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ENGLISH 2120: Critical Writing About Literature

Literary criticism is the evaluation, comparison, analysis, or interpretation of literary works. Criticism may examine the themes in the work, look at the author's writings as a collection, analyze a work through a particular lens or school of thought, or compare works of the same theme, genre, time period, etc.). 

NOTE: A book review is different from literary criticism. Book reviews summarize the book and give the reviewer's opinion on whether the book is worth reading. Authors of book reviews can intend them for a general or an academic audience.

Helpful hint

Do some preliminary searching before settling on your topic. 

  • Works of authors from the past are often easier to find than contemporary authors. It takes time to create this type of scholarship, especially if the writer is looking at the entirety of an author's work.
  • The more well-known the author, the more likely scholars have something to say about them. Be sure to consider the implications of about whom a culture deems essential to write. This centering will tell you something about whose voices are privileged as worthy of study.

Resources for Workshop (Spring 2024)

Locating Sources

Great place to start, if you need introductory information, definitions, or are looking for ideas to help you focus your topic. 

Locating scholarly articles or news on the context in which your text was published can offer insight into your understanding of the story.

Physical resources

map of Rod Library 3rd Floormap of Rod Library 4th Floor

Available in library stacks. Books are shelved by topic, so browsing the area might be interesting once you find one relevant item!

For example, if I were researching Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find. I might look up such phrases as

  • "Jim Crow"
  • "Old South"
  • "Southern life"
  • "southern states" AND women

Online resources

Scholarly Articles


Books and Book Chapters

Tips for searching the library catalog, OneSearch

  1. Start with an Advanced Search.
  2. Two options (try both)
    • Search the author's name as a Subject. Examples: "O'Connor, Flannery"
    • Enter your author's name and add criticism. "Flannery O'Connor" AND criticism 
  3. Peruse the results. Consider further narrowing using filters or additional keywords.
    • More popular and well-known authors may have the option to narrow by the Subject Criticism and Interpretation.
    • Narrow by "Peer-reviewed Journals" or "Books" to focus on specific Source Types.

Some books are available in library stacks, and books are shelved by topic, so browsing the area might be of interest once you find one relevant item! Others are available as eBooks. If you have trouble accessing either, do not hesitate to reach out for support.

map of Rod Library 3rd Floormap of Rod Library 4th Floor

Scholarly Articles

OneSearch searches many (although not all) of the library's databases. It's a great place to start, but do not be afraid of jumping into individual databases for more comprehensive results.

Article searching often requires a narrow search with multiple terms to get the information you want. Consider searching for the author AND criticism OR analysis AND the title of the work. Once you have an idea of what is out there, you might also add another search term related to the theme or lens you are analyzing.

For example: "Flannery O'Connor" AND (criticism OR analysis) AND "A Good Man is Hard to Find" AND race

Not fully indexed in OneSearch

OneSearch will pull MUCH of this content