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American Literature: Getting Started


This guide will introduce you to major resources in American literature. My contact information is at the right; please get in touch if you have questions or need research help.

Anne Bradstreet, Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning (1678). Image from Library of Congress.


Guides to Research

Guides to help you map out major projects:

Literary Research Series: A series of books in the Main Library focusing on research strategies and resources in a particular region or time period; the list of titles is available in GIL-Find.

Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

Use reference sources for definitions and concise overviews of literary works, authors, theories, and historical context.

Studying for comprehensive examinations or need an overview of literature from a certain country, time period, or movement? Try the Cambridge companions or Oxford handbooks or companions to literature.

Oxford English Dictionary: The authoritative historical dictionary of the English language.

Dictionary of American Regional English: A project that documents how words, phrases, and pronunciations vary across the U.S.

A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory and Key Terms in Literary Theory: Two dictionaries with concise explanations of theory and terminology.

Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics: The 4th edition of the standard reference source on poetic terms, forms, genres, movements, and national literatures. Does not include entries on poets or their works, although they may be covered in related entries.

Literary Reference Center: Includes the Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature, Continuum History of British Literature, and more.

Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism: Extensive essays on major critics, movements, and schools of thought.

The Literary Encyclopedia: A new dictionary with essays on authors worldwide; new authors are being added regularly.

Literature Resource Center: Contains several major biographical dictionaries, including The Dictionary of Literary Biography, Contemporary Authors, and the Twayne's Author Series.

American National Biography: The major biographical encyclopedia on persons (no longer living) of importance in U.S. culture and history.

Dictionary of American History: An authoritative quick reference to people, places, and events.

Your Librarian

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Sheila Devaney
Research & Instruction Department
Main Library
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