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Content and Editorial Policy - Criticism and Reference Resources

The Search: Criticism and Reference screen in Literature Online gives access to the following resources:

In addition, Literature Online contains a Reference Shelf containing a range of dictionaries, plus the King James Bible.

Depending on your institution's subscription, you may also have access to:

Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature 1920- (ABELL)

ABELL, which can be accessed via the Criticism screen in Search: Criticism and Reference, contains more than 900,000 records covering monographs, periodical articles, critical editions of literary works, book reviews, collections of essays and doctoral dissertations published anywhere in the world; unpublished doctoral dissertations are covered for the period 1920-1999. The bibliography consists of 80 volumes, beginning in 1920 and issued annually; a number of items published between 1892 and 1919 have been indexed retrospectively.

All aspects and periods of English literature are covered, from Anglo-Saxon times to the present day. British, American and Commonwealth writing are all represented. Coverage is international, including scholarly material in languages other than English.

ABELL is compiled under the auspices of the Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) by an international team of editors, contributors and academic advisors. It has been published in book form since 1920, and ProQuest publish the electronic version in both CD-ROM and web format. While the print volume and CD-ROM instalments are published annually, new bibliographic records are added to the monthly updates of Literature Online in advance of their appearance in the annual versions.

Bibliographic experts have long agreed that ABELL is an essential tool for the literary scholar, and have stressed its coverage of unique material that is not included in other bibliographic sources. In comparing ABELL with the MLA International Bibliography, Evan Ira Farber, Librarian Emeritus of Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, concluded that 'every comparative study of the two bibliographies shows that the overlap between them is surprisingly far from complete', and that 'every academic library supporting serious work - and certainly graduate work - in English or American literature should make both ABELL and MLAIB available to users'. This is supported by standard reference works such as Michael Marcuse's Reference Guide for English Studies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990) and James L. Harner's Literary Research Guide, 2nd edn. (New York: MLA, 1993). Visit the MHRA website for more information on ABELL.

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399 Full-Text Journals

Literature Online contains a dynamic electronic library of academic journals from the field of literary and cultural studies. The full contents of each issue are included, and are fully searchable by keyword, phrase, author, subject and other data fields. In order to allow full searchability, including the display of hit markers, we allow users to view the ASCII text version of each article; however, in most cases the page image in PDF format is also available, so that users can view the article exactly as it appears in print form.

The Criticism search page in Search: Criticism & Reference allows integrated searching of the full-text journals together with bibliographic records from ABELL. Articles and book reviews from journals are mapped to their corresponding ABELL records.

The library of journals grows with every monthly update of Literature Online, as we add current issues of existing journals. We also aim to continue identifying and licensing further titles that would be of interest to our users and adding them to the service. Our editorial policy is to include titles from the full range of literary and cultural studies, including critical theory, interdisciplinary studies, film studies, theatre studies, stylistics and pedagogy in addition to more traditional forms of literary scholarship. The journals collection also includes a number of titles that publish a high proportion of literary works by contemporary authors: in fact, with over 23,000 poems and short stories, it forms one of the most comprehensive collections of contemporary literature available online. To make this content more readily accessible, these literary works can now be accessed from Authors and Texts searches: from your search results, follow the link to Literary Works in Journals to find poems, short stories, essays and lectures by literary authors such as John Ashbery, Billy Collins, Jonathan Franzen, Joy Harjo, Seamus Heaney and Louise Glück.

See a list of journal titles currently available in Literature Online (in Excel format).

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Literature Online includes biographical entries for over 4,500 authors. The majority of these are unique to Chadwyck-Healey Literature services, as they have been specially commissioned for either Literature Online or for one of our Literature Collections. These biographies are either written by subject specialists working in the relevant academic field, or by our highly qualified in-house team of researchers, working to strict editorial guidelines, and are intended as a scholarly yet accessible introduction to a writer's life, works, context and critical reception. The service also contains biographies licensed from third-party publishers, including the H.W. Wilson Company Inc. and Debrett's People of Today. Our editorial team are continually working to add to our biography provision by commissioning new biographies and revising or updating existing material.

In 1999-2000, we undertook a major programme of biography creation for major authors from the medieval period to the present day. Under the guidance of six editors with responsibility for each literary period, over 300 new biographies were commissioned from experts in the field. These editors were:

  • Medieval Period: Alfred Hiatt BA (Sydney), PhD (Cantab), Research Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge.
  • Renaissance Period: Hester Jones, Lecturer at University of Liverpool.
  • Restoration/Eighteenth Century: Clark Lawlor, post-doctoral Research Fellow at St. Anne's College and the European Humanities Research Centre, the University of Oxford.
  • Eighteenth Century/Romantic period: David Duff, BA, DPhil (York), Lecturer in English at the University of Aberdeen.
  • Nineteenth Century: Matthew Campbell, Lecturer in English at the University of Sheffield.
  • Twentieth Century: Ian Patterson, critic, poet, translator and Fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge.

Revision and additions to Literature Online biographies have been ongoing since this project was completed, and a full list of new biographers is available.

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Reference Works

Literature Online contains electronic versions of the following print reference works; these can be searched individually or as a group from the Criticism & Reference search pages, and users can also browse the contents from Complete Contents:

  • Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English, Second Edition (Routledge, 2005)
  • Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism (Columbia University Press, 1995)
  • Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century (Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998)
  • Encyclopedia of the Novel (Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998)
  • New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (Princeton University Press, 1993)
  • The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Short Story (Columbia University Press, 2001)
  • The Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature (Columbia University Press, 1980)
  • The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature (Oxford University Press, 1996)
  • The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature, Third Edition (Oxford University Press, 2007)
  • Handbook of African American Literature (University Press of Florida, 2004)
  • Encyclopedia of African Literature (Routledge, 2009)
  • Twentieth-Century Latin American and Caribbean Literature, 1900-2003 (Routledge, 2004)
  • Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory (Routledge, 2007)
  • Encyclopedia of Linguistics (Routledge, 2004)

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Student Guides

Literature Online includes the KnowledgeNotesTM student guides, a unique collection of critical introductions to major literary works. These high-quality academic resources are tailored to the needs of literature students and serve as a complement to the guidance provided by lecturers and seminar teachers.

As well as providing at-a-glance information, KnowledgeNotes guides also challenge students to be self-motivated and to read critically. Each guide has been written by a scholar with graduate-level expertise in the relevant area, working closely with the KnowledgeNotes team of specialist editors:

  • Managing Editor: Sarah Shute BA with Honors in Literature and Society (Brown), MFA in Fiction Writing (Brooklyn College)
  • Editor: Andrew Durkin BA with special honors in English (Drew), MA in English (Southern California), PhD candidate in English (Southern California)
  • Editor: Elizabeth M. Durst BA in Russian Languages and Literature and German (Northwestern), MA in Russian Literature (Southern California), PhD in Russian Literature and Culture (Southern California)
  • Editor: Carrie Pickett BA in Philosophy (Smith), MFA in English and Creative Writing (Mills), director of Manifest Press
  • Editor: Mary Beth Tegan BS (California State University at Chico), MA in English, Rhetoric and Composition (California State University at Northridge), PhD in English (Southern California)

Drawing on contemporary critical and theoretical approaches, the author provokes active engagement with the text by highlighting salient themes and suggesting areas for further enquiry. The specialist knowledge of our authors and editors means that students are guided through the text by a process that models the interpretive processes and explanatory methods of an experienced critical reader.

Each guide combines detailed analysis of a literary text with introductory and contextual material and suggestions for further reading. The range of texts covered reflects the full range of British, European and American literature studied as part of contemporary undergraduate courses, including the plays of Aeschylus, Shakespeare and Tony Kushner, the poems of Chaucer, Poe and Eliot, the novels of Jane Austen, Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf, and the short stories of James Joyce, Flannery O'Connor and Sandra Cisneros.

Every KnowledgeNotes guide begins with an Overview, which places the text and author in context, lists the author's principal works and gives a breakdown of all the characters who appear in the text. This is followed by a Summary, which gives a synopsis of the Plot, a brief introduction to the text's Style and introduces the main Themes and Motifs. The Highlights section gives a detailed reading of the text, broken down into chapters, scenes or sections where applicable. Four learning devices are used to draw the reader's attention to significant points in the text: Take Home Points, which signal key elements in a passage, Exploration Points, which direct students towards areas of possible further study and research, Theme Alerts which identify passages relevant to the themes outlined in the Summary, and Quotables, which locate and interpret frequently-quoted passages. The guide ends with a selection of Works Consulted, which points users towards further reading and also serves as an example of correct scholarly citation.

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Literature Online offers detailed bibliographies for over 1,500 major authors. Our editorial policy in compiling these bibliographies has been to record both the literary and non-literary works of Literature Online authors, giving bibliographic details of the first publication of every work. Subsequent republications will not normally be included unless fundamental revisions have been undertaken. In cases where authors were voluminous contributors to newspapers, journals or periodicals, summary records of titles are given. Entries where the author performed the role of contributor, correspondent, editor or annotator are also recorded. Wherever possible, the most authoritative modern edition of the complete or selected works has also been indicated.

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New Essays on the American Novel

In addition to the full-text journals collection, Literature Online's Criticism resources include thirty-eight volumes of the Cambridge University Press series New Essays on the American Novel. Users can access these in a number of ways: via links from Author Pages to Criticism resources, by searching in Search: Criticism & Reference, where the essays are mapped to records from ABELL, or by browsing the contents of each volume from Complete Contents.

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Web Sites

Literature Online provides searchable access to a database of sites relevant to English and American literary studies. These are selected and indexed by specialist researchers working to strict editorial guidelines that ensure quality and relevance. In order to be selected for inclusion in our database, the sites have to offer more than simply a selection of e-texts or links to other resources; instead they will contain material such as criticism and other scholarly resources, background information and biographical details, or reviews and interviews. These resources are continually reviewed and expanded by a team dedicated to this task.

Though great care has been taken to select materials of the highest quality, links to third-party web sites are provided solely for informational purposes and as a convenience to our authorised users. ProQuest as publishers of Literature Online are not responsible for the content of the third-party web sites to which links have been provided. The links included in Literature Online do not constitute a referral or endorsement of any product or service advertised or distributed through the linked web sites, nor do they reflect any affiliation between ProQuest and the publishers of the third-party web site. Your use of the third-party web sites may be subject to the terms and conditions specified on the specific web sites you choose to visit.

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Reference Shelf

The Reference Shelf is accessible on every search page within Literature Online, and gives access to the following sources:

  • Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged: America's premier lexicographical work, first published in 1961, and including subsequent updates that take account of current usage.
  • Concise Oxford Dictionary: the foremost authority on current English, which for decades has been the most popular dictionary of its kind, selling throughout the English-speaking world. Using a radically more accessible style for this major new edition, Oxford lexicographers have rewritten every word and entry to represent the richness, complexity and beauty of the English language as never before. This revised eleventh edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary contains over 240,000 words, phrases and definitions covering current and historical English, as well as coverage of North American, South African, West Indian, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, Scottish, Irish and Indian English.
  • A Shakespeare Glossary: compiled originally by C. T. Onions, one of the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary, this invaluable aid to the study of Shakespeare concentrates on explaining those words whose senses or connotations would be unfamiliar to a modern reader. Dialect forms, idioms, and colloquial phrases receive special attention. This edition of A Shakespeare Glossary has been revised and enlarged by Professor Robert D. Eagleson.
  • King James Bible: the 1611 'Authorised Version' of the Bible, arguably the most influential single document for English literary studies. Read more about the King James Bible.

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The MLA International Bibliography

The MLA International Bibliography contains over 2 million records for books and articles published on modern languages, literatures, folklore, and linguistics; more than 66,000 records are currently added each year. The classified listing and subject index are compiled by the staff of the Modern Language Association Department of Bibliographic Information Services with the cooperation of more than 100 contributing bibliographers in the United States and abroad. The Bibliography first appeared in 1926, as a section within the journal PMLA, and became a separate publication in 1969. The electronic version first appeared in the late 1970s, and for a long time only covered volumes from 1963 onwards; as of April 2006, the entire print run is included, from 1926 to the present.

In addition to the contents of the annual volumes (which record scholarship from around 1920 onwards), the electronic version of the bibliography also includes subject-indexed records for the entire runs of journals from JSTOR's Language and Literature collection. This comprises over 100,000 records, and includes material from journals such as Modern Language Notes and PMLA from as far back as the 1880s.

Further information on the bibliography can be found on the MLA website.

Full details of index fields in the MLA data, including definitions and information on how to search, can be found on the Searchable Fields page.

Scope of the Bibliography

The MLA International Bibliography covers scholarship dealing with the following fields:

  • Literature: from all over the world, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America
  • Folklore: folk literature, music, art, rituals, and belief systems
  • Language and linguistics: the study of languages from any historical period, including history and theory of linguistics, comparative linguistics, semantics, stylistics, syntax and translation
  • Literary theory and criticism
  • Dramatic arts: film, radio, television and theatre
  • History of printing and publishing
  • Teaching of language, literature, rhetoric and composition at college level (from 1998 onwards)

The bibliography indexes published items in a broad range of media: while the most common materials listed are books, book articles and journal articles, the bibliography also lists electronic materials. Coverage includes:

  • Critical monographs and book collections
  • Materials from over 4,400 journals, including selected electronic journals
  • Materials in any language, from any country in the world – over 60 languages are represented in the index
  • Dictionaries, catalogues, handbooks, bibliographies, indexes, and other reference works
  • Published working papers, conference papers, and conference proceedings
  • Citations of dissertations from Dissertations Abstracts International
  • Handbooks, anthologies for teaching, syllabi, textbooks, and curriculum guides
  • Scholarly websites, online bibliographies and electronic monographs
  • Any work that is of interest to scholars in these fields, whether it is written for a scholarly or more general audience

The following categories are not included in the bibliography:

  • Reprints of previously published materials, unless they are of significant literary or scholarly works that were unavailable to the scholarly community
  • Unpublished dissertations; instead, the bibliography includes citations of dissertations from Dissertations Abstracts International
  • Summaries of conference papers
  • Individual articles from dictionaries and encyclopaedias
  • Literary works and translations, unless they are accompanied by a new critical or bibliographical apparatus or they are based on a newly established authoritative text
  • Reviews of literary and scholarly works
  • Letters to editors, obituary notices, and the like, unless they make a significant contribution to scholarship
  • Courseware, lesson plans, and how-to guides
  • Work of inappropriate level, such as Masters’ theses, guides that are essentially plot summaries, and other apprentice or simplified works
MLA Thesaurus

MLA citations feature subject terms taken from the MLA Thesaurus, a controlled vocabulary of over 49,000 topical terms and 327,000 names. New subjects and names are regularly added to reflect the state of current scholarship in literature, language, folklore, and linguistics.

Users should note that subject indexing in the bibliography is considerably richer for records from 1981 onwards. Before 1981, MLA bibliographers used a more simplified approach to classification, generally only noting the main concept of each article; for example, 'American Literature -- 1800–1899 -- Hawthorne, Nathaniel', or 'language -- bilingualism' or 'ethnomusicology -- musical instruments'. In 1981, a contextual indexing and faceted taxonomic access system (CIFT) was adopted, whereby which each item is assigned an order sequence of subject descriptors.

Subject descriptors are usually specific terms; appropriate cross-references are provided to similar or related terms in the index. Descriptors define the explicit content: for example, authors are not identified as belonging to groups unless their group identification is treated within the indexed document, and methodological approaches are specified only when they are discussed or clearly applied. Finally, descriptors are assigned for an item if, and only if, users seeking information on the topic indicated by a descriptor would be likely to want to retrieve the item.

MLA Directory of Periodicals

The MLA Directory of Periodicals contains all information available on the journals and series on the bibliography's Master List of Periodicals. This information has been gathered by the MLA staff with the cooperation of MLA bibliographers and the editors represented in these listings. Over 7,100 titles are included; of these, over 4,400 are currently indexed. The entries list editorial addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, e-mail addresses, frequency of publication, descriptions of the periodicals' scopes, circulation figures, subscription prices and addresses, advertising information, and submission guidelines. The directory also provides statistics on how many articles and book reviews the periodicals publish each year, as well as how many are submitted.

Any regularly published journal available to libraries or universities that publishes articles on language, literature, or folklore with some frequency is eligible for inclusion on the Master List. Any series that includes books on language, literature, or folklore, regardless of the frequency of the series, is also eligible.

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