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Scholarship is Conversation
You'll be raising a question or proposing a theory about literature during the American Renaissance. To do this, use library resources to explore the conversations around the authors, works, and themes you are most interested in. You'll be using these sources to create an annotated bibliography and to develop your original ideas in writing. From the syllabus:
The paper should deal with at least one author/text that the class has read during the semester, and should develop an original argument that demonstrates some aspect of the author’s intentions or relationship to a larger historical or literary movement relevant during the American Renaissance. . . You will be expected to put your own ideas in conversation with those of your 5 scholarly sources, showing how your own argument/reading of the text(s) in question deepens or complicates the existing scholarly research on your topic.
As you see what other literary scholars have written, put yourself in conversation with them. What do they have to say? Do you agree? Where do you diverge? What new ideas do you have to offer? How do your new ideas fit into and extend what literary scholars have already said?
Looking for Literary Criticism and Context
As you take a look to see what literary scholars have said about and writer and a topic, think about these questions:
- What theoretical approach does the author take?
- What theme or themes does the author focus on?
- When was this published? (Approaches to literature change over time.)
- How does this fit with my ideas? With other scholars' ideas?
Look for criticism that is relevant and appears to be of high quality. You may have to skim a lot of works of criticism before you decide which works you think should be part of your conversation.
MLA International Bibliography
This is the mother lode for literary criticism. It includes books, book chapters, articles, and dissertations about language and literature, and it's massive. The good news is that it includes a lot. The bad news is that it includes a lot of stuff we don't have and sometimes can't get. But it's worth a try. Use the "find it" link to request a book or article from another library.
Full text backfiles of selected scholarly journals are found here. You can limit a search to language and literature. You can also expand your search to include content we don't have here but which we can get from another library.
Project Muse Basic College Collection
Like JSTOR, a collection of full-text academic journals, including Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers.
Reference Books for Background and Context
A New Literary History of America by
Call Number: Reference PS 92 .N39 2009
Publication Date: 2009-09-23
A chronological account of American literature that maps a 2009 sensibility on the historiography of literary studies. Selective and interpretive.
The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States by
Call Number: Reference PS 147 .O94 1995
Publication Date: 1995-01-05
Oxford Companions are like an erudite butler who can answer questions quickly and concisely. This one focuses on women writers, but there are also companions for American literature in general, African-American authors, and other topics. Good for getting super-quick answers.
Dictionary of Literary Biography by
Call Number: Reference PS 221, volumes 1, 223, and 235
Publication Date: 2000-11-13
There are three volumes in this set that deal with the American Renaissance. What you'll find here is basic biographical background, summaries of literary reception and critical approaches, and some background information. You could use these to ground yourself and see what criticism might be worth pursuing, but they are basically like Wikipedia - useful, but not something you'd cite as a source.
For historical and cultural background and context
Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century by
Publication Date: 2000-12-13
Short background articles in alphabetical order, handy for unfamiliar events or people.
Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History
Call Number: Reference E 169.1 .E624 2001
Publication Date: 2001-03-26
Offers broad but scholarly overviews of topics such as slavery and race, antislavery, transcendentalism, women in the public sphere, domesticity and sentimentalism, and more.
Encyclopedia of American Social Movements by
Call Number: Reference HN 57 .E594 2004
Publication Date: 2004-08-31
Includes coverage of rural utopian movements, the anti-slavery movement, women's suffrage, plus many more recent movements.
Women in American History by
Call Number: Reference HQ 1410 .W6468 2017
Publication Date: 2017-01-23
A social, political, and cultural encyclopedia and document collection (subtitle). Volume 2 covers Antebellum America through the Gilded Age.
Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619-1895 by
Call Number: Reference 185 .E545 2006
Publication Date: 2006-04-06
Good for background on African American experiences of US history, events, and people.
Encyclopedia of Religion in America by
Call Number: Reference BL 2520 .E52 2010
Publication Date: 2010-06-01
A good place to get information about American religious traditions, denominations, and movements.
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