Subject Guide: Literature and Biography  

*   About this Guide

*   Starting Points: Understanding Literary 


*   Full-Text Databases for Criticism Published in 

      Scholarly Journals

*   Literary Criticism and Biographical Information  

      in Books

*   Doing Literary Research in CUNY+ Plus (Online

      Library Catalog of holdings)

*   More Internet Resources For:

      Authors, Individual Works of Literature, Types of

      Literature, Literary Movements

*   Resources for Help With Technical Aspects of

      Writing a Literary Essay  


Compiled by:

Professor Miriam Laskin

Literature Bibliographer



In the following pages you will find resources in print (at the Hostos Library), and on the Internet that will help you to write a paper - long or short - on a particular author or work by that author. This guide DOES point you to Internet and print resources that will help you at every stage of your research and writing about literature. This guide DOES NOT provide online access to any primary sources. (A “primary source” is the work of literature itself). If, for example, you are doing a critical analysis of The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, you will not be able to  access and read the novel itself here. If you want to borrow  novels, poetry, plays, etc., you can check CUNY+ (our online catalog) to see whether Hostos Library (or another CUNY library) has the item.





Literary Criticism


Start with these three databases to search for scholarly essays on individual authors or their works. You can print the entire bibliographic citation and article from the Hostos Library Reference room computers, or email the articles to yourself and print them out from a computer in the computer lab or at home. You can also access these databases from your home computer (See Hostos Library’s Distance Library Resources web page for instructions. You just need a Hostos ID card with an activated Library ID number.


Academic Search Premier

This is one of the largest databases in the Hostos digital collection. Academic Search Premier is

a scholarly, multi-disciplinary, full text database designed specifically for academic institutions.  There is a large compliment of peer-reviewed full text journals, exhaustive indexing of thousands of journals where full text is not available, and a vast array of authoritative popular sources. This resource contains full text for 4,598 scholarly publications with more than 100 going back to 1975 or further. It also includes PDF images for the great majority of journals; many of these PDFs are native (searchable) or scanned-in-color. Its scholarly collection provides full text journal coverage for nearly all academic areas of study - including social sciences, humanities, education, computer sciences, engineering, physics, chemistry, language and linguistics, arts & literature, medical sciences, ethnic studies, etc


Literature Resource Center (Gale/InfoTrac)

Covers more than 120,000 novelists, poets, essayists, journalists, and other writers, with in-depth coverage of 2,500 of the most-studied authors. The LCR is built three author databases: Contemporary Authors Online, offering biographical coverage of more than 120,000 writers; Contemporary Literary Criticism Select, featuring entries on all authors appearing in CLC since vol. 95 of the print series and complete profiles of the 266 most studied authors from editions prior to vol. 95; and Dictionary of Literary Biography Online, containing more than 10,000 biocritical essays on authors and their works written by academic scholars. In addition, users can access current, full-text critical essays on major authors via the Literature Resource Center's link to more than 130 prominent literary journals. CUNY has elected to add the Modern Language Association (MLA) citation database to its LRC subscription, providing CUNY researchers with access to 1.4 million citations from the MLA International Bibliography.


Literary Reference Center (EBSCOhost)

Despite a possibility of confusion with a name so similar to Gale’s “Literature Resource Center” (above), this new addition to our lit databases, the “Literary Reference Center (LRC)” offers a different array of literary resources and is as useful to students studying literature as the “Literature Resource Center.” This database offers users a broad spectrum of reference information from antiquity to the present day. LRC is a completely full-text database that combines information from over 1,000 books and monographs, major literary encyclopedias and reference works, hundreds of literary journals, and unique sources. Its extensive list of publications includes major literary reference works such as Magill’s Literary Annual and Masterplots, as well as Bloom’s Major Novelists and the complete contents of literary magazines such as Grand Street and Ploughshares.



The Problem of Meaning in Literature

On the Uses of Studying Literature





Use these two databases to search for scholarly essays on individual authors or their works. You can print the entire bibliographic citation and article from the Hostos Library Reference room computers, or email the articles to yourself and print them out from a computer in the computer lab or at home. You can also access these databases from your home computer (See Hostos Library’s Distance Library Resources web page for instructions. You just need a Hostos ID card with an activated Library ID number.


Academic Search Premier  

Academic Search Premier contains full-text articles from many scholarly journals, with abstracts and indexing for many more. A multi-discipline database designed for academic institutions, it provides good coverage of journals in the humanities, literature, language and linguistics, the arts, and related areas of academic study.


Literature Resource Center

The (InfoTrac) Literature Resource Center includes biographies, bibliographies, and critical analyses of more than 120,000 novelists, poets, essayists, journalists, and other writers, with in-depth coverage of 2,500 of the most-studied authors. This database is a useful starting point for the study of an author or a literary work, but keep in mind that it contains only selected material. The LRC also provides access to the Modern Language Association International Bibliography (MLA), the most comprehensive listing of scholarly articles and books published in the field of literature.




The following titles (and their call numbers so you can find them), are just a few of Hostos Library’s resources for literary criticism. The books listed below are all in the Reference (Non-Circulating) collection. There are many more resources on specific authors in the Library, both in the Reference and the Circulation areas. Ask a librarian for help to locate more, or browse the shelves at the call numbers of the works listed below.


General Criticism for Literatures of All Time Periods

Encyclopedia of Literature and Criticism

Hostos Reference: Ref PN81.E53 1990


            Literature & Its Times (5 vols., covering from ancient times to the present)

            Hostos Reference: Ref PN 50.L574 1997


Criticism on 20th Century Authors of All Types of Literature

Contemporary Authors.

Hostos Reference: Ref. Z 1224 .C62.

Contemporary Literary Criticism.

Hostos Reference: Ref. PN 771 .C59.

Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism.

Hostos Reference: Ref. PN 94.T83.

Short Story Criticism

Hostos Reference: Ref. PN 3373 .S45.

Criticism on African-American, Hispanic and Native American


Black Literature Criticism (3 vols.)

Hostos Reference: Ref. PS 153 .N5 B556 1992.


Oxford Companion to African American Literature.

Hostos Reference: Ref PS 153.N5 096 1997


African-American Writers: A Dictionary

Hostos Reference: Ref PS 153.N5 A3444 2000.

Hispanic Literature Criticism (2 vols.)

Hostos Reference: Ref. PQ 7081 .A1 H573 1994.

World Literature and Its Times:
Latin American Literature

Hostos Reference: Ref. PQ7081.M625 1999.


Dictionary of Native American Literature.

Hostos Reference: Ref. PM 155.D53 1994.

Criticism on Drama and Playwrights

McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama

Hostos Reference: Ref. PN 1625.M3 1984.

Cambridge History of American Theatre (Vol. 3: Post WWII – 1990’s).

Hostos Reference:  PN 2221.C37 1998.  


Criticism on Poetry and Poets

New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics.

Hostos Reference: Ref. PN 1021.N39 1993.

Notable Poets.

Hostos Reference: Ref. PN1021.N68 1998.


Shakespeare Criticism

Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare.

Hostos Reference: Ref. PR 2829.R43 1997.

Plays of Shakespeare: A Thematic Guide.

Hostos Reference: Ref PR2987.C28 2001.




NOTE: Before you begin a search in CUNY+, look at the top left-hand side of the CUNY+ Search Screen. If it says “You are searching: CUNY Union Catalog,” that means you are about to find books in all of the CUNY libraries. If you want to concentrate your search on HOSTOS books only, click on “Select Individual CUNY Libraries (toward the top of the screen, on the far right-hand side) and find and click on “HOSTOS.” That will restrict your results to books in the Hostos library.


Besides the above Reference works, you will want to do your own searches for more books in the CUNY libraries. To find more books in the Hostos Library and the other libraries in CUNY, you must find titles and call numbers of interesting-sounding books in CUNY+

The most efficient way to find literary criticism in books for specific authors, is to do a KEYWORD Search using the author's name. For example, to search for essays about Alice Walker or any of her works, type “Alice Walker” into the search box. You will get a list of books by and about her. Look at the column on the left, titled “Author.”  Ignore books by Alice Walker and click on the titles of books by other writers. These books by other authors will be about Alice Walker (biography) or about one or more of her works (“Criticism & Interpretation”). When you have found a book you’re interested in looking at, click on “Hostos-CC” either in the right-hand column of the list of your results, or - if you have clicked on the “TITLE” column and are looking at the book’s record (i.e., information about the book) -  near the bottom of the record next to “Call number.” Copy down the Call Number for the book, because that is how you will locate the book on the shelves. Also note the “Location,” “Status” and “Due Date” columns to make sure that the book is available and not lost or already borrowed. The “Location” will also tell you if the book is in our Circulation collection (these are books you may borrow), the Non-Circulating Reference collection (You may read the book in the library but not borrow it), or in the Juvenile collection (which is located separately from all the other books). The book may also be on Reserve, which means an instructor has placed in in our Reserve collection and you may not take it out of the library and must return it to the Reserve Desk within two hours.


Remember that if you are unfamiliar with using CUNY+ to find books, the librarians can help you.





Authors, Individual Works of Literature,Types of Literature and Literary Movements


There are many Web sites that provide information and links for the study of literature and of specific authors. Be aware that literary criticism (as opposed to factual information) is relatively scarce on the Internet, compared to what has been published in books and scholarly journals. Do not confine your research to Web resources.

Use Internet sites cautiously; learn to evaluate them for reliability and always cite them appropriately (See Guides to Evaluating Internet Resources or the useful list of Web-evaluation links on the Literature and Composition Resources page at Frostburg State University).


The web site below is an example of a good free, online encyclopedia. This one specializes in providing information about English and American literature.  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature: An Encyclopedia in Eighteen Volumes  




The following Internet Resources are called portals, or subject directories. They are most often created and maintained by librarians and educators who have carefully evaluated thousands of web sites devoted to literature and other academic subjects and chosen the best. There are no articles at these two sites, but rather there are links to reliable web resources which do have articles and essays on specific subjects.


Literature in Latin America (LANIC, at U. Texas)

The Latin American Information  Center (LANIC) is justly famous for being a highly reliable online academic portal for all kinds of studies involving any of the Caribbean or Latin American countries and cultures. Besides the above link to their Literature resource sites (divided by country), go to the LANIC homepage to check out what other areas of study they offer resources on. You will notice that LANIC offers their directory in Spanish and Portugese as well as in English. LANIC.


La BitBlioteca  (en esp­añol)

This is a commercially-owned and maintained site located in Venezuela. It has a wide selection of links to literature resources in Spanish, by Latin American and Caribbean authors.


Pathfinder: Literary Criticism

The Internet Public Library’s (IPL) put together this Pathfinder. (A Pathfinder is a guide to good  resources on a particular subject. It helps researchers go down the right path.) IPL’s useful pathfinder will point you to more information on what is literary criticism and how to find it. Note this site’s other useful sections: Terms & Concepts; Author Information; Criticism & Summaries; Finding Books; Finding Articles; Writing the Paper.


Voice of the Shuttle

The premier Humanities site, offering comprehensive collections of resources in literature, linguistics, literary theory, and classical studies, as well as in related areas such as cultural studies, media studies, cyberculture, technology of writing, and gender studies. The "English Literature" page includes American literature, minority literature, and other world literatures written in English. Non-English literatures are included under "Literature (Other)" on the main subject page. There are many links to individual author sites under the appropriate literature heading. Includes useful "Highlights" of especially important sites for each subject section.


BUBL Link: Language, Literature and Culture and BUBL 800 Literature and 


The BUBL Information Service is an academically-oriented Internet resource from Great Britain, for college students and professors. It offers thousands of carefully chosen and annotated web sites on all academic subjects and is maintained at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland; it is supported with funding from the Government. The two hyperlinks above offer a wide variety of literature, author and criticism resources mostly in English, but there are also links to literature study in Spanish and other languages. Many more subjects are covered by this great academic Internet resource. Here is a link to the BUBL Information Service Home Page



More and more author biographies are appearing on the Internet (especially for contemporary authors). Most of the information is not compiled by a single person or organization. Instead, each author's page tends to be written by someone different, so the information available can vary tremendously from author to author. Some, but certainly not all "famous" authors can be found. Here are some “mega” search engines and subject directories that can help you find biographical information on authors you’re interested in, and about their published works.  



This reference search engine allows users to search the full text of several reference books, including a number of  biographical dictionaries and literary encyclopedias. Not every author will be listed, and some of the biographies are brief.


Authors Calendar. Index to Authors.

This resource is an extensive collection of biographies compiled by a public library in Finland. In English.


Nobel Prize Internet Archive

 If you just want to check out who won the Nobel Prize in Literature and need nothing more than birth and death dates plus a list of the author's works, then this site is for you.'s Literature Directory also links to a large number of authors. These are organized by genre (type of writing). Within a number of the categories, author web sites are indexed by the first letter of their last name. The following are a few of the categories on the Literature page,but check out the home page of this Literature Directory for many more subject categories.


Children’s Authors 

Young Adult Authors

Science Fiction Authors  

Historical Fiction Authors  

British Literature

American Literature’s Images Search Engine is a truly helpful innovation. If you want a picture or illustration on any subject, just type it in to this image search engine. (Use quotation marks before and after a name or a phrase in order to get better results. For example, “Virginia Woolf” or “printing press”.)

The great thing about this special search engine is that when you click on an image, you will also be given a link to the web page the image is actually found on. This feature helps researchers in a couple of ways: if you use a picture, photo, or any other kind of illustration in your paper, you must provide a complete citation for the illustration just as you would when you use a quotation. The link to the original web site is perfect for citations, and also because you can find web sites on your subject through image searches. For example, when you type in the name of any author, you will get many photos or illustrations of the author. Each of them will link you to a web site about the author.


Yahoo’s Literature Directory is also a very popular place to find a huge variety of web sites (some good, some not-so-good for use in a literary research paper). Notice among the many literary categories there are related subjects such as banned books sites, the history of books and printing, and discussion forums and chat sites for people interested in conversing about a particular author or genre (type of book).




If you need a definition of alliteration, Romanticism, irony, or other literary concepts, or a discussion of what “roses” or “the moon” symbolizes in poetry, here are some Internet and print resources that will help you. (The books are in the Hostos Library Reference collection):


A Dictionary of Literary Symbols.

Hostos Reference: Ref PN56.S9 F47 2000.


A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory.

Hostos Reference: Ref PN41.C83 1998.


A Handbook to Literature.

Hostos Reference: Ref PN41.H6 1992.


A Glossary of Rhetorical Terms with Examples






You are finding articles or essays on your research topic (Shakespeare’s imagery in one of his Sonnets, for example, or the theme of inter-generational love in Gloria Naylor’s novel, Mama Day). But how do you keep track of your sources of information and how do you write the paper itself? What should your paper look like? How do people use quotations from sources? How is a bibliography constructed? (Did you know that you should never forget to write down the complete bibliographic information for every article, essay, book or web site you find useful during your research? You will need this information when you type your bibliography or give credit for quotations.)

Below are some Internet and print resources for help in all aspects of writing your literary paper. (The earlier-cited IPL Literary Criticism Pathfinder also has links for help in writing literary papers.)


Documenting Sources: Table of Contents (Dartmouth U.)


Step-by-Step Guide for Research & Writing

A Guide for Writing Research Papers based on Modern Language Association Documentation


Easy Bibliography

This is an online form that guides you as you fill in the necessary bibliographic citation information for each of your sources (newspaper article, or essay in a journal, or encyclopedia article, book, etc.). This form helps you to create a bibliography in the MLA (Modern Language Association) formatting style.


            MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.

Hostos Reference: Ref LB2369.G53 1999.


A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations.

Hostos Reference: Ref LB2369.T8 1996.


Electronic Styles: A Handbook for Citing Electronic Information.

Hostos Reference:  Ref PN171.F56 L5 1996.