Online Literary Criticism: A Guide to Research
April 21, 2005
by Richard Reyes-Gavilan,
Humanities Department, Mid-Manhattan Library
Finding good sources of literary criticism on the internet can be difficult. A good place to start is with the New York Public Library's subscription databases where one can access criticism from books and journals. Online research does not compare with the breadth and depth of information available in books; however, it is an excellent and efficient way of complementing traditional library research.
Note: This research guide concentrates only on subscription databases, not on internet search engines. Search engines like Google and Yahoo do not normally allow access into established literary journals or books. Instead they access information from web sites that may or may not be reliable.
The New York Public Library's Branch Libraries Subscription Databases
The list of literature databases MUST be accessed from our Databases & Indexes page or using the links on this page. These databases are all available at the Mid-Manhattan Library. Some of them are available in branch libraries and from home with a valid NYPL library card.
The Literature Resource Center is our most complete criticism resource, containing biographical, bibliographical, and critical content on literary figures writing in the genres of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. It includes Contemporary Authors Online, Contemporary Literary Criticism Select, and the Dictionary of Literary Biography. Additionally, full-text criticism is accessible from works such as Short Story Criticism, Shakespearean Criticism, Drama Criticism, and Poetry Criticism. Users can also find full-text critical essays from over 200 prominent literary journals and access a guide to researching and writing papers in the MLA format. Available from all branches and from home with a valid NYPL library card.
Academic Search Premier from EBSCO is the world's largest scholarly, multi-disciplinary full text database containing full text for more than 3,200 scholarly publications, including more than 2,700 peer-reviewed publications. In addition to the full text, this database offers indexing and abstracts for all 4,500 journals in the collection. This scholarly collection offers information in nearly every area of academic study including language and literature. Academic Search Premier is available from all branches and from home with a valid NYPL library card.
Twayne’s Author Series contains the full text of 600 frequently used Twayne Literary Masters books that discuss individual World, US, or English authors. Search by author or perform more advanced searches by genre, nationality, or time period. Twayne’s Author Series is available from all branches and from home with a valid NYPL library card.
Literature Online includes links to the complete full text of 136 literature journals, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism, The Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century, The Encyclopedia of the Novel, The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Short Story, The Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature, KnowledgeNotes (student guides) for 230 works, bibliographies for over 1,400 authors, and biographies for over 2,600 of the most-studied authors. Available in all branch libraries.
MagillOnLiterature Plus includes brief plot summaries, character studies, and critical analyses of the most studied works in literature. It includes the full text from many specialized titles such as the Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Cyclopedia of World Authors, Magill's Book Reviews, and Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. MagillOnLiterature Plus is available only at the Mid-Manhattan Library.
JSTOR is a unique database because the complete archives of its journals have been digitized and can be searched starting with the first issues, many of which date from the 1880s. At the moment there are 57 full-text journals in the Literature and Language category, including Shakespeare Quarterly, College English, American Literature and many others. JSTOR is available at the Mid-Manhattan Library and in the Research Libraries.
The MLA Bibliography does not contain many full-text articles. It is however, the largest index to literature and language available to researchers. Skilled searching can lead to sources that might otherwise be overlooked. Coverage is from 1963 to the present in nearly 4,400 journals, books, book chapters, bibliographies, and other formats. The MLA must be searched in combination with the library catalog to determine if a particular article or book is available. It is available at the Mid-Manhattan Library and the Research Libraries.