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Literature in English: Getting Started

Library Search

Library Search allows you to search for print books, ebooks, articles, journals, and videos, and more. 

Use it to get availability and location information for
• books (print & electronic)
• periodicals
• DVDs / videos
• reserve materials

as well as most content from research databases including
• book chapters
• journal, newspaper and magazine articles

Starting Points for Research: Encyclopedias, Handbooks, Casebooks and Anthologies

These publications range widely and come in both print and e formats. Use them to

  • investigate potential topics for a paper and get historical background, biographical and critical overviews, and keywords for further searching in your literature search
  • identify authors of a particular movement, historical period, identity, or background
  • get bibliographies of seminal criticism on writers and literary movements
  • find accurate information on words and their origins and meanings over time

The sources listed below are a sampling of what's available.

Handbooks, Companions, Casebooks, and Anthologies

In general, handbooks contain overviews of the work of an author or group of authors, including chronologies, critical essays addressing a broad spectrum of topics and utilizing a range of critical and theoretical approaches, biographical information and bibliographies of noteworthy criticism. Casebooks focus on critical receptions of creative works and evolution of criticism over time. They often contain reprints of significant articles about an author and their works. There are series of these books by several publishers. They differ in their organization and approach and come in both print and online formats. They can be excellent starting points for exploring a topic or beginning your search for criticism of an author or literary movement or time period.

The terms encyclopedia and dictionary are used fairly interchangeably  in academic reference books. There are "encyclopedias" that have short entries and are formatted like dictionaries, and vice versa.

This is a sampling, but you may try searching the Library catalog for an author's name or a literary movement with the word companion or handbook. Alternatively, search Cambridge Companions Online directly for an author's name, etc.

Anthologies representing a time period, literary movement, or writers of a particular identity often have excellent introductory essays by scholars, and can be a helpful source for identifying lesser known authors.


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Gretchen Lieb
Schedule a Research Consultation
Liaison AreasEnglish, Drama, Film, Geography, American Studies, Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, International Studies, Religion, Women's, Feminist and Queer Studies
tel: 845.437.5770