Short Story Criticism: A Guide to Research
May 05, 2004
by Richard Reyes-Gavilan,
Literature and Language Collection, Mid-Manhattan Library
Using the Online Catalog
Short story criticism is found in individual books of criticism about a specific author and in biographies. To find these books, use the Library's computer catalog (catalog.nypl.org). Perform an alphabetical SUBJECT SEARCH in the Library Catalog by typing the author's name (last name, then first) in the subject space provided. A list of subject headings will appear on the screen. Pay special attention to those subject headings that include the term "criticism and interpretation." Make sure to get the complete CALL NUMBER and LOCATION for each book you choose. Once you have located your book on the shelf, browse carefully around that call number area for other books that may be useful to your research.
Another way to find similar books to a book you have already found useful is by returning to the Library Catalog and performing an alphabetical TITLE SEARCH, typing in the title of the book that you have in hand. Click on the highlighted subject links to find other books that treat the same subject. Note: if you are using a telnet version of the catalog, enter the title of your book in hand, then type RW (for Related Works) to see a numbered list of similar subjects that you can explore. Examine your books carefully. Check the indexes and tables of contents to see if your story is treated. Also check the bibliographies for further sources of research.
Using Reference Books
Short Story Criticism: Excerpts from Criticism of the Works of Short Fiction Writers
Features extensive information on short story writers including biographical sketches, primary bibliographies, and critical excerpts from a variety of sources including journal articles and books. Information about one author is often collected in several different volumes-ask at the information desk for the cumulative index. Portions of Short Story Criticism are available online-see "Literature Resource Center" below.
Dictionary of Literary Biography
This multi-volume encyclopedia offers signed and illustrated, chapter-length entries on authors and their works. Several volumes, such as American Short-Story Writers Since World War II and British Short Fiction Writers, 1880-1914, are devoted entirely to short stories. Ask at the information desk for an index. Portions of the Dictionary of Literary Biography are available online-see "Literature Resource Center" on opposite page.
The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Short Story REF 813.01 C
Another good introductory tool, it contains signed, scholarly essays, as well as primary and secondary bibliographies. Scan the index to determine if your author and story is included.
The Facts on File Companion to the American Short Story REF 813.01 F
Entries on authors, characters, and specific stories are included alphabetically in this useful handbook. American short stories from the early 19th century to the late 20th century are covered.
Masterplots II Short Story Series
Available in ten volumes and electronically (see MagillOnLiterature Plus below). Check the index in volume 10 to determine whether your story is covered. Each short story title covered has a brief, signed article that covers three topics: "The Story," "Themes and Meaning," and "Style and Technique."
Critical Survey of Short Fiction
Available in seven volumes and electronically (see MagillOnLiterature Plus below). Organized by the author's last name, articles focus more generally on the writer's achievements than on specific stories. Criticism is limited to a story's relationship to the author's complete body of work.
Reference Guide to Short Fiction REF 809.31 R
Arranged alphabetically by author it includes a primary bibliography, a list of other sources of criticism, and a signed essay on the author's achievements. It is international in scope and covers many centuries. The second half of the book includes signed articles on specific short stories. This useful source is kept at the librarian's desk.
Finding Journal Articles and Citations
Twentieth Century Short Story Explication, 3rd Edition (with Supplements & New Series) 016.8093 T
Ask at the information desk for this work that provides interpretations of short fiction from 1900 to 1998. It is one of the most inclusive sources available; international in scope, covering stories written in the 20th century and prior. Arranged alphabetically by the story's author and then by story's title, first use the Index to the Third Edition and Its Five Supplements, then scan individual volumes of the New Series. It is an excellent resource for finding references to criticism in books and journals.
The Short Story in English: Britain and America. An Annotated Bibliography 016.823 B
This Magill publication contains valuable annotations of short story criticism, representing often-studied American and British storywriters. It is an introductory volume intended for students, but too limited for advanced researchers. Also helpful are two chapters on short story theory and the history of the British and American short story.
The following databases are available at the Mid-Manhattan Library from the New York Public Library's Electronic Resources site: (www.nypl.org/databases). Those databases marked with two stars (**) are also available from home with a valid NYPL library card.
Literature Resource Center** is a large and user-friendly database that provides access to many of the familiar publications from Gale Publishing. Some of the series that are reproduced in part or in full include the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Short Story Criticism, and Contemporary Literary Criticism.
MagillOnLiterature Plus is a comprehensive general reference database that provides editorially reviewed critical analyses and plot summaries of well-known works of fiction including short stories.
EBSCOhost Academic Search Premier** offers access to more than 3,600 journals covering many disciplines.
Literature Online contains articles from over 100 literary journals emphasizing, but not limited to, English and American prose.
JSTOR contains the full text of almost fifty scholarly journals of literature and languages.
MLA International Bibliography is especially useful in finding journal citations and articles in books about specific stories. Type in the complete title of the story. If the title is only one word, try typing it along with the name of the author to help limit your search (for example, "Dead and Joyce." With few exceptions, full text is not available from the MLA. It will be necessary to return to the LEO catalog to locate the journals and books resulting from your MLA search.
**available from home with a valid NYPL library card.