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Literary Criticism for Students (and anyone else)

A guide to researching literary criticism online and at the library

Online Literary Collections

BPL Catalogs & More

Boston Public Library Catalogs:

The Boston Public Library has an extensive collection of books and media, both circulating and non-circulating, that can help you write your paper.  Use our catalogs to:

  • Find material by your author, about your author and his work, or on your topic.
  • Determine location and availability of the material.
  • Request material and have it delivered to a branch near you (5-7 days).

Not in our catalogs?:

  • Check our online literary collections to see if they have the material you need.
  • Access WorldCat, the world's largest library network, to locate items, and check for their location in libraries close to you.
  • Submit an Interlibrary Loan request for material not in the Boston Public Library's collection.

Using the BPL Online Catalog

  • Type the title of your book, the author, or keywords into the search box.
  • The catalog default is keyword, but you can restrict your results by clicking on the dropdown menu next to the search box and choosing to search by title, author, subject, etc.  Choose subject when searching for books about an author.
  • When searching by author as subject, combining the title of the book or subdivision headings such Criticism and interpretation, Knowledge, Political and social views, or Psychology can further narrow the search.

You can limit your search results by Location, Format, Titles You Can Borrow and Take Home, Language, Topic, etc. by using the clickable headings and dropdown menus on the left side of the screen.

Your search has turned up the perfect title. What now?

  • Take down the call number of the book.
  • If additional resources are required, click on the subect headings attached to the record to locate additional titles.
  • Use the call numbers of the books found to locate the items on shelf.
  • Browse the area for other relevant titles.

If our main catalog is experiencing problems, we also have our alternate catalog available to aid you in your searching.

Using Library of Congress Subject Headings In Your Search

When books are cataloged, Library of Congress subject headings are assigned to facilitate subject searching. You can search the catalog by subject to find criticism about: an author's work, literary forms such as poetry, literary movements, the literature of a country, a category of author, or on a particular topic as portrayed in literature.  Below are some examples of subject headings and subject heading subdivisions:

Browse by Library of Congress Classification Number

Library of Congress classification numbers for the literatures of different countries:

  • Classical Literature - PA3000-3049
  • Greek Literature - PA3050-4505
  • Roman Literature - PA6000-6971
  • Chinese Literature - PL2250-3208
  • African Literature - PL8009.5 - 8014
  • French Literature - PQ1 - 3999
  • Italian Literature - PQ4001-5999
  • Spanish Literature - PQ6001-8929
  • English Literature - PR1-9680
  • American Literature - PS1-3576
  • German Literature - PT1 - 4897
  • Literature (General) - PN1 - 6790