literary

Literary Criticism

This guide to literary criticism and analysis is meant to be your starting point for researching critical studies of the world's major literature. It is broken down by form of literature being studied: Short Stories, Novels, Poetry, and Drama. It is very specific in that it is focused on how one might do literary criticism at the COD Library. See the guides on American Literature and British Literature for general information about authors, works, and historical context, as well as, how to find the literature itself online or in the COD library. This guide is meant for the interpretation, analysis, and evaluation of literature.

Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism
From the Purdue OWL online writing lab, this is a great, very brief, look at literary theory and some of the different schools of criticism that have been used or are being used today.

  1. Reference sources
  2. Short Stories
  3. Novels
  4. Poetry
  5. Drama

Reference Books and eBooks

Why Reference Sources?

Is your research topic too big to cover in a short paper?  Is your topic so specific that sources will be hard to find?

Before you even begin your research, start the process with reference sources-- in the Library's Reference Section or online in our databases.  Reference books, like subject encyclopedias, can give you a head start and make your research easier in the long run.  Use reference sources to:

  • find a topic
  • narrow your topic
  • find keywords
  • get background information on your topic

Use the menu below to find the reference tool that will best help you start the research process.

Print Reference sources

Dictionaries/Handbooks/Encyclopedias:
A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory Ref PN 41 .C83 1998
A Glossary of Contemporary Literary Theory Ref PN 44.5 .H37
John Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism Ref PN 81 .J554
The Oxford Companion to American Literature Ref PS 21 .H3
The Oxford Companion to English Literature Ref PR 19 .D73

Biographical/Critical Comment on Individual Authors:
American:
American Women Writers Ref PS 147 .A4
American Writers Ref PS 129 .A55
Oxford Companion to African American Literature Ref PS 153 .N5 O96
Reference Guide to American Literature Ref PS 129 .R44

British:
British Women Writers Ref PR 111 .B75
British Writers Ref PR 85 .B888
Guide to British Prose Explication Ref PR 861 .B38
Reference Guide to English Literature Ref PR 106 .R4

Multinational, including American and British:
Contemporary Authors Ref PN 451 .E8 C59
Contemporary World Writers Ref PN 51 .C6235
Dictionary of Literary Biography Ref PN 451 .D5
European Writers Ref PN 501 .E9
Reader's Guide to Literature in English Ref PR 85 .R33
Hispanic Writers : A Selection of Sketches from Contemporary Authors Ref PQ7081.3 .H58 1999

Criticism Excerpts:
Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism Ref PN 681.5 .C57
Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800 Ref PN 86 .L56
Shakespearean Criticism Ref PR 2965 .S44
Nineteenth Century Literature Criticism (NLC) Ref PN 761 .N5
Twentieth Century Literary Criticism (TLC) Ref PN 94 .T9
Black Literature Criticism Ref PN 490 .B5

Genre-Related Sources:

Drama:
Drama for Students Ref PN 1601 .D595
Oxford Companion to American Theatre Ref PN 2220 .B6
Oxford Companion to the Theatre Ref PN 2035 .O9

Long Fiction:
Novels for Students Ref PN 3385 .N68
English Novel Explication Ref PR 821 .E6

Short Fiction:
Short Stories for Students Ref PN 3373 .S3844
Critical Survey of Short Fiction Ref PN 3321 .C7
Reference Guide to Short Fiction Ref PN 3373 .R36
Twentieth Century Short Story Explication Ref PN 3373 .W3

Poetry:
Poetry for Students Ref PN1101 .P756
Guide to British Poetry Explication Ref PR 311 .M3
Poetry Dictionary Ref PN 1021 .D78
Poetry Explication [criticism excerpts] Ref PR 502 .K8

Other Genres:
Encyclopedia of Fantasy Ref PN 3435 .E53
Encyclopedia of Frontier & Western Fiction Ref PS 374 .W4 E53
Feminist Writers Ref PN 451 .F46
Fifty Western Writers Ref PS 271 .F5
Gay & Lesbian Literature Ref PN 56 .H57 G36
Horror Literature Ref PR 830 .T3 H67
Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature Ref PN 56 .F34 S97

Online Reference sources

You can begin your research without even stepping into the Library with the online reference sources available through our databases. Visit the Databases by Title page for links-- you will need your Library card to access these resources if you are off-campus.
credohoriz.gif
Credo Reference is an online reference service made up of full-text books from the world's best publishers. Whether you're working on a research paper, trying to win trivia or just curious, Credo Reference has something for you.
Take a look at the subject page in Credo and click on the subject: Language & Literature to see the reference ebooks available in this database.

title_dc.jpg
Discovering Collection has thousands of overview essays, critical analyses, biographies, timelines and multimedia elements in Literature and other core areas. In Literature, search Authors, Literary Works and Literary Topics, Genres, and Movements.
gvrl.jpg
The Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) provides access to general reference materials as well as the following literature resources:

Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore and Literature: A Handbook , 2005
Literary Themes for Students: The American Dream , 2v, 2007
Literary themes for students: War and Peace, 2006
Literary themes for students: Race and Prejudice, 2006
Reference Guide to World Literature , 3rd ed., 2v, 2003
Twenty-first century novels. The first decade, 2011

How do I find criticism for short stories?

First, try a search in the Library Catalog for books about the author or his or her works.

Sample search for information about an author

Second, use our collection of books specifically for short story research.  The following books are available in the Reference Collection. They can be searched through at the short story level with the Literary Index within the Literature Resource Center database.

  • Critical Survey of Short Fiction   Ref PN 3321 .C7 1993
  • Reference Guide to Short Fiction  Ref PN 3373 .R36 1994
  • Short Stories for Students  Ref PN 3373 .S3844
  • Short Story Criticism  Ref PN 3373 .S386 NOW Online

Also, try to use other literary criticism reference books that deal with literature as a whole, regardless of form. Here are a few series to consider in the Reference Collection.

  • Dictionary of Literary Biography Ref PN 451 .D5
  • Nineteenth-century literature criticism; Ref PN 761 .N5
  • Twentieth-century literary criticism; Ref PN 94 .T9
  • World literature criticism; Ref PN 523 .W67

Third, use an index or bibliography to refer to discussion often published in scholarly journals or books about a short story. Usually, the actual critical essay is not listed. Instead, the index lists where you will find the critical essay.
 

  • Literary Criticism Index  Ref PN 523 .W4 1984
  • Twentieth Century Short Story Explication  Ref PN 3373 .W3
  • Magill's Bibliography of Literary Criticism  Ref PN 523 .M3 1979x

Can I find any criticism online?

Databases

Try the Library's literature databases for articles about your author or short story.  Here are just some of the databases appropriate for finding short story criticism:

These databases are available on and off-campus. Have your library card handy when accessing the databases from off-campus-- you will be asked for your name and library card number before you can search them.

Websites

Web sites, especially those sponsored by colleges and universities, can also provide useful criticism for your research.  

If you find other sites on your own, be sure to carefully evaluate the information.  Who is the author? Is the content reliable? Is the information current? Do you want to base your professional reputation on that website?  To review and rate all types of web sites, use the CRAP test to help you.

How do I find criticism for novels?

First, try a search in the Library Catalog for books about the author or his or her works.

Sample search for information about an author

Second, use our collection of books specifically for novel research.  The following books are available in the Reference Collection.

  • Novels for Students   Ref PN 3385 .N68
  • The Critical Perspective  Ref PR 85 .C76 1985
  • Reference Guide to English Literature  Ref PR 106 .R4 1991
  • English Novel Explication  Ref PR 821 .E6
  • Reference Guide to American Literature  Ref PS 129 .R44 2000

Also, try to use other literary criticism reference books that deal with literature as a whole, regardless of form. Here are a few series to consider in the Reference Collection.

  • Dictionary of Literary Biography Ref PN 451 .D5
  • Nineteenth-century literature criticism; Ref PN 761 .N5
  • Twentieth-century literary criticism; Ref PN 94 .T9
  • World literature criticism; Ref PN 523 .W67

Third, use an index or bibliography to refer to discussion often published in scholarly journals or books about a novel. Usually, the actual critical essay is not listed. Instead, the index lists where you will find the critical essay.
 

  • Literary Criticism Index  Ref PN 523 .W4 1984
  • Magill's Bibliography of Literary Criticism  Ref PN 523 .M3 1979x

Can I find any criticism online?

Databases

Try the Library's literature databases for articles about your author or novel.  Here are just some of the databases appropriate for finding novel criticism:

These databases are available on and off-campus. Have your library card handy when accessing the databases from off-campus-- you will be asked for your name and library card number before you can search them.

Websites

Web sites, especially those sponsored by colleges and universities, can also provide useful criticism for your research.  

If you find other sites on your own, be sure to carefully evaluate the information.  Who is the author? Is the content reliable? Is the information current? Do you want to based your professional reputation on that website?  To review and rate all types of web sites, use the CRAP test to help you.

How do I find criticism for poetry?

First, try a search in the Library Catalog for books about the poet or his or her works.

Sample search for information about a poet

Second, use our collection of books specifically for poetry research.  The following books are available in the Reference Collection.

  • Poetry Criticism   Ref PN 1010 .P499
  • Notable Poets   Ref PN 1021 .N68 1998
  • Poetry for Students   Ref PN 1101 .P756
  • Poetry Explication [criticism excerpts]   Ref PR 502 .K8

Also, try to use other literary criticism reference books that deal with literature as a whole, regardless of form. Here are a few series to consider in the Reference Collection.

  • Dictionary of Literary Biography Ref PN 451 .D5
  • Nineteenth-century literature criticism; Ref PN 761 .N5
  • Twentieth-century literary criticism; Ref PN 94 .T9
  • World literature criticism; Ref PN 523 .W67

Third, use an index or bibliography to refer to discussion often published in scholarly journals or books about a poem. Usually, the actual critical essay is not listed. Instead, the index lists where you will find the critical essay.
 

  • Literary Criticism Index  Ref PN 523 .W4 1984
  • Magill's Bibliography of Literary Criticism  Ref PN 523 .M3 1979x

Can I find any criticism online?

Databases

Try the Library's literature databases for articles about your poet or poem.  Here are just some of the databases appropriate for finding poetry criticism:

These databases are available on and off-campus. Have your library card handy when accessing the databases from off-campus-- you will be asked for your name and library card number before you can search them.

Websites

Web sites, especially those sponsored by colleges and universities, can also provide useful criticism for your research.  

If you find other sites on your own, be sure to carefully evaluate the information.  Who is the author? Is the content reliable? Is the information current? Do you want to base your professional reputation on that website?  To review and rate all types of web sites, use the CRAP test to help you.

How do I find criticism for dramatic works?

First, try a search in the Library Catalog for books about the playwright or his or her works.

Sample search for information about a playwright

Second, use our collection of books specifically for drama research.  The following books are available in the Reference Collection.

  • Drama for Students   Ref PN 1601 .D595
  • Critical Survey of Drama   Ref PN 1625 .C68 2003
  • Columbia Survey of Modern Drama   Ref PR 1861 .C65 2007

Also, try to use other literary criticism reference books that deal with literature as a whole, regardless of form. Here are a few series to consider in the Reference Collection.

  • Dictionary of Literary Biography Ref PN 451 .D5
  • Nineteenth-century literature criticism; Ref PN 761 .N5
  • Twentieth-century literary criticism; Ref PN 94 .T9
  • World literature criticism; Ref PN 523 .W67

Third, use an index or bibliography to refer to discussion often published in scholarly journals or books about a play. Usually, the actual critical essay is not listed. Instead, the index lists where you will find the critical essay.
 

  • Literary Criticism Index  Ref PN 523 .W4 1984
  • Magill's Bibliography of Literary Criticism  Ref PN 523 .M3 1979x

Can I find any criticism online?

Databases

Try the Library's literature databases for articles about your playwright or play.  Here are just some of the databases appropriate for finding drama criticism:

These databases are available on and off-campus. Have your library card handy when accessing the databases from off-campus-- you will be asked for your name and library card number before you can search them.

Websites

Web sites, especially those sponsored by colleges and universities, can also provide useful criticism for your research.  

If you find other sites on your own, be sure to carefully evaluate the information.  Who is the author? Is the content reliable? Is the information current? Do you want to base your professional reputation on that website?  To review and rate all types of web sites, use the CRAP test to help you.

World Literature

This is the research guide for World Literature in English (originally written). If you are interested in World Literature translated into English, please take a look at the respective collection under the orginal language. For example, the English translation of One Hundred Years of Solitude, originally written in Spanish, is shelved with the Spanish literature in the PQ section.

  1. Books & Videos
  2. Databases
  3. Websites

Call Number Range

Use these call number ranges to browse the General Collection and the Reference Collection.

PR8309- PR9639 Asian, African, Australian, Canadian, Caribbean Literature in English

British Literature

  1. Reference Sources
  2. Find Literature
  3. Author Biographies
  4. Shakespeare
  5. Historical Context

Reference Books and eBooks

Why Reference Sources?

Is your research topic too big to cover in a short paper?  Is your topic so specific that sources will be hard to find?

Before you even begin your research, start the process with reference sources-- in the Library's Reference Section or online in our databases; Reference books, like subject encyclopedias, can give you a head start and make your research easier in the long run.  Use reference sources to:

  • find a topic
  • narrow your topic
  • find keywords
  • get background information on your topic

Use the menu below to find the reference tool that will best help you start the research process.

Print Reference sources

Dictionaries/Handbooks/Encyclopedias:
The Penguin Companion to English Literature Ref PN 849 .C5 P4
Dictionary of British Literary Characters. 18th- and 19th-Century Novels Ref PR830.C47 D5 1993
Dictionary of British Literary Characters. 20th-Century Novels Ref PR830.C47 D52 1994
British Authors Before 1800 : A Biographical Dictionary Ref PR 105 .K9

Plot Summaries/Explication:
Masterplots PN 44 .M33
Magill's Literary Annual PN 44 .M35
Masterplots II. British and Commonwealth Fiction Series PR881 .M39 1987
Masterplots II: Drama Series PN 6112.5 .M37
Masterplots II: Non-Fiction Series PN 44 .M345
Masterplots II: Poetry Series PN 1110.5 .M37
Masterplots II: Short Story Series PN 3326 .M27
Masterplots II: World Fiction Series PN 3326 .M28

Biographical/Critical Comment on Individual Authors:
British:
British Writers Classics Ref PR85 .B6882 v.1

Multinational, including American and British:
Contemporary Authors Ref PN 451 .E8 C62
Contemporary World Writers Ref PN 51 .C6235
Dictionary of Literary Biography Ref PN 451 .D5
European Writers Ref PN 501 .E9
Reader's Guide to Literature in English Ref PR 85 .R33

Genre-Related Sources:

Drama:
Oxford Companion to the Theatre Ref PN 2035 .O9

Long Fiction:
Critical Survey of Long Fiction Ref PR 821 .C7
English Novel Explication Ref PR 821 .E6

Short Fiction:
Critical Survey of Short Fiction Ref PN 3321 .C7
Reference Guide to Short Fiction Ref PN 3373 .R36
Twentieth Century Short Story Explication Ref PN 3373 .W3

Poetry:
Critical Survey of Poetry Ref PR 502 .C85
New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics Ref PN 1021 .N39
Poetry Dictionary Ref PN 1021 .D78

Other Genres:
Critical Survey of Mystery and Detective Fiction Ref PN 3448 .D4 C75
Encyclopedia of Fantasy Ref PN 3435 .E53
Feminist Writers Ref PN 451 .F46
Gay & Lesbian Literature Ref PN 56 .H57 G36
Horror Literature Ref PR 830 .T3 H67
Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature Ref PN 56 .F34 S97
Twentieth Century Crime & Mystery Writers PR 888 .D4 T8
Twentieth Century Romance and Gothic Writers PR 888 .L69 T86
Twentieth Century Science Fiction Writers PS 374 .S35 T89

Online Reference sources

You can begin your research without even stepping into the Library with the online reference sources available through our databases. Visit the Databases by Title page for links-- you will need your Library card to access these resources if you are off-campus.

Credo Reference is an online reference service made up of full-text books from the world's best publishers. Whether you're working on a research paper, trying to win trivia or just curious, Credo Reference has something for you.

Discovering Collection has thousands of overview essays, critical analyses, biographies, timelines and multimedia elements in Literature and other core areas. In Literature, search Authors, Literary Works and Literary Topics, Genres, and Movements.

The Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) provides access to general reference materials as well as the following literature resources:

  • Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore and Literature: A Handbook , 2005
  • Literary Themes for Students: The American Dream , 2v, 2007
  • Reference Guide to World Literature , 3rd ed., 2v, 2003

Finding Books, Videos and More in the Library

Use the Library catalog to find books, videos, audiobooks and more. 

To find materials BY an author, enter as an Author Search [Dickens, Charles]

To search the Title of a novel or short story collection, enter as a Title Search or Keyword. Also, if you are certain of the title, use quotation marks (" ") around the title. ["a tale of two cities"]

To find materials ABOUT an author or his or her works, enter as a Subject Search [Dickens, Charles]
See Literary Crticism for more information.
 

College of DuPage Library doesn't have the book, story or poem you seek?? No problem, try I-SHARE services that will allow you to find material from 82 academic libraries throughout Illinois.

Searching by Subject Headings

To identify materials about a particular type of literature, consider the following subject headings:

Novelists, English

English Drama

English Fiction

Authors, English

Poets, English

English Essays

English Poetry

English Literature-History and Criticism

Dramatists, English

Short Stories, English

Call Number Range

Use these call number ranges to browse the General Collection and the Reference Collection.

PR2199-PR3195 British literature, English renaissance 1500-1640
PR3291-PR3785 British literature, 17th and 18th centuries 1640-1770
PR3991-PR5990 British literature, 19th century, 1770/1800-1890/1900
PR6000-PR6049 British literature, 1900-1960
PR6050-PR6076 British literature, 1961-2000
PR6100-PR6126 British literature, 2001-

Literature on the Web

Many examples of classic literature are freely available on the internet.  These books, stories and poems can be published online because the copyright terms of the works have expired and they are in the Public Domain.  Note that online versions of texts may not match republished print editions.

Checking out Materials

Most books, videos and software in the general collection can be checked out and brought home with you for free.

  • DVDs, Videos, and audio CDs can be checked out for 14 days.
  • Most books can be checked out for 28 days.

The only books that cannot be checked out have the letters REF on the label on the side or front of the book. REF means the book is a Reference book and can only be used in the Library. Some items in the CCIC (College and Career Information Collection) may also be in-Library use only.

You need a COD Library Card to check things out of the library. You can get a Library card at the Circulation Desk located near both entrances to the Library.

Search the Library's Catalog

Find author biographies in the Library's Online Catalog. Start by searching for the author's name followed by biography. For example:

To further narrow your search, use the limiters on the left-hand side of the screen. The most helpful limiters for this search are under Format (limit to Books) and Content (limit to Biography).

To check out books, or access ebooks online, you will need a COD Library Card.

Browse the Shelf

Reference Books
Reference books are located on the first floor of the library (second floor of the SRC).

Call Numbers
British author biographies are spread throughout the British Literature Section of the collection. Biographies of individual authors tend to be located close to their actual works.

PR2199-PR3195 British literature, English renaissance 1500-1640
PR3291-PR3785 British literature, 17th and 18th centuries 1640-1770
PR3991-PR5990 British literature, 19th century, 1770/1800-1890/1900
PR6000-PR6049 British literature, 1900-1960
PR6050-PR6076 British literature, 1961-2000
PR6100-PR6126 British literature, 2001-

Databases

Biographical information for British authors can be found in the following Library Databases. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • Credo Reference
  • Encyclopedia Britannica
  • History Study Center
  • Literature Resource Center
  • Project Muse
  • Salem Literature

Helpful Websites

Use the websites below to search for British Author biographies. Often, more prominent authors have individual websites dedicated entirely to their life and work. Try a Google search with "author name" in quotes, then browse for organizations, foundations, educational (.edu), or government (.gov) websites on that author. Check out the Evaluating Websites Guide for more information on choosing appropriate web resources.

Tips for Researching Shakespeare

The sheer amount of literature critiquing the bard can become overwhelming to new Shakespeare researchers. Don’t be alarmed when a search for Shakespeare turns up 33,000 hits in the COD catalog. Instead, focus on refining your search using the tips and tricks listed below.

Shakespeare at the Library

Search the Catalog

Use the Library Catalog to find books/media on Shakespeare. When searching for criticism, use AND to combine search terms. Start with three main concepts - Author, Text, and Topic. For example, if you are interested in the role of prophecy in Macbeth your Search Statement would be: Shakespeare AND Macbeth AND Prophecy. Play around with different combinations of these three search terms: Shakespeare AND Macbeth, Shakespeare AND Prophecy, Macbeth AND Prophecy. For longer titles like The Merry Wives of Windsor or A Midsummer Night's Dream use quotes around the title. Here are a few sample searches:

If you are looking for a specific text, i.e. a copy of The Taming of the Shrew, use the Catalog to search by title and author.

Recommended Books:

Recommended Videos:

Browse the Shelf

Use the Call Numbers below to browse for books in the Library's reference (2nd floor SRC) and general (3rd floor SRC) collections.

PR2750-PR3112 Shakespeare Resources
Search Library Databases

Use the Library Databases to find articles, videos, and ebooks. All of the databases listed can be found on the Databases by Title tab.

Reference Databases:
Start with the Reference Databases for biographical information and an overview of various works. When using the Reference Databases, start with a single search term like Shakespeare or the title of one of his works.

  • Credo Reference
  • Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Gale Virtual Reference Databases

General / Subject Databases:
Use the General / Subject Databases to find in-depth articles on your topic. Take some time to brainstorm search terms before you begin, remember our three main concepts from the catalog search: Author, Title, Topic. Use these as a starting point and add or take away terms as needed. Remember to take advantage of AND to join your search terms together.

  • Academic OneFile
  • Academic Search Complete
  • JSTOR
  • Literary Index
  • Literature Criticism Online
  • Literature Resource Center
  • Magil OnLiterature Plus

Shakespeare on the Web

Works

The following websites offer free access to Shakespeare's plays and poetry.

Biographical Information
Performances

Use these links to find information regarding local performances and Shakespeare's Globe in London.

Click on the buttons below to see recommended books, videos, databases, and websites in the following categories. If you click a button and no information appears, try reloading the page.

Renaissance / Elizabethan

Books and Videos

Use the Library catalog to search the COD Library's collection of books, videos, e-books, and streaming media. Use your COD Library card to check these items out or access them online.

Books
Videos

Databases

The following databases are your best bets for history research. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • JSTOR
  • Project Muse
  • History Study Center

Recommended Websites

Neoclassicism / Augustan

Books and Videos

Use the Library catalog to search the COD Library's collection of books, videos, e-books, and streaming media. Use your COD Library card to check these items out or access them online.

Books

Databases

The following databases are your best bets for history research. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • JSTOR
  • Project Muse
  • History Study Center

Recommended Websites

Romantic

Books and Videos

Use the Library catalog to search the COD Library's collection of books, videos, e-books, and streaming media. Use your COD Library card to check these items out or access them online.

Books
Videos

Databases

The following databases are your best bets for history research. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • JSTOR
  • Project Muse
  • History Study Center

Recommended Websites

Victorian

Books and Videos

Use the Library catalog to search the COD Library's collection of books, videos, e-books, and streaming media. Use your COD Library card to check these items out or access them online.

Books
Videos

Databases

The following databases are your best bets for history research. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • JSTOR
  • Project Muse
  • History Study Center

Recommended Websites

Modern / 20th Century

Books and Videos

Use the Library catalog to search the COD Library's collection of books, videos, e-books, and streaming media. Use your COD Library card to check these items out or access them online.

Books

Databases

The following databases are your best bets for history research. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • JSTOR
  • Project Muse
  • History Study Center

Recommended Websites

American Literature

a twain.jpgThis American Literature guide has been developed to help you find works by American authors, as well as, information about American authors and the historical context of the author and their work. This guide will help you find the short stories, novels, poems, and plays written by Americans. If you seek analysis, criticism, or explication of literary works, see the Literary Criticism guide.

Click here for books, films, and websites concerning American Literature's historical context

  1. Reference Sources
  2. Websites
  3. Find Literature
  4. Author Biographies
  5. Historical Context

Reference Books and eBooks

Why Reference Sources?

Is your research topic too big to cover in a short paper?  Is your topic so specific that sources will be hard to find?

Before you even begin your research, start the process with reference sources-- in the Library's Reference Section or online in our databases.  Reference books, like subject encyclopedias, can give you a head start and make your research easier in the long run.  Use reference sources to:

  • find a topic
  • narrow your topic
  • find keywords
  • get background information on your topic

Use the menu below to find the reference tool that will best help you start the research process.

Print Reference sources

Dictionaries/Handbooks/Encyclopedias:
The Oxford Companion to American Literature Ref PS 21 .H3

Plot Summaries/Explication:
Masterplots PN 44 .M33
Magill's Literary Annual PN 44 .M35
Masterplots II: African-American Literature Series PS 153 .N5 M2645
Masterplots II: American Fiction Series PS 373 .M3
Masterplots II: Drama Series PN 6112.5 .M37
Masterplots II: Non-Fiction Series PN 44 .M345
Masterplots II: Poetry Series PN 1110.5 .M37
Masterplots II: Short Story Series PN 3326 .M27
Masterplots II: World Fiction Series PN 3326 .M28

Biographical/Critical Comment on Individual Authors:
American:
American Women Writers PS 147 .A4
American Writers Ref PS 129 .A55
Magill's Survey of American Literature PS 21 .M34
Oxford Companion to African American Literature Ref PS 153 .N5 O96
Reference Guide to American Literature Ref PS 129 .R44

Multinational, including American and British:
Contemporary Authors Ref PN 451 .E8 C62
Contemporary World Writers Ref PN 51 .C6235
Dictionary of Literary Biography Ref PN 451 .D5
European Writers Ref PN 501 .E9
Reader's Guide to Literature in English Ref PR 85 .R33
Hispanic Writers : A Selection of Sketches from Contemporary Authors Ref PQ7081.3 .H58 1999

Genre-Related Sources:

Drama:
Oxford Companion to American Theatre Ref PN 2220 .B6
Oxford Companion to the Theatre Ref PN 2035 .O9

Long Fiction:
Critical Survey of Long Fiction Ref PR 821 .C7
English Novel Explication Ref PR 821 .E6

Short Fiction:
Critical Survey of Short Fiction Ref PN 3321 .C7
Reference Guide to Short Fiction Ref PN 3373 .R36
Twentieth Century Short Story Explication Ref PN 3373 .W3

Poetry:
Critical Survey of Poetry Ref PR 502 .C85
Guide to American Poetry Explication PS 201 .G85
New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics Ref PN 1021 .N39
Poetry Dictionary Ref PN 1021 .D78

Other Genres:
Critical Survey of Mystery and Detective Fiction Ref PN 3448 .D4 C75
Encyclopedia of Fantasy Ref PN 3435 .E53
Encyclopedia of Frontier & Western Fiction Ref PS 374 .W4 E53
Feminist Writers Ref PN 451 .F46
Fifty Western Writers Ref PS 271 .F5
Gay & Lesbian Literature Ref PN 56 .H57 G36
Horror Literature Ref PR 830 .T3 H67
Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature Ref PN 56 .F34 S97
Twentieth Century Crime & Mystery Writers PR 888 .D4 T8
Twentieth Century Romance and Gothic Writers PR 888 .L69 T86
Twentieth Century Science Fiction Writers PS 374 .S35 T89

Online Reference sources

You can begin your research without even stepping into the Library with the online reference sources available through our databases. Visit the Databases by Title page for links-- you will need your Library card to access these resources if you are off-campus.

Credo Reference is an online reference service made up of full-text books from the world's best publishers. Whether you're working on a research paper, trying to win trivia or just curious, Credo Reference has something for you.

Discovering Collection has thousands of overview essays, critical analyses, biographies, timelines and multimedia elements in Literature and other core areas. In Literature, search Authors, Literary Works and Literary Topics, Genres, and Movements.

The Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) provides access to general reference materials as well as the following literature resources:

Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore and Literature: A Handbook , 2005
Literary Themes for Students: The American Dream , 2v, 2007
Reference Guide to World Literature , 3rd ed., 2v, 2003

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Many examples of classic literature are freely available on the internet.  These books, stories and poems can be published online because the copyright terms of the works have expired and they are in the Public Domain.  Note that online versions of texts may not match republished print editions.

Helpful Meta-Site

Meta-Sites are sites that contain links to a large number of other websites. Usually Meta-Sites are designed to connect users to a multitude of websites in a specific area of study.

Finding Books, Videos and More in the Library

Use the Library catalog to find books, videos, audiobooks and more. 

To find materials BY an author, enter as an Author Search [Twain, Mark]

To search the Title of a novel or short story collection, enter as a Title Search or Keyword. Also, if you are certain of the title, use quotation marks (" ") around the title. ["adventures of huckleberry finn"]

To find materials ABOUT an author or his or her works, enter as a Subject Search [Twain, Mark]
See Literary Crticism for more information.
 

College of DuPage Library doesn't have the book, story or poem you seek?? No problem, try I-SHARE services that will allow you to find material from 82 academic libraries throughout Illinois.

Searching by Subject Headings

To identify materials about a particular type of literature, consider the following subject headings:

Novelists, American

American Drama

American Fiction

Authors, American

Poets, American

American Essays

American Poetry

American Literature-History and Criticism

Dramatists, American

Short Stories, American

Call Number Range

Use these call number ranges to browse the General Collection and the Reference Collection.

PS700-PS893 American literature, Colonial period, 17th and 18th centuries
PS991-PS3390 American literature, 19th century
PS3500-PS3549 American literature, 1900-1960
PS3550-PS3576 American literature, 1961-2000
PS3600-PS3626 American literature, 2001-

Literature on the Web

Many examples of classic literature are freely available on the internet.  These books, stories and poems can be published online because the copyright terms of the works have expired and they are in the Public Domain.  Note that online versions of texts may not match republished print editions.

Checking out Materials

Most books, videos and software in the general collection can be checked out and brought home with you for free.

  • DVDs, Videos, and audio CDs can be checked out for 14 days.
  • Most books can be checked out for 28 days.

The only books that cannot be checked out have the letters REF on the label on the side or front of the book. REF means the book is a Reference book and can only be used in the Library. Some items in the CCIC (College and Career Information Collection) may also be in-Library use only.

You need a COD Library Card to check things out of the library. You can get a Library card at the Circulation Desk located near both entrances to the Library.

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Search the Library's Catalog

Find author biographies in the Library's Online Catalog. Start by searching for the author's name followed by biography. For example:

To further narrow your search, use the limiters on the left-hand side of the screen. The most helpful limiters for this search are under Format (limit to Books) and Content (limit to Biography).

To check out books, or access ebooks online, you will need a COD Library Card.

Browse the Shelf

Reference Books
Reference books are located on the first floor of the library (second floor of the SRC).

Call Numbers
American author biographies are spread throughout the American Literature Section of the collection. Biographies of individual authors tend to be located close to their actual works.

PS126-138 American literature, Biographies
PS700-PS893 American literature, Colonial period, 17th and 18th centuries
PS700-PS893 American literature, Colonial period, 17th and 18th centuries
PS991-PS3390 American literature, 19th century
PS3500-PS3549 American literature, 1900-1960
PS3550-PS3576 American literature, 1961-2000
PS3600-PS3626 American literature, 2001-

Databases

Biographical information for American authors can be found in the following Library Databases. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • Credo Reference
  • Encyclopedia Britannica
  • History Study Center
  • Literature Resource Center
  • Project Muse
  • Salem Literature

Helpful Websites

Use the websites below to search for American Author biographies. Often, more prominent authors have individual websites dedicated entirely to their life and work. Try a Google search with "author name" in quotes, then browse for organizations, foundations, educational (.edu), or government (.gov) websites on that author. Check out the Evaluating Websites Guide for more information on choosing appropriate web resources.

Click on the buttons below to see recommended books, videos, databases, and websites in the following categories. If you click a button and no information appears, try reloading the page.

"New World"

Books and Videos

Use the Library catalog to search the COD Library's collection of books, videos, e-books, and streaming media. Use your COD Library card to check these items out or access them online.

Books
Videos

Databases

The following databases are your best bets for history research. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • JSTOR
  • Project Muse
  • History Study Center

Recommended Websites

Seventeenth Century

Books and Videos

Use the Library catalog to search the COD Library's collection of books, videos, e-books, and streaming media. Use your COD Library card to check these items out or access them online.


Witches

Books
Videos


Puritans

Books
Videos

Databases

The following databases are your best bets for history research. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • JSTOR
  • Project Muse
  • History Study Center

Recommended Websites

Eighteenth Century

Books and Videos

Use the Library catalog to search the COD Library's collection of books, videos, e-books, and streaming media. Use your COD Library card to check these items out or access them online.

Books
Videos
  • Founding Fathers, Vol 1-2 (DVD).
    Historical overview with good, short bios on key figures. E302.5 .F686 2000a v.1-2
  • The Madness of King George (DVD)
    Fictional account of real events. Popular DVD Collection
  • A Midwife’s Tale (VHS)
    Based on Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Laurel Ulrich. Great depiction of daily life in the 18th century. F29.H15 U472 1998

Databases

The following databases are your best bets for history research. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • JSTOR
  • Project Muse
  • History Study Center

Recommended Websites

  • Archiving Early America
    Primary source material from 18th century America including maps, newspapers, music and movies.
  • Jonathan Edwards Center
    From Yale University, approximately 25,000 pages of Edwards' writings. Some of these texts, previously unpublished, represent a significant addition to the available Edwards corpus.
  • Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive
    This website features images and transcriptions of letters, diaries and an autobiography written by John Adams. John and Abigail Adams exchanged over 1,100 letters, beginning during their courtship in 1762 and continuing throughout John's political career until 1801, the final year of his presidency. [from the website] The letters are written by both John and Abigail Adams.
  • The Electric Franklin
    Primary source material, narratives, activities, interactive games, streaming videos, 360° interactive panoramas, and pictures from the Independence Hall Association in Pennsylvania.
  • Life During the 18th Century
    Articles and multimedia from Colonial Williamsburg
  • Avalon Project: 18th Century Documents
    Digital documents on the subjects of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government from Yale Law School

Nineteenth Century

Books and Videos

Use the Library catalog to search the COD Library's collection of books, videos, e-books, and streaming media. Use your COD Library card to check these items out or access them online.

Books
Videos

Databases

The following databases are your best bets for history research. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • JSTOR
  • Project Muse
  • History Study Center

Recommended Websites

The Civil War
  • The Civil War @ the Smithsonian
    Civil War @ The Smithsonian is produced by the National Portrait Gallery and is dedicated to examining the Civil War through the Smithsonian Institution's extensive and manifold collections.
The Gilded Age
  • The Richest Man in the World: Andrew Carnegie
    Resources from The American Experience documentary include a time line of Carnegie's era, a photograph gallery of period architecture, and additional information on the people and events in Carnegie's life.
Art and Literature
Social Issues
  • Hull House Museum, Chicago
    Educational Resources on the museum's website include bibliographies, chronologies and additional information about Hull House, Jane Adams and the urban experience in Chicago.

Twentieth Century

Books and Videos

Use the Library catalog to search the COD Library's collection of books, videos, e-books, and streaming media. Use your COD Library card to check these items out or access them online.

Books
Videos

Databases

The following databases are your best bets for history research. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • JSTOR
  • Project Muse
  • History Study Center
  • Chicago Tribune (1849-1989) Proquest Historical Newspapers
  • New York Times (1851-2009) Proquest Historical Newspapers

Recommended Websites

  • People's Century
    Supplemental online resources for the PBS documentary series on the 20th Century. Includes summaries of the eras, an interactive time line and audio "eyewitness accounts".
  • Eyes on the Prize: The Story of the Movement
    Gives context, images, press coverage and related links for 26 major events in the history of the Civil Rights Movement.

Twenty-First Century

Books and Videos

Use the Library catalog to search the COD Library's collection of books, videos, e-books, and streaming media. Use your COD Library card to check these items out or access them online.

Books

Women in North America

Books and Videos

Use the Library catalog to search the COD Library's collection of books, videos, e-books, and streaming media. Use your COD Library card to check these items out or access them online.

Books
Videos
  • One Woman, One Vote (VHS)
    Documents the 70-year struggle for women's suffrage which culminated in the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. It illuminates the alliances, infighting, betrayals and defeats that paved the way for victory in the battle for women's right to vote. Historical footage is enhanced with vocal performances, and interviews with historians provide the viewer with both current and historical perspectives
    JK 1986 .O54 1995 : General

Databases

The following databases are your best bets for history research. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • JSTOR
  • Project Muse
  • History Study Center

Recommended Websites

Native Americans and the West

Books and Videos

Use the Library catalog to search the COD Library's collection of books, videos, e-books, and streaming media. Use your COD Library card to check these items out or access them online.

Books
Videos
  • The Native Americans (VHS) Series.
    E77.N35 1994 : General
  • Distant Voices Thunder Words: Will the Oral Tradition of Storytelling Survive in the Modern World? (VHS) On oral traditions and how they influence contemporary Native writers. E98.F6D5 1990 : General
  • The West (DVD)
    Ken Burns produced this series on colonial expansion, focuses mostly on nineteenth century. F591 .W478 2004 : General
  • 500 Nations (DVD)
    Series hosted by Kevin Costner. Good historical overview, insight into ancient ruins and computer graphics that reconstruct the ancient sites. E77 .J7872 2004 : Circulation Desk
  • The Searchers (DVD)
    John Huston’s 1956 classic film with John Wayne and Natalie Wood. Ex-Confederate soldier searches for an Indian captive. Often considered one of the best films ever made--great cinematography, character development and interesting exploration of racism. Popular Collection DVD

Databases

The following databases are your best bets for history research. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • JSTOR
  • Project Muse
  • History Study Center

Recommended Websites

Slavery in North America

Books and Videos

Use the Library catalog to search the COD Library's collection of books, videos, e-books, and streaming media. Use your COD Library card to check these items out or access them online.

Books
Videos
  • Slavery’s Buried Past (DVD)
    Documentary on the 17th Century African slave cemetery recently re-discovered in New York City. F128.39 .S53 2001 : General
  • The Terrible Transformation (VHS)
    This first episode of a four part series examines the origins of one of the largest forced human migrations in recorded history. After the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia in 1619, the British colonies laid the groundwork for a system of racial slavery which generated profits that ensured the colonies' growth and survival.
    E441 .A45 1998 pt.1 : General

Databases

The following databases are your best bets for history research. They can be accessed on the Databases webpage. To access these databases off-campus, use your COD Library card.

  • JSTOR
  • Project Muse
  • History Study Center

Recommended Websites

English Guide

Welcome to the English Research Guides

bookpile.thumbnail.png This research guide is a starting point for finding English and Literature materials in the Library. This guide will help you find books, videos, articles and websites about English, writing, and literature topics. Use the menu below to start searching for different types of materials.

For English Class Guides designed for specific topics, please take a look at the menu on the right. This is where you can find many guides for English 1102 research papers and topics as well as other classes.

If you are not finding the help you need, please feel free to contact the English Librarian directly or call the Reference Desk at (630) 942-3364

Here is the list of Research Guides under this section:
(Please note that this guide is still under construction)

Creative Writing
English Class Guides
Film Research
Greek Mythology
Linguistics
Literary Criticism
Literature
Reading
Writing
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