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Literary Criticism: Home

Contains guidelines and resources for writing literary criticism.


Literary Criticism  
Literary criticism is the evaluation, analysis, description, or interpretation of literary works. It is usually in the form of a critical essay, but in-depth book reviews can sometimes be considered literary criticism. 
Criticism may examine a particular literary work, or may look at an author's writings as a whole. (ipl2)

Why study literary criticism? 
Authors present us with work that can have multiple meanings, expecting us to consider thoughtfully - to interpret. Writers and critics build on each others' understanding of a work of literature in a kind of dialog. Good criticism can help us develop a better understanding of a work. In addition, it can help us develop a point of view about a work, whether or not we agree with the opinions of the critic.

When looking at criticism, check for:

  • Credentials of the writer
  • Quality of the sources--journals, books, Websites

Opinions supported by evidence, relating to:

  • Characterization
  • Voice
  • Style
  • Theme
  • Setting
  • Technical qualities of the writing (artistry, style, use of language)
  • Interpretation
  • Complex ideas and problems
  • Relationship of work to the time, or social, historical, or political trends

When looking for criticism, AVOID:

  • Plot summaries, SparkNotes, Cliff's Notes, etc.
  • Casual posts on discussion groups
  • The works of other students
  • Author biography


Modern Literary Theory

  Introduction to Modern Literary Theory

Dr. Kristi Siegel - Mount Mary College, WI

Key terms, references and suggested links for further information to critical and theoretical approaches.

Interrogating Text


                                 Interrogating Text : Six Reading Habits to Develop  (Harvard Library)

Searching Destiny for Literary Criticism


                  Destiny OPAC

Critical texts can be found via the online catalog by doing an advanced search with the author's last name and the word criticism - searching for the author as subject (last name, first name): 
Subject :  Hemingway, Ernest 

Subject :  criticism

One of the results you will get is the following :

Ernest Hemingway's A farewell to arms /edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom.  (Series: Bloom's notes)
Call #: 813 Ern 


More Search Options

A second option is to use the advanced search in the library catalog and search by era, literature, and criticism as a "subject" as noted below:

Subject :  english literature

Subject :  18th century

Subject :  criticism

The third option is to search the title of the work as "keyword" and criticism as a "subject." This will pick up the title of the work in an anthology of critical essays.

Keyword :  1984                  Subject :  criticism

Gale Series Titles

    Located In the Reference Section - Call numbers REF 800


CLC - Contemporary Literary Criticism
CMLC - Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism
DLB - Dictionary of Literary Biography
LC - Literary Criticism 1400- 1800
NCLC - Nineteenth Century Literary Criticism
PC - Poetry Criticism
SSC - Short Story Criticism
TCLC - Twentieth Century Literary Criticism

Other series: 

Drama for Students

Epics for Students

Literary Movements for Students

Novels for Students

Poetry for Students
Short Stories for Students

Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL)

Click on on GVRL logo to get to the eBooks.


Critical Overview of Poetry Series

Gale Contextual Encyclopedia of American Literature

Gale Contextual Encyclopedia of World Literature

Literature and Its Times

Literary Movements for Students

Literary Themes for Students

Poetry and Short Stories for Students Series

Shakespeare for Students

Meet Your LIbrarian

Joann Absi's picture
Joann Absi
Wilmington, NC 28412
910 790-2360 ext 242
Website / Blog Page

Ebsco Literary Reference Center

Literary Reference Center Tutorial

Academic Search Complete


Scholarly, peer-reviewed full-text journal articles.

New Hanover County Public Library Resources

The Public Library has several helpful databases that will relate to your literary criticism research.

Located in Literature & The Arts

Literature Resource CenterLiterature Resource Center's critical, biographical and contextual content supports interdisciplinary approaches, information literacy and the development of critical-thinking skills. Full-text articles from scholarly journals and literary magazines are combined with critical essays, work and topic overviews, full-text works, biographies, and more to provide a wealth of information on authors, their works, and literary movements. Content covers all genres and disciplines, all time periods and all parts of the world.

Scribner Writers Online : Provides criticism on American and British writers and Latin American and European writers.

Twayne's Authors Online : Series of literary criticism, offers in-depth introductions to the lives and works of writers, the history and influence of literary movements, and the development of literary genres.

Located in Biography, History & Geneology

Biography in Context : Delivers outstanding research support with nearly a million biographical entries spanning history and geography. 

Literature Guides

Literature guides can help you with themes, and character details, they should not take the place of reading the book.

CliffNotes:Literature Notes
Shmoop: Literature