J. A. Cuddon in A Dictionary of Literary Terms (1977) states that:

"The art or science of literary criticism is devoted to the comparison and analysis, to the interpretation and evaluation of works of literature." (p. 163)


The college student may encounter literary criticism in several ways. The most frequent is to read criticism of a novel or other work which the student is studying.  As well as criticism of a single work, there is also the criticism of an individual writer’s style, body of works, and place within literature.  A third type of criticism is that dealing with a geographic place, a literary genre, a time in history, ethnic group, religion, gender, a psychological construct or other defining characteristic of written works.

And encompassing all of these is the philosophical and theoretical analysis of the function of literature in the human condition. The methods for writing and analyzing literature are themselves critiqued.

While most undergraduate assignments usually require the first type, the other types can provide more breadth and depth in preparing a student’s own analysis of a work. Included below are a sample search strategy and the types of sources for literary criticism in the Busse Center Library.


1. If uncertain where to begin, speak with the Reference Librarian. Or at any time you have questions, do not hesitate to ask.

2. Use the catalog to locate books about the work under study.

A SUBJECT search on the title of the work may yield criticism of this title. Also search the author as a SUBJECT. Books about the author may include material on the work in question.

A KEYWORD search by the author’s name and by the major words in the title may lead to a chapter in a book which discusses this work. The book found may analyze works of author(s), a country, a time, etc.

Another type of both SUBJECT and KEYWORD search might be one of the defining characteristics of the book or author, such as black women writers or African short stories.

3. Use the electronic and paper periodical indexes found in the Reference area. The electronic indexes linked to the databases webpage, may be searched by SUBJECT or KEYWORD. The paper indexes may be searched by AUTHOR and SUBJECT. 

Suggested electronic periodical indexes are EBSCOhost (ERIC, MLA) and LexisNexis Academic. Useful print indexes include Humanities Index, Social Science & Humanities Index, Essay and General Literature Index, Readers Guide, Nineteenth century readers' guide to periodical literature, 1890-1899, and Bibliographic Index.

4. Use this selective bibliography and other relevant books which may be found near these call numbers.

  • Duff, J. Wight A literary history of Rome 1953. PA 6003 .D8 1953
  • Erlich, Victor. Twentieth-century Russian literary criticism. 1975. PG 2932 T9
  • Adelman, Irving. The contemporary novel; a checklist of critical literature on the British and American novel. 1972. PN 3451 .A3x Ref.
  • Horvath, B. K. A cumulative index to Modern fiction studies (1955-1984) volumes 1-30. 1985. PN 3491 H6x
  • Beach, Joseph. The Twentieth century novel. c1932. PN 3503 .B4
  • Abrams, M. H. A glossary of literary terms. c1993. PN 41 .A184 1993
  • Cuddon, J. A. A dictionary of literary terms. 1977. PN 41 .C83 1977b Ref.
  • Cohen, Ralph. The Future of literary theory. 1989. PN 441 .F8 1989
  • Newton, K.M. Interpreting the text. 1990. PN 441 .N45 1990.
  • Kunitz, Stanley. Twentieth century authors, a biographical dictionary of modern literature. 1942.  PN 771 .K86 Ref.
  • Bressler, Charles E. Literary criticism. c1994. PN 81 .B666 1994
  • Allen, Gay Wilson. Literary criticism; Pope to Croce. [c1941] PN 86 .A5
  • Kennedy, George. The Cambridge history of literary criticism. 1989.  PN 86 .C27 1989.
  • Wimsatt, William K. Literary criticism; a short history. 1957. PN 86 .W5
  • Davis, Robert. Contemporary literary criticism. c1989. PN 94 .C67 1989
  • Altick, Richard. The art of literary research. c1963. PR 33 .A4
  • Harner, James L. Literary research guide. 1993. PR 83 .H3x 1993
  • Drabble, Margaret. The Oxford companion to English literature. 1995. PR 19 .D73 1995 Ref. [also 1985]
  • Gurney, Stephen. British poetry of the nineteenth century. c1993.  PR 451 .G87 1993
  • Stevenson, Lionel. Nineteenth-century literary perspectives. 1974.  PR 453 N53
  • NCATE. Contemporary literary scholarship: a critical review. [1958]  PR 77.N3
  • Baugh, Albert. A literary history of England. [c1948] PR 83 .B3
  • Reilly, John M. Twentieth-century crime and mystery writers. [1982?] PR 888 .D4 T8 Ref.
  • Lindfors, Bernth. Twentieth-century Caribbean and Black African writers. c1993. PR 9205 .A52 T89 1993 Ref.
  • Gerstenberger, Donna. The American novel; a checklist of twentieth-century criticism. 1961-70 PS 201 .G4x Ref.
  • Hart, James. The Oxford companion to American literature. 1995. PS 21 .H3 1995 Ref. [also 1965, 1983]
  • ... The concise Oxford companion to American literature. 1986. PS 21 .H32 1986 Ref.
  • Western Literature Association (U.S.) A Literary history of the American West. c1987. PS 271 .L58 1987
  • Nemanic, Gerald. A Bibliographical guide to midwestern literature. c1981. PS 273 .B5x Ref.
  • Andrews, Clarence A. A literary history of Iowa. 1972. PS 283.I8 A8 Ref.
  • Stevick, Philip. The American short story, 1900-1945. 1984. PS 374.S5 A366 1984
  • Weaver, Gordon. The American short story, 1945-1980. 1983.  PS 374.S5 A37 1983
  • Lee, A. Robert. The Nineteenth-century American short story. 1986.  PS 374.S5 N5 1986
  • Tompkins, Jane P. Sensational designs : the cultural works of American fiction, 1790-1860. 1986.  PS 374.S7 T66 1986
  • Wagner-Martin, Linda. The modern American novel, 1914-1945. c1990. PS 379 .W27 1990
  • Burke, John. Regional perspectives. 1973. PS 92 .B78 1973
  • Elliot, Emory. Columbia literary history of the United States. 1988.  PS 92 .C64 1988
  • Walker, Warren S. Twentieth-century short story explication. 1977. PZ 1 .W3x Ref.
  • Contemporary Authors. [basic literary biographies] Z 1224 .C6 Ref.

5. Some literary criticism can be found on the WWW particularly sites organized around specific authors. A number of WWW literary criticism sites are found in the English library guide.