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THEA 3700 Porterfield: Finding Literary Criticism

What is literary criticism?

Literary criticism is the interpretation, analysis, comparison, evaluation, discussion and/or the examination of works of literature.

  • "criticism" does not mean strictly to tear down or diminish, but instead examine, probe, and ask questions. 

Literary criticism is more than a plot summary or author biography. Literary criticism invites readers and researchers to form insights and opinions on a work that draws from evidence related to work. Historical context and political perspective are part of literary criticism in addition to theme and style. Literary critcism can be interdisciplinary, such as a medical critique of Frankenstein, and may be positively or negatively biased. Sometimes a single work in critiqued; sometimes a larger look at an author's works may be analyzed.

Examples of some types of literary criticism are:

  • Biographical
  • Comparative
  • Ethical
  • Expressive
  • Feminist
  • Historical
  • Mimetic
  • Pragmatic
  • Psychological
  • Social
  • Textual
  • Theoretical

Literary criticism can be found collected in book form (use the catalog link to the left to search for it), or through the following sources.

Databases Helpful for Finding Literary Criticism

Dictionary of Literary Biography

The 300+ volume series Dictionary of Literary Biography (DLB) provides biographical and introductory critical information on a wide variety of authors of fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction works. You'll find the DLB in the Reference Alcove area, on the south side of the Odum Library Reference Area in the short shelves, a series of blue volumes published by Gale. 

The Gale Literary Index website lets you look up authors and titles covered in literary criticism volumes published by Gale. Search for the author's name; then in the list of Gale volumes locate the Dictionary of Literary Biography to see which volume(s) cover your author. 

Searching Literary Reference Center and MLA Bibliography

The basic concepts that work in Discover GALILEO will also work in MLA Bibliography and Literary Reference Center.   Since these are smaller, more focused databases, it can be helpful to keep your searches simple. 


MLA Bibliography


MLA Bibliography is a great source for abstracts and/or citations for the books and articles on your topic. The information from MLA Bibliography can be used to order an article or book through ILL. 


Literary Reference Center


Literary Reference Center can provide more focused results from any searches that you do. In addition, it offers the ability to limit results by Source Type, which includes Plot Summaries and Literary Criticism.