Finding Books: Literary Works & Criticism
On the Web
Many works of literature, particularly those published before 1923, for which copyright has expired, are available on the web. Use your favorite search engine to look for titles, phrases, or authors, or see the section of this guide on Internet Resources for English Courses for more suggestions. Here are a few especially recommended sites:
- Bartleby.com - The works at this site were all published before 1923.
- New York Public Library: Online Literary Texts - This is a list of numerous sites with fulltext of novels, stories, and more.
- The On-line Books Page - A project of the University of Pennsylvania, this is a large, searchable directory of electronic text sources. You can visit the sites and read online the texts of books, poetry, plays, quotations, etc., that are in the public domain.
- Project Gutenberg - Volunteers have created fulltext for thousands of public domain books.
Literary criticism is also widely available on the web, but quality varies. See the Research Roadmap unit on Evaluating, for criteria and advice for evaluating the quality of information you find. Here a few sites with good quality material:
- Literary Criticism - This Internet Public Library Literary Criticism Collection contains critical and biographical websites about authors and their works that can be browsed by author, by title, or by nationality and literary period.
- The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism Online - (restricted to HSU users only) This is a resource that our library subscribes to. It is freely available on the web only to HSU faculty, staff, and currently enrolled students.
In the Library
Library of Congress Classification. Most academic and research libraries use the Library of Congress (LC) Classification to organize their collections. Unlike the Dewey Decimal Classification, used in most public libraries, LC organizes literature by author, rather than by genre. All of the works by and about a given author will, for the most part, be brought together in LC. The most relevant sections of LC for English and American literature and literary criticism are:
PN Literary criticism in general, works discussing multiple authors from different countries PR English literature and authors, including the Commonwealth PS American literature and authors
Postcolonial writers writing in European languages are classed with other writers in the particular language. For example, Chinua Achebe and Salman Rushdie are classed in PR because they write in English. Here is a more complete list of language and literature LC classifications.
In the sections for the literature of particular countries, such as PR and PS, arrangement is chronological, then alphabetical within the time period. Each author is assigned a number or series of numbers. Once you know the number(s) assigned to an author, you can browse the book stacks easily. Our library uses these numbers in the Reference and print periodicals collections, too. Here are some examples:
Geoffrey Chaucer PR 1850-1955 William Shakespeare PR 2750-3195 John Milton PR 3550-3598 Jane Austen PR 4030-4038 Charles Dickens PR 4550-4598 Virginia Woolf PR 6045 O72 Nathaniel Hawthorne PS 1850-1898 Herman Melville PS 2380-2388 F. Scott Fitzgerald PS 3511 I9 Raymond Carver PS 3553 A7894 Toni Morrison PS 3563 O8749
HSU Library Catalog. Browsing can be pleasant and useful, but the most efficient way to find books in our library by or about an author is to use the HSU Library Catalog. On the Basic Search screen, scroll down to see Search Tips, and note that for an author search, you must enter the last name first. For a title search, you must leave off the initial article, if there is one. Keyword searching is powerful and effective, provided you use the necessary punctuation.
Advanced Search allows you to search by keyword in specified fields. This is a good way to find books of criticism on a particular work. Major works of literature have their own subject headings, with the name of the author and of the book:
Morrison, Toni. Beloved.
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. Romeo and Juliet.
An Advanced search on morrison beloved in the Subject field, with "all of these" specified, will return a list of books about Beloved, not copies of the work itself. For more general criticism of Toni Morrison's work, a Subject search on all of these toni morrison criticism will be effective. Another useful Advanced search is in the Table of Contents field, using the author's name and/or work's title as your search terms. This finds chapters in some more recent books.
Other Library Catalogs. The HSU Library Catalog includes only items in the HSU Library collections. You may be interested in searching the collections of other libraries and borrowing material from them on interlibrary loan.
FOR MORE HELP WITH ANY OF YOUR RESEARCH NEEDS, PLEASE ASK A LIBRARIAN