What is literary criticism? How do I find it? Literary criticism is the evaluation, analysis, description, or interpretation of literary works. It is usually in the form of a critical essay, but in-depth book reviews can sometimes be considered literary criticism. Criticism may examine a particular literary work, or may look at an author's writings as a whole.
Finding literary criticism can be challenging. This pathfinder is designed to help anyone in researching sources of literary criticism.
On the Internet vs. At the Library
There are many good sources of literary criticism that are now available on the Web. However, many sources are not yet available electronically, or require a subscription. Therefore, you will probably need to do some research at the library in your area in order to write a paper that requires literary criticism.
Different libraries have different sources. Your school or public library will have some good resources for literary criticism. If you can't find a particular title at your library, don't worry; just ask a librarian your question, and he or she can help you locate a similar resource.
Want to read more about the author of the book you are researching, or the historical context in which it was written?
- Library of Congress
Many author biographies are listed in this collection. You can browse by your author's last name.
- Literature Resource Center* available with a valid Springfield-Greene County Library card provides a wealth of information that offers literary criticism, biographies, work overviews, periodical articles, web sites and more.
- Library Catalog Try a subject search under the author's name (remember to enter the information last name, first name). Many books have been written analyzing literary works.
Criticism & Summaries
Looking for some representative criticism on an author or book? Want a plot summary and character list for Crime and Punishment?
- Literature Resource Center*
- JSTOR Access six academic journal articles per month through this database by creating an account. The library does not currently subscribe to this database, but you can search your school to see if the institution holds a subscription for unlimited access.
Looking for a book about your author, or a volume of critical essays about a literary work?
When searching for books in your library's online catalog, you can do a keyword search, but the best way to find good sources of information is to do a subject search. Subject searches look for the Library of Congress Subject Headings assigned to a particular book. These headings help you find books which are specifically about your topic.
In many online catalogs, you can simply do a subject search for your author's name, and then browse a list of headings which begin with that name. Good subject headings for literary criticism often include the words "criticism and interpretation."
Some examples of useful subject headings for literary criticism might be:
- Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400—Criticism and interpretation.
- Walker, Alice, 1944—Color Purple.
- American fiction—Indian authors—History and criticism.
Need some critical articles about an author or book? Want to find a book review?
Articles published in newspapers, popular magazines, or scholarly journals are listed in a variety of different periodical indexes. A periodical is simply a publication that is produced a particular number of times a year: daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Periodical indexes may be available in online or print form.
These indexes contain citations and some fulltext to articles. A citation includes an article's title, author, page numbers, publication date, and the name of the periodical in which it was published. If you are using an online database you may find the fulltext of the article following the citation. Public libraries or high school libraries usually subscribe to a few periodical indexes, especially general indexes which include newspapers, magazines, and some scholarly journals. Ask your reference librarian which index will be most useful to you in your research. Our databases allow you to search academic and popular journals and magazines, as well as newspapers all at the same time.
Academic Search Elite* - Searchable full-text for more than 2,100 scholarly journals, including 1,700 peer-reviewed journals
MasterFILE Premiere* - Full-text periodicals on subjects like business, health, education, science and general reference. This database also contains full text of reference books, primary source documents and an image collection of over 510,000 photos, maps & flags.
Still Need More ? The Internet can provide you with a wealth of information about books and authors. Always make sure to check for accuracy and authority of the website before using the information.
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