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Literary Theory and Criticism

Article Searching

Literary Theory and Criticism is a field that is increasingly interdisciplinary.  For example, Cultural Studies, a growing body of criticism with many branches, analyses literature through the lens of culture.  Science and Technology Studies explores the intersections between science and literature.  Rather than simply limiting your searches to literature or humanities databases, you can do searches in databases that primarily support other subjects. Just be sure, if you do so, to include words like literature and criticism in your search.  To find a list of subject specific databases, go to our library homepage and then click on Database & Article Searching. Subjects are listed alphabetically and correspond to different departments on campus.

In all probability however, you will still find many, if not most, of your articles in the Literature databases.  A full list of the Literature databases can be found at the English Language and Literature database page.  Below are a few suggested databases to start your research.

1. MLA International Bibliography (EBSCO)

This database does not use Library of Congress Subject Headings, but its own controlled vocabulary.  This is true for many databases.  However, it is also true that the subject headings (sometimes referred to as subjects or descriptors) used in databases will often be similar (if not the same) as the Subject Heasings in our library catalog. Since MLA deals primarily with theory and criticism, I wouldn't search broadly for the terms literature, theory, and criticism.  I would instead begin by searching by subject for the particular theory or type of criticism you are interested in.  You could also search by author for the name of a specific critic, or search by subject for the author of a primary work, or the title of a primary work.

  • For example, if I was interested in feminist criticism, I would start out by searching for that phrase in MLA. In the Subject Headings, listed below the citations, I'd discover that a good subject heading to describe this particular topic is "feminist literary theory and criticism."
  • You could do an author search for a particular critic, (putting the last name first).  For example: Showalter, Elaine.
  • Or you could do a subject search for Virginia Woolf and a subject search for To The Lighthouse.

2. Humanities International Complete

This interdisciplinary Humanities database also uses its own controlled vocabulary.  It includes over 1200 full text Humanities journals, some of which focus on literature and theory.  This would be a particularly good database to search if you were interested in seeing how literary theory has been applied to other disciplines.

3. Project Muse: Scholarly Journals Online and JSTOR (All Subjects)

Project Muse, a Humanities Database, has a strong focus on literature and indexes many literature journals.  I would search this database in the same way I  would search MLA, by particular types of criticism, critics, or authors/titles of primary works. ProjectMuse, like JSTOR, does not contain Subject Headings. JSTOR, however, is much broader in scope than ProjectMuse, so I would add words like literature, theory, and criticism to my search.

4. Dictionary of Literary Biography

The Dictionary of Literary Biography provides biographical sketches of authors taken from many genres and a complete listing of their works.  Literarture Criticism Online provides a sampling of critical articles about an author and an extensive list of further readings.  I would use this database to become familiar with an author; however, for in depth or specific searching, I would use MLA. 

5. Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts

Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts (LLBA) abstracts and indexes the international literature in linguistics and related disciplines in the language sciences. The database covers all aspects of the study of language including phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics.