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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:

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:

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.