,126 pages (Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 1996)

Provides a plot summary and brief critical analysis for several hundred works of science fiction and fantasy, arranged by the title of the work. Volume 4 includes bibliographies, lists of prizewinners, and much more.

Magill’s Literary Annual, edited by Frank N. Magill, et al. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Salem Press, 1977– )

Each edition of this annually published two-volume set contains critical essays, reviews, and sources for further study of 200 major literary works published in the United States each year. In addition, the set includes four cumulative indexes—biographical works by subject, a category index, a title index, and an author index—listing titles reviewed in past editions from 1977 to 2004 in Volume 2. Updates Magill’s Masterplots annual.

Magill’s Masterplots, edited by Frank N. Magill, 11 vols. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Salem Press, 1954– )

First launched in 1954, This multivolume work offers critical essays and synopses with principal characters drawn from world literature arranged by title. An author index accompanies the series. Also since 1954, Salem Press publishes an annual series called Masterplots Annual that includes reviews of 100 outstanding books each year. A cumulative print index, Index to Masterplots: Cumulative Indexes 1963–1990, also indexes many volumes in the series.

Magill’s Masterplots II, edited by Frank N. Magill, 30 vols. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Salem Press, 1986– )

Newer series of interpretive essays and criticisms with summaries and brief bibliographies on the works of 20th-century authors, published as fourto six-volume sets on different genres of literature published around the world. Titles in the series include Masterplots II: African-American Literature Series (1994– ); Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Series (1989– ); Masterplots II: Drama Series (1990– ); Masterplots II: Juvenile and Young Adult Fiction Series (1991– ); Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series (1989– ); Masterplots II: Short Story Series (1986– ); and Masterplots II: World Fiction Series (1987– ). Salem Press’s Index to Masterplots: Cumulative Indexes 1963–1990 also indexes the series.

Magill’s Survey of American Literature, edited by Frank N. Magill, 8 vols., 2,896 pages (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corp., 1991–94)

Features critical surveys of major American writers from the 17th to the late 20th century representing all forms of literature.

Magill’s Survey of Contemporary Literature, edited by Frank N. Magill, 19 vols., 13,701 pages (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Salem Press, 1971, 1977)

This major multivolume literary series contains 500 updated reprints of 2,000 reviews from Masterplots annuals from 1954 to 1976 on authors of contemporary literature. Each essay includes brief biographical data about the author and publication data about the work, a brief description of the work and a critical essay.

Magill’s Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature, edited by Frank N. Magill, 5 vols., 2,589 pages (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Salem Press, 1983)

Featuring 500 critical essays covering individual works, collections, series, trilogies, and short fiction, this five-volume set includes biographical information about each author, dates of publication, descriptions of their work, and criticisms. The fifth and final volume features 19 critical essays on theories of fantasy, eroticism, witchcraft, fantasy poetry, and other forms of fantasy.

Magill’s Survey of Science Fiction Literature: Five Hundred 2,000-Word Essay Reviews of World-Famous Science Fiction Novels with 2,500 Bibliographical References, edited by Frank N. Magill, 5 vols., 2,542 pages (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Salem Press, 1979– )

A five-volume set providing lengthy and detailed essays and plot summaries of science fiction with critical analysis of each author’s style, content, and individual works covering some of the most significant science fiction novels ever written. In 1982, Salem Press published a bibliographical supplement to the series.

Magill’s Survey of Short Fiction, 2nd Ed., edited by Charles E. May and Frank N. Magill, 7 vols. 2,900 pages (Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2001)

Part of Salem Press’s award-winning Critical Survey series, this seven-volume set examines the work of 500 short fiction writers, including such diverse writers as Hans Christian Andersen, Woody Allen, Ursula Le Guin, and Alice Walker. Entries offer biographical information, critical analysis of specific works, a list of literary works, dates of publication, and an annotated bibliography for each author reviewed.

Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, 240 vols. (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research Co., 1978– )

Features excerpts from criticism of the works of more than 500 novelists, poets, playwrights, short story writers, and other creative writers living between 1900 and 1999. Every fourth volume in the series is devoted to literary topics that could not be covered under the author approach.

World Authors, 9 vols. (Bronx, N.Y.: New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1975– )

First published in 1975, this nine-volume reference set—a companion volume to H.W. Wilson’s now outdated biographical dictionary Twentieth Century Authors (1942–79)—features biographical sketches on internationally known authors. The first volume in the set spans 20 years (1950–70), with each subsequent volume covering a five-year period, including 1970–75, 1975–80, 1980–85, 1985–90, 1990–95, 1995–2000, and 2000–05.


Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature, 5th ed., edited by Bruce Murphy, 1,232 pages (New York: HarperCollins, 2008)

This classic, fully revised and updated, explores all aspects of world literature. Entries encompass biographies of poets, playwrights, novelists, and belletrists, plot summaries and character sketches from major works, historical information on literary schools, movements, terms, and awards, myths and legends, and much more. Coverage is given to African, African-American, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, South American, and women’s literature, and more.

Encyclopedia of Folklore and Literature, edited by Mary Ellen Brown and Bruce A. Rosenberg, 784 pages (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 1999)

Authoritatively surveys the connections between folklore and literature in 350 alphabetically arranged entries. Divided into four categories, entries explore writers who used folklore as a source in their literary works, concepts, themes, and characters with folklore origins found in written literature and studies in the field of folklore and literature by leading scholars. Major emphasis is given to European and Western themes, including classical Greek and Roman mythology.

Encyclopedia of the Novel, edited by Paul Schellinger, 2 vols., 1,652 pages (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1998)

Designed for more advanced literature students, this highly recommended encyclopedia comprehensively covers the history and development of the novel in 650 scholarly essays. All aspects of novel are explored, including classic novels, famous novelists, novels, novels about a specific country or region, and other subjects, such as theory, influence, and criticism. Each entry includes brief biographies, lists of works, and additional readings.

Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, 3rd ed., edited by Steven R. Serafin, 4 vols., 3,000 pages (Detroit, Mich.: St. James Press, 1998)

This widely acclaimed four-volume encyclopedic set offers in-depth criticisms of more than 2,000 individual authors discussing “genres, movements, and trends in literature” of authors from around the world, including Chinua Achebe, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and Virginia Woolf, and entries on numerous other topics. Bibliographies are included.

The Facts On File Companion to the American Short Story, 2nd ed., edited by Abby H. P. Werlock (New York: Facts On File, 2009)

This updated guide, written in a clear, easy-to read style, discusses American short fiction from the 19th century to the 1990s. Approximately 675 entries, listed in alphabetical order, cover author biographies, famous characters, influential events, themes and theories, and detailed summaries of major stories. Author entries provide personal and career information, including important dates, biographies, lists of stories, critical reaction, and a list of references. Also included are appendixes, covering short story awards and winners, stories by subject and setting, and a selected bibliography of critical histories and theoretical approaches to short story writing. Other useful references include The Facts On File Companion to American Drama, The Facts On File Companion to Classical Drama, and other titles in the Facts On File literature list.

The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature, edited by Jay Parini, 4 vols., 2,280 pages (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003)

Suitable for high school and university students and literature enthusiasts, this multivolume reference examines American literature from colonial times to the present. Throughout this outstanding resource are 350 historical and topical articles discussing all genres of literature. Includes an extensive index and bibliographies for further reading.

General References

Literary Research Guide: A Guide to Reference Sources for the Study of Literatures in English and Related Topics, 5th ed., edited by James L. Horner, 826 pages (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2008)

Complete bibliographic reference of sources available for study of literature and related topics. Items covered in this revised fourth edition include databases, dissertations, guides to manuscripts and archives, indexes, literary genres, periodicals, and American, English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh literature.

World Literature and Its Times, edited by Joyce Moss and Lorraine Valestuk, 8 vols. (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Group, 1999– )

Each volume of this highly acclaimed academic reference set spans 50 entries of major fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from countries listed in alphabetical order by title. Each entry combines literary and historical information and discusses the social and political background, plot or contents, social, political or literary events of the author’s life and influences on each work. The six-volume set covers the literatures of Africa, Asia, India, Italy, France, England, Ireland, Latin America, the Middle East, Portugal, and Spain. Also published in e-book form.

Selected Full-Text Article Databases

ABELL: Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (Ann Arbor, Mich.: ProQuest. 1892 )

Indexes 860,000 citations of journal articles on all aspects and periods of English literature, with full-text availability of articles from 120 scholarly journals from 1892 to date.

Academic Search Elite (Ipswich, Mass.: EBSCOHost, indexing/abstracting: 1984– , full text: 1990– )

Indexes more than 2,700 journals with full-text coverage of 1,530 academic titles in the fields of humanities, education, and general science. Full text extends back to January 1990, while indexing and abstracting is from January 1984 to the present. This subscription database is an ideal place to look up book reviews, criticisms, and reviews of creative works, from poems to short stories.

Bloom’s Literary Reference Online (New York: Infobase Publishing, 2006– )

Full-text collection of critical articles published in the long-standing Bloom’s Literary Criticism series, including Bloom’s Modern Literary Views and Bloom’s Modern Literary Interpretations. Also includes full text of literature reference books published by Facts On File, including the Companion to Literature and the Critical Companion series. Ideal for high school and college students researching authors or works.

Contemporary Authors (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale, 19th century– )

Web edition of this reference series includes biographical and bibliographical information on more than 120,000 contemporary writers. Covers novelists, poets, essayists, journalists, and other writers. Includes full text of journals on literature and literary criticism.

DiscLit: American Authors (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co./OCLC, 1992– )

CD-ROM collection of full-text biographical and critical overviews of 140 American authors from books in Twayne’s United States Authors series published before 1991. Entries include chronologies, references, and selected bibliographies of each author and his or her literary work.

DiscLit: British Authors (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co./OCLC, 1992– )

Compact disc reference of literary criticism of selected British authors from Twayne’s English Authors series containing the full text of 145 volumes by authors ranging from Chaucer to Shakespeare, as well as the OCLC British Authors Catalog featuring 200,000 citations of widely held books by and about British authors from the OCLC Online Union Catalog.

DISCovering Authors (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale, GaleNet, 1992– )

First published in 1992 on CD-ROM as DISCovering Authors: Biographies and Criticism on 300 Most Studied Authors, this online full-text bio-bibliographical version features fully illustrated biographical sketches and excerpts from literary criticism of 1,260 of the world’s most-studied novelists, poets, and dramatists. Authors are from a variety of nations, cultures, time periods, and genres, from Maya Angelou to William Shakespeare.

Expanded Academic ASAP (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale InfoTrac, 1980– )

Indexes some 8.5 million articles from 3,000 journals, magazines, and newspapers, with full text available for selected literary journals.

Humanities Full Text (Bronx, N.Y.: H.W. Wilson Co., WilsonWeb/Ovid Technologies, Inc./Thomson DIALOG, indexing: 1984– ; full text: January 1995– )

Provides online indexing of 160 journal articles, some full text, from 400 major humanities periodicals in the fields of archaeology, classical studies, film, folklore, gender studies, history, journalism, communications, language, literature, literary and political criticism, performing arts, philosophy, and religion.

International Index to Black Periodicals Full-Text (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Chadwyck-Healey/ProQuest, 1902– )

Web adaptation of the printed volume offering current and retrospective bibliographic citations and abstracts from 150 scholarly and popular journals, newspapers, and newsletters from the United States, Africa, and the Caribbean since 1902, and full-text coverage of 40 black studies periodicals from 1988 to the present. Coverage spans cultural, economic, historical, religious, social, and political issues in the area of black studies.

JSTOR (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Journal Storage Project, 1996– )

Full-text collection of more than 300 scholarly journals covering the arts and sciences, including such literature journals as African American Review, Comparative Literature, ELH, Modern Language Journal, New Literary History, Review of English Studies, and Shakespeare Quarterly.

LION: Literature Online (Ann Arbor, Mich.: ProQuest, 600– )

This subscription-based library bills itself as “the world’s largest cross-searchable database of literature and literary criticism.” It covers more than 350,000 works of English and American poetry, drama and prose, 400 author bibliographies, 1,000 biographies of the most studied authors, 200 journals (with 30 in full text), and links to author Web sites and ABELL (Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature).

Literature Resource Center (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale)

Online database providing direct access to biographical, bibliographical, and critical analysis, based on Gale’s library of literary references, including Contemporary Authors, Dictionary of Literacy Criticism, and some 371,000 full-text articles from more than 230 literary journals, 38,000 critical essays, and 4,329 plot summaries and overviews. Areas covered include drama, history, journalism, nonfiction, and poetry. Also includes a link to the full-text version of Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature and links to 5,000 Web sites focusing on major authors and their works.

NewsBank Newsfile Collection (Naples, Fla.: NewsBank, 1991– )

Besides covering current events, this fully searchable collection includes full-text articles from 500 U.S. regional and national newspapers, news broadcasts, and wire services from 1991 to the present. Coverage includes newspaper book reviews and literary news topics found under the category “General News: Arts and Sports Reviews.”

Periodicals Index Online (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Chadwyck-Healey/ProQuest, 1770–1995)

This major online periodical database (formerly called Periodicals Contents Index) offers full text and retrospective coverage of the content (including book reviews) of thousands of humanities and social science periodicals since their first issues from 1770 to 1995.

ProjectMUSE (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990– )

Full-text collection of more than 100 scholarly journals in arts and humanities, mathematics, and social sciences, including 31 literature titles.

ProQuest Research Library II (Ann Arbor, Mich.: ProQuest/UMI, indexing: 1971– , full text: 1986– )

Offers complete citations with abstracts to some 2,500 periodicals, including the current six months of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Publications index includes 396 humanities and 239 general-interest periodicals with full-text article searchable from approximately 600 titles.

Selected Periodicals

American Literature: A Journal of Literary History, Criticism, and Bibliography (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press; published in cooperation with the Modern Language Association 1929– , quarterly)

Regarded as “the preeminent journal in its field,” this quarterly scholarly journal features criticisms of a broad spectrum of literary periods and literary genres. Each issue contains articles written by leading scholars and critics covering the works of American authors, and a large book review section. The journal is indexed and abstracted in such leading references as America: History and Life, Historical Abstracts, Humanities Index, Index to Book Reviews in the Humanities, MLA International Bibliography, and many others. Links to full text of recent articles is available through JSTOR (1929–99) and ProjectMUSE (2003– ).

Comparative Literature (Eugene: University of Oregon, 1949– , quarterly)

Founded in 1949, this official publication of the American Comparative Literature Association is devoted to the worldwide exploration of important issues of literary history and theory. Published quarterly by the University of Oregon, each issue typically contains scholarly articles covering a broad range of theoretical and critical approaches. EBSCOHost’s Academic Search Premier (1975– ) and Wilson Select Full Text Plus (1995– ) are among the online databases that offer full-text indexing of articles from past issues. Online access to the first 50 volumes is available through JSTOR (1949–98).

Contemporary Literature (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968– )

Written by leaders in their field and some of the most respected writers today, this quarterly journal focuses on the study of contemporary American, British, and Continental literature. Available in print and online, content typically includes interviews with emerging authors, articles on contemporary literature, and reviews of recently published critical works. Articles are indexed in such popular online databases as Biography Resource Center (1993–99), EBSCOHost’s Academic Search Premier (1975– ) and Expanded Academic ASAP (1992), excluding the most recent 12 months. Back issues of Contemporary Literature are available in full-text form through JSTOR, and also accessible through ProjectMUSE.

ELH: Journal of Literary History (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1934– , quarterly)

This quarterly academic journal offers “superior studies that interpret the conditions affecting major works in English and American literature.” Articles offer a scholarly view of historical, critical, and theoretical concerns relative to its subject. One of the first journals offered in electronic form by ProjectMUSE, ELH is available as part of its online collection starting with the winter 1993 issue, and through JSTOR (1934–94) with links to full-text recent issues (1995–2003).

Journal of Modern Literature (Philadelphia: Temple University; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970– , quarterly)

More than 30 years after its founding, the Journal of Modern Literature is widely recognized as “the journal of record on modern literature.” Each issue addresses contemporary writing and literature written from 1900 to the present. Contents include essays, interviews, position papers, and political manifestos on related subjects. Full-text articles are available through Academic Search Premier (1975– ), Wilson Select Full Text Plus (1997– ), and ProjectMUSE (1998–present)

The New York Review of Books (New York: Arno Press, 1963– , biweekly)

Widely regarded as “the premier literary intellectual magazine in the English language,” this biweekly magazine founded during a New York newspaper publishing strike in 1963 features informative and critical essays on culture, current affairs, and literature. Articles from recent editions are accessible online at

The New York Times Book Review (New York: Arno Press, 1896–; Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 2001– , weekly)

Distributed separately or as part of Sunday’s New York Times, this weekly literary tabloid reviews new nonfiction and fiction books, and includes essays on literary culture, previews of upcoming books, discussion of publishing trends, and more. Visitors can browse recent articles online at

PMLA (Publications of the Modern Language Association) (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1884– , 6 times a year)

Published six times yearly since 1884, this journal of the Modern Language Association of America offers a variety of articles geared toward university and college scholars and teachers of English and foreign languages. Four issues per year (January, March, May, and October) feature a collection of essays written by association members on language and literature. A directory is published in September listing all members, including names and addresses, and a program is published in November for the association’s annual convention. A collection of past issues is accessible to subscribers at JSTOR (1889–1990).

Publishers Weekly: The International News Magazine of Publishing (New York: F. Leypoldt, 1872– , weekly)

The longest-active trade publication of its kind, this weekly newsmagazine offers international coverage of book publishing, including interviews with authors, industry news, and a list of the latest nonfiction and fiction bestsellers. Every issue covers all segments of publishing, from the creation and production of books to sales and marketing. The Web site offers current and past articles, including news, features, book reviews, and special reports, at Full access is restricted to subscribers only.

TLS: The Times Literary Supplement (London: Times Newspapers Ltd., 1902– , weekly)

Weekly literary supplement published by the Times Newspapers of London featuring comprehensive and entertaining essays on new and forthcoming books, both hardcover and paperback, on the arts, history, politics, and world literature. Full-text images of previous issues from 1902 to 1994 are available as part of a subscription database, TLS: Times Literary Supplement, offered by the Gale Group.

World Literature Today (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1927– , quarterly)

Founded in 1927 by Oklahoma scholar Roy Temple House, this quarterly scholarly journal upholds his original vision, featuring interviews, reviews, and essays on authors and literature from around the world. Content includes reviews of fiction, poetry, and criticism, divided by language, and articles and columns discussing global and regional trends, children’s literature, and writers’ conferences. Full-text articles of World Literature Today are available at InfoTrac’s Expanded Academic ASAP (1994– ).

For a complete and current list of literature journals, not including newsletters, see:

MLA Directory of Periodicals: A Guide to Journals and Serials in Language and Literature, 2nd Ed. 2 vols., (Modern Language Association, 1991–96)

Produced by the Modern Language Association of America, this second edition, two-volume directory lists periodicals, indexed in the MLA International Bibliography, in the fields of literature, language, linguistics, culture, and folklore. All entries provide such basic information as title, publisher, editor name, and language. In 2000, the directory was offered online via subscription through EBSCO Publishing. Content is keyword-searchable by subject, title, and more.

Selected Web Sites

English Literature on the Web (

Large online directory of literature sites on the Web.

English Literature: A Guide to Sources (

Compiled by Fred Muratori of Cornell University libraries, this Web page features a selected bibliography of library resources, such as chronologies, handbooks, indexes, and sources of literary criticism on English literature.

Literary Sources on the Net (

A comprehensive collection of electronic sources for the study of literature covering such areas as classical, biblical, medieval, Victorian, and more with links.

Voice of the Shuttle: English Literature (

Provides access to both primary and secondary resources for students and instructors from elementary school, high school, and the general public on all academic disciplines, including English literature.

Careers Related to Literature

Literary Arts Career Field (

From the earliest times, people have wanted to communicate with other people, and one of the best means of communication is language. Before the invention of writing, people could only transmit information orally. After writing was invented, which may have occurred in Sumer in approximately 4000 BC, writers could communicate with people who were not within speaking distance. Written communication took various forms in various cultures, and over the centuries a wide range of forms came into existence. As time passed, these forms were developed and refined.

Book Publishing Career Field (

The earliest known books were the clay tablets of Mesopotamia and the papyrus rolls of Egypt. Examples of both date from about 3000 BC. According to archeological findings, the Chinese developed books about 1300 BC. Early Chinese books were made of wood or bamboo strips and bound together with cords.

With the spread of Greek culture and the Greek alphabet in the third century b.c., books became accessible to more people. For the first time, the general public began to read on a wide range of topics. Up until that point, books had been primarily produced for scholarly research or for use by royalty.

Writers Career Information (

Writers express, edit, promote, and interpret ideas and facts in written form for books, magazines, trade journals, newspapers, technical studies and reports, company newsletters, radio and television broadcasts, and advertisements.

Writers develop fiction and nonfiction ideas for plays, novels, poems, and other related works; report, analyze, and interpret facts, events, and personalities; review art, music, film, drama, and other artistic presentations; and persuade the general public to choose or favor certain goods, services, and personalities. There are approximately 192,000 salaried writers, authors, and technical writers employed in the United States.

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