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A Guide to English: Doing Literary Criticism

Browsing for Books

Books are shelved in general subject categories using the Library of Congress classification system. You may want to supplement your use of the catalog with browsing shelf areas for your topic. Below is a brief listing of some of the subject locations for literature - first, general works by genre followed by geographic categories organized in chronological periods. 

  • PA Classical Languages and Literature (Greek, Latin)
  • PE English Language
  • PG 2001-3987 Russian
  • PN 80-99 General Criticism by Genre
    • 441-1009 Folklore
    • 1010-1551 Poetry
    • 1600-3307 Drama
    • 3311-3503 Prose Fiction
    • 4400-4599 Letters and Essays
    • 6010-6790 Collections of General Literature
    • 6700-6790 Graphic Novels and Comics
    • PN6700-6790
  • PQ Romance Literatures (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese)
    • 1-3999 French
    • 4000-5999 Italian
    • 6000-8999 Spanish
    • 9000-9999 Portuguese
  • PR English Language Literature
    • 1-1369 by period and genre
    • 1490-1799 Anglo-Saxon
    • 1803-2165 Ango-Norman, Early English, Middle English
    • 2199-3195 English Renaissance
    • 3291-3785 17th and 18th centuries
    • 3991-5990 19th century
    • 6000-6049 1900-1960
    • 6050-6076 1961-2000
    • 6100-6126 2001-
    • 8309-9680 Commonwealth Literatures
  • PS American Literature
    • 1-688 by period and genre
    • 700-893 Colonial (17th and 18th centuries)
    • 991-3390 19th century
    • 3500-3549 1900-2000
    • 3600-3626 2001-
    • 8000-8599 Canadian literature
  • PT Germanic Literatures
    • 1-6593 German and Dutch
    • 7001-7550 Scandinavian
  • Z Books, Bibliography, Library Sciences
    • 4-115.5 Book History
    • 116-659 Book Industry and Trade

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Finding Articles About Literature

Digital Collections for Literarture Scholars

In the Reference Collection

There is a wealth of information about writers in the reference section - with a focus on national literatures, genres, historical periods, marginalized status, and themes. These are some examples of what's available.

Essential Dictionaries

Digging Deeper

Understanding literature often means understanding contexts and connecting the dots. You might find yourself needing to find out about a particular cultural setting or historical context, or you may need to dip into another field altogether - psychology, art history, music, sociology, philosophy. Sometimes the reference section can get you a running start by defining terms and setting the scene in a way that has more intellectual depth than Wikipedia. Feel free to ask a librarian where to find the treasures of the reference collection. 

Where's the Fiction?

Unlike public libraries, academic libraries shelve works of literature with criticism. This can make it harder to browse for something to read, but it might help to know that fiction (and poetry) is generally shelved by country (American literature is PS) and then by chunks of time (recent American writers can be found in PS 3600). In addition to the general collection, where most of the books live, you might be interested in the Browsing Collection near the front door, the Young Adult collection on the lower level, our AV collection for film (lower level) or our Zine Collection (main floor in a nook on the outside of the Hasselquist Room). 

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