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ENGL086: Self, Image, Community: Studies in Modern Fiction: Home

Literary Criticism

The core databases for literary criticism are the MLA International Bibliography and Literature Online (LION). When you search in MLA, you are only searching through metadata - not the full-text of works. This is powerful because you'll have fewer irrelevant results, but you may miss out on articles that are at least partially relevant. LION has the opposite problem: it is full-text searchable, so you will have more results, but some of those results will be irrelevant.

In both of these databases, consider looking at the subject terms in entries which seem useful. Those subject terms are effectively tags, leading you to other related work. You can also experiment with using them as keywords. Check out this example in MLA based on Trollope, Barchester Towers, and tags related to women and gender.

Screenshot example of searching with different terms in multiple subject fields.

In addition to literary databases, you may want to consider using bigger, interdisciplinary databases like JSTOR and Franklin: Articles+. You can use similar searching strategies, but know that you'll be looking in a wider context. Our same search for Anthony Trollope related to gender may pick up articles from journals in women, gender, and sexuality studies, not just literary studies.


To find book-length biographies, search Franklin: Catalog for the author's name + biography, and use the Subject Heading Keyword search. Here's an example for Anthony Trollope. You may have to sift through a few irrelevant results. In this example, a biography of Trollope's son comes up first. Trollope's autobiography appears at entry #5.

For shorter biographical context, consider using the Dictionary of Literary Biography. These entries are usually 10-20 pages in length and contain references to interviews, literary criticism, bibliographies, and archives at the end of each entry.

Historical Context

Search for historical context in Franklin: Catalog, Franklin: Articles+, and subject specific databases like America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts. Just as with search for literary criticism, it can be helpful to look for the subject terms that come up as a source of useful keywords and links to related content.

When searching for historical context for Henry Roth's Call It Sleep, for example, one might be interested in the experience of Jewish immigrants in early 20th-century New York.

Example of keyword searches in different subject fields that generate specific results.

Book Reviews

For contemporary book reviews, Franklin: Articles+ is a fantastic tool. Search for the title of your book in quotes, then, once your search results appear, limit your search results book reviews published near the time the book was published. This should bring up book reviews both in news sources and in scholarly journals.

Keep in mind that books may be reviewed again as later editions are published. It may be helpful to look up book reviews from several time periods.

Screenshot example of Articles+ results.

For historical book reviews going back to the 18th century, try using American Periodicals or British Periodicals, depending on the country of origin. Use the same approach of filtering the date to around the time of publication. You won't be able to use a book reviews filter in these - reviews will simply appear as articles in periodicals.


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Mayelin Perez
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