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ENG 491/502 Research Methods and Theory

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Literary Criticism

Research in English involves understanding and interpreting different genres; uses of rhetoric; applying theory and linguistics; and teaching literature across all educational levels. Whether you're taking a survey class across genres, specific authors, or a literary time period, working on your thesis in teaching composition, or tackling theorists in literary criticism, you'll find a range of resources to support your learning. Much of your research will require finding critiques on an author's works. Here are some recommended resources for doing that.

Literary Criticism Databases

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Sources

A primary source is the work itself being discussed, and also, in research, materials written or created about it during the time period in which it was created.  Primary works can include initial publication book reviews, diaries and letters, manuscript drafts, communication with publishers and collaborators, interviews, and speeches.

You can find books and articles and limit their publication date to your chose writer's time period using SuperSearch. The  JSTOR  peer reviewed journal collection is especially helpful because it offers historic coverage going back to first issues of journals. So you can find early reactions to Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar as well as interviews of contemporary writers.

BOMB

Junot Díaz This interview of Junot Diaz by fellow writer Edwidge Danticat is a primary source. Most databases provide automated citing as below:


Danticat, Edwidge, and Junot Díaz. “Junot Díaz.” BOMB, no. 101, 2007, pp. 89–95. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40428151

In SuperSearch, use the advanced search to search by an author/creator  to find his/her works and possibly collections of letters and other primary materials by that author. Using the keyword search finds everything associated with that author: both primary and secondary, and even tertiary items, which include encyclopedia entries and give the broadest overviews.

Secondary Sources

These include critiques and analysis not from the lifespan or shortly thereafter of a writer, or more broadly, the time period of a literary movement. Journal articles and books that provide overviews fall into this category.  Analyses of a particular work or an author's ouevre over time- theoretical treatments using a cultural or political framework, such as New Historicism, feminism, colonialism, ecocriticism, or postmodernism, offering the author's interpretation, are secondary sources. In Super Search, you can narrow down your results by subject, or use the Advanced Search to search your author as a subject.

 

Background and Contextual Information

Tertiary Sources

Reference materials are compilations of secondary and primary sources about authors, works, and literary movements. They consist of biographies, historical timelines, and compilations, such as anthologies similar to survey texts, and books such as Dictionary of Literary Biography and the Twayne's Author Series.  While these provide substantial background information, and can include full book chapters of analysis (secondary sources) or excerpts from peer reviewed journal articles, it's best to use these in tandem with primary and secondary materials.  Information from reference sources is designed to provide context for further exploration of a topic.

Literary Background Resources

Biographies

Biography in Context offers a comprehensive selection of information, including images, audiovisual, scholarly and news articles.

 

Sherman Alexie

Author Sherman Alexie, using poetry and prose saturated with imagery, drama, and humor, has shed light on what it means to be an Indian in contemporary American society. His works have helped his fellow Indians to understand themselves better by honing in on typical problems rampant on reservations, including poverty, alcoholism, and racism. However, Alexie's characters are not the cliched stone-faced people who accept their lot in defeat; rather, he exposes the rich sense of humor that Indians commonly use to deal with their problems. His works are also useful in helping non-Indians recognize the issues that Indians face and...View More

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