Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Literary Criticism and Author Research

This guide will help you get started with research into authors and literary criticism. Use the tabs below to navigate through the guide.

Search the Books & Media tab on our website

E-book Databases

E-Book Central is an excellent collection of (mostly) scholarly or academic books. You may download books (limited time), download chapters, print chapters, and more. Just keep following the links. You'll need to download free Adobe software.

E-book Collection is a smaller e-book database, but it may be worth searching.

Gale E-Books is a collection of e-encyclopedias; it's great for background information for subjects like history, American decades, biographies, and more. It should not be used in general when searching for scholarly, academic, or peer-reviewed works. (there is some scholarly writing in some of the encyclopedias such as Black Literature Criticism: Classic and Emerging Authors since 1950.) Type in the name of the novel, short story, poem, play, or author you are researching. Then, at the bottom, limit the results to the Collection LITERATURE. Title such as Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events that Influenced Them, Drama for Students, African American Writers, World Poets, Contemporary Authors,  Supernatural Fiction Writers: Contemporary Fantasy and Horror . 

Search Tips

  • An Author search will return works by an author. Use the dropdown menu to choose Author and type the author's last name first, for example Lorde, Audre. Author searches are typically done when looking for books by famous writers (not books by scholars).


  • A Subject search will return books about an author, including criticism and biographies written by scholars.  To make sure your results include literary criticism, add "criticism and interpretation." For example,  search for Baldwin, James--Criticism and Interpretation. Note: you may need to browse your results to find the correct subject, which may include the subject's date of birth and death.


  • Keyword search is useful if you want to search for more than one concept.  If you want to limit your results to a particular theme in theater, for example, you can search for "gender AND theater". 

Note: for fall 2020, please use the REQUEST undefinedfeature when you want to check books out of the library. Library staff can safely retrieve and bag the book(s) for you, and you can pick up in the library.


  • You will always get fewer books results than article results. You may find that your book searches need to be more general than your article searches. "gender roles" and theater might work well in an article database, but you may find that you need to try "gender and theater" when you search for books.

Reference Books/Encyclopedias for Background and Overviews


If you are looking for background information about an author or work of literature, encyclopedias are great places to start. Wikipedia itself is a crowd-sourced encyclopedia, yet it is not the authority on everything.


Print Books in the Library (1st floor)

Contemporary Literary Criticism--essential if researching contemporary authors such as Junot Diaz or Samantha Hunt.
Ref PN771 .C59 (vols. 1-current)
(Only selected portions of CLC are available in the Literature Resource Center databases. Therefore the library still subscribes to the print, complete version.)

One of several collections of critical excerpts published by the Gale Group. Many of these titles are also available in the Gale Literary Sources database.

To find out if a particular work or author is covered, consult the Cumulative Title Index located at the reference desk. The Cumulative Title Index will also point you to entries in these reference sets:

Contemporary Authors, CA             REF Z 1224 .C61
Hispanic Literature Criticism, HLC           REF PQ 7081.A1 H573 1994
Black Literature Criticism, BLC            REF PS 153.N5 B556 1992
Short Story Criticism, SSC            REF PN 3373 .S386
Poetry Criticism, PC              REF PN 1010 .P499
Nineteenth Century Literary Criticism, NCLC             REF PN 761 N5
Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, TCLC      REF PN 771 .G27


Poetry Criticism               Birnbaum Ref PN1010 .P499 volumes 1-139
Poetry Explication           Mortola Ref Z2014.P7 K8 1980