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Researching Literary Topics

Find Books and Audio-Visual Materials

Use the Library catalog, to retrieve sources BY an author, enter as an Author Search [Twain, Mark]. For sources ABOUT an author or his or her works, enter as a Subject Search [Twain, Mark].

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

Novelists, American

American Fiction

Poets, American

American Poetry

Dramatists, American

American Drama

Authors, American

American Essays

American Literature-History and Criticism

Short Stories, American

Find Reviews, Articles, and Essays

Use appropriate print and electronic indexes. The print indexes are located on the Index Shelves; the online indexes can be accessed from the Library's website.

Find Special Reference Sources

The following list is just a selection of the many specialized reference sources available.


  • A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory Ref PN 41 .C83 1998
  • Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory Ref PN 81 .E43 1993
  • A Glossary of Contemporary Literary Theory Ref PN 44.5 .H37
  • The Harper Handbook to Literature Ref PN 41 .F75
  • John Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism Ref PN 81 .J554
  • A Literary Atlas & Gazeteer of the British Isles Ref PR 109 .H25
  • The Oxford Companion to American Literature Ref PS 21 .H3
  • The Oxford Companion to English Literature Ref PR 19 .D73

Plot Summaries/Explication:

  • Masterplots Ref PN 44 .M43
  • Magill's Literary Annual Ref PN 44 .M35
  • Masterplots II: African-American Literature Series Ref PS 153 .N5 M2645
  • Masterplots II: American Fiction Series Ref PS 373 .M3
  • Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series Ref PR 881 .M39
  • Masterplots II: Drama Series Ref PN 6112.5 .M37
  • Masterplots II: Non-Fiction Series Ref PN 44 .M345
  • Masterplots II: Poetry Series Ref PN 1110.5 .M37
  • Masterplots II: Short Story Series Ref PN 3326 .M27
  • Masterplots II: World Fiction Series Ref PN 3326 .M28

Biographical/Critical Comment on Individual Authors:

  • American: American Women Writers Ref PS 147 .A4
  • American Writers Ref PS 129 .A55
  • Magill's Survey of American Literature Ref PS 121 .M34
  • Oxford Companion to African American Literature Ref PS 153 .N5 O96
  • Reference Guide to American Literature Ref PS 129 .R44


  • 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

Critical Theory:

  • Critical Survey of Literary Theory Ref PN 45 .C74
  • Contemporary Literary Critics Ref PS 78 .B56

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
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism (CLC) Ref PN 771 .C59
  • Black Literature Criticism Ref PN 490 .B5

Genre-Related Sources:


  • Drama for Students Ref PN 1601 .D595 
  • Critical Survey of Drama: English Language Series Ref PR 623 .C75
  • Critical Survey of Drama: Foreign Language Series Ref PN 1625 .C74
  • Drama Criticism [criticism excerpts] Ref PN 1601 .D59
  • Dramatic Criticism Index Ref PN 1707 .B74
  • 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
  • Critical Survey of Long Fiction Ref PR 821 .C7
  • 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
  • Short Story Criticism (SSC) [criticism excerpts] Ref PN 3373 .S386
  • Twentieth Century Short Story Explication Ref PN 3373 .W3


  • Poetry for Students Ref PN1101 .P756
  • Critical Survey of Poetry Ref PR 502 .C85
  • Guide to American Poetry Explication Ref PS 201 .G85
  • Guide to British Poetry Explication Ref PR 311 .M3
  • New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics Ref PN 1021 .N39
  • Poetry Dictionary Ref PN 1021 .D78
  • Poetry Explication [criticism excerpts]Ref PR 502 .K8

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
  • Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Ref PN 3433 .8 .M3
  • Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature Ref PN 56 .F34 S97
  • Twentieth Century Crime & Mystery Writers Ref PR 888 .D4 T8
  • Twentieth Century Romance and Gothic Writers Ref PR 888 .L69 T86
  • Twentieth Century Science Fiction Writers Ref PS 374 .S35 T89

Updated September 14, 2006
Christine Kickels, Associate Professor and Librarian
(630) 942-2313

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