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Literary Criticism

Studying literary criticism can be a great way to learn more about an author or delve deeper into a work. Literary criticism describes, analyzes or interprets a literary work, usually in essay form.

If you're just curious to learn more about an author or work, online resources may suffice. But if you're working on an academic paper, you'll probably need to go further. The Web can get you started, but your local school or library will probably be your best resource.

Where to Start

  • Internet Public Library: Online Literary Criticism Collection.
    This collection offers links to more than 3,000 critical and biographical sites about authors and their works. The IPL's Literary Criticism Pathfinder guides students through literary criticism searches both on and off the Web.

  • A Glossary of Literary Criticism
    Defines terms commonly used in critical essays.

  • Literary Resources on the Net
    A great searchable guide to criticism in a variety of fields. This site also offers links to related sites, including Voice of the Shuttle, a comprehensive site devoted to humanities research.

  • LitLinks offers biographies and relevant links on authors in five categories: fiction, poetry, drama, essays and critical theory.

Literary Publications

Other sources for literary criticism include magazines and periodicals. The Atlantic Monthly provides critical reviews of influential books. Their site offers reviews dating back to the 19th century. Use their search engine to look for criticism on the work or author you are studying.

Part of Project MUSE, a database of scholarly journals online, The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism can only be accessed if you are associated with an academic institution that subscribes. Check with your college or university to see if you can access the guide.

The Usual Suspect

Often hailed as the greatest playwright of all time, William Shakespeare is one of the most studied literary figures. The comprehensive Shakespeare Online offers scene-by-scene plot synopses, a collection of essays about Shakespeare's works and a biography. The Shakespeare Resource Center also provides synopses and a list of relevant resources. For the serious student, The Folger Shakespeare Library is the primary research library for Shakespeare scholarship.

High school students will appreciate Surfing With the Bard's Shakespeare 101: A Student Guide, which has an online Shakespeare glossary and tips on reading and comprehending the Bard's works.

When you get tired of studying, check out these Shakespeare sites for fun:

  • Shakespeare Magnetic Poetry Rewrite history, literally! Click on Shakespeare on the left nav bar. Rearrange the bard's words to create your own verse.

  • Shakespearean Insulter Go, ye giddy goose (Henry IV) and hundreds of other Shakespearean insults.

Additional Resources

  • Feminist Literary Criticism and Theory
    Covers literary genres and historical periods as well as pedagogical and political issues.

  • PAL: Perspectives in American Literature
    A research and reference guide to literary criticism. Offers commentary about American authors.

  • Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts
    A collection of digital documents about English literature, American literature and Western philosophy.

   --- A.H.


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