Use these reference sources for definitions, concise overviews of literary works and authors' lives, and cultural and historical context.
Literature Resource Center, Literary Reference Center, and The Literary Encyclopedia: Three online encyclopedias with biographies of writers, plot summaries, and some critical analyses.
A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory and Key Terms in Literary Theory: Two dictionaries with concise explanations of terms used in studying literature.
Historical Events and People:
Dictionary of American History: An authoritative quick reference to people, places, and events.
American National Biography: The major biographical encyclopedia on persons (no longer living) of importance in U.S. culture and history.
Encyclopedia of Religion: The standard scholarly encyclopedia of religion. Besides entries on individual religions, this encyclopedia includes comparative essays on broad topics such as "Prayer" and "Eternity."
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.