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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


Searching Destiny for Literary Criticism


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 

Another Option

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

Interrogating Text

Literature Guides

Literature guides can help you with themes, and character details, they should not take the place of reading the book. They are organized by title of work.

Bibliomania / Study Guides  Read for biographical information, themes, background.
CliffNotes:Literature Notes  Look for themes, biographical information
LitCharts   Pay site but you can get the initial summaries for free.

Literature Network : Online classic literature, poems, quotes. Essays & Summaries.

Luminarium : Anthology of English Literature
Shmoop: Literature  Look for themes, analysis information.

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.

Writing Literary Criticism - Helpful Sites