Ann Watkins and
Roberta Tipton
May 15, 2009
Learning Tools: Class Guides: Dana Class Guides:
Finding Criticisms of American Poetry

Sources for developing an overview of the poet's life and works

A. Literature Resource Center (Gale)
Several literary criticism series published by the Gale Research Company may be searched electronically using Literature Resource Center. The database offers full text access to biographies, bibliographies and critical analyses of more than 90,000 authors. Poets profiled in the Dictionary of Literary Biography volumes as well as critical studies from Poetry Criticism, Contemporary Literary Criticism, and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism are included.

B. Subject specific encyclopedias (print)
Dictionary of Literary Biography. These volumes are arranged on the reference shelves by subject rather than as a set in one location. Essays about each poet average in length from 10 to 20 pages and include a list of works and a brief bibliography of books and journal articles about the author. The volumes of interest to you follow:

  • Conte, Joseph, ed. American Poets Since World War II. Fourth Series. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1996. (Dictionary of Literary Biography; vol. 165) (REF PS 323.5 .A5 1996)
  • Conte, Joseph, ed. American Poets Since World War II. Fifth Series. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1996. (Dictionary of Literary
  • Biography; vol. 169) (REF PS 323.5 .A5 1996b)
  • Conte, Joseph, ed. American Poets Since World War II. Sixth Series. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1998. (Dictionary of Literary Biography; vol. 193) (REF PS 323.5 .A5 1998)
  • Greiner, Donald J., ed. American Poets Since World War II. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1980. (Dictionary of Literary Biography; vol. 5) (REF PS 323.5.A5 1980)
  • Gwynn, R. S., ed. American Poets Since World War II. Second Series. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1991. (Dictionary of Literary Biography; vol. 105) (REF PS 323.5 .A5 1991)
  • Gwynn, R. S., ed. American Poets Since World War II. Third Series. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1992. (Dictionary of Literary Biography; vol. 120) (REF PS 323.5.A5 1992)
  • Myerson, J., ed. The American Renaissance in New England. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1978. (Dictionary of Literary Biography; vol 1) (REF PS 243 .A54)
  • Quartermain, Peter, ed. American Poets, 1880-1945, Second Series. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1986. (Dictionary of Literary Biography; vol. 48) (REF PS 129 .A546 1986)
  • Quartermain, Peter, ed. American Poets, 1880-1945, Third Series. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1987. (Dictionary of Literary Biography; vol. 54) (REF PS 324 .A44 1987)
  • Rathburn, John W., and Grecu, Monica M., ed. American Literary Critics and Scholars, 1850-1880. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1988. (Dictionary of Literary Biography; vol. 64) (REF PS 74 .A45 1988)
  • Rood, Karen L., ed. American Writers in Paris, 1920-1939. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1980. (Dictionary of Literary Biography; vol. 4) (REF PS 129 .A57)

Literary criticism bibliographies

These volumes are used to identify journal articles and sometimes chapters in books that provide critical analyses of poetry. They are also helpful in surveying older articles. These tools are arranged alphabetically by the poet's last name. The poems are then listed alphabetically by title. The bibliographies are shelved separately in the Reference Room. The bookcase is on your left, just beyond the unabridged dictionary and the card catalog.

  • Alexander, Harriet S., compiler. American and British Poetry: A Guide to the Criticism, 1925-1978. Athens, OH: Swallow Press, 1984. (Lit Crit #43).
  • Kuntz, Joseph M. and Martinez, Nancy C. Poetry Explication: A Checklist of Interpretation Since 1925 of British and American Poets Past and Present. Boston, MA: G. K. Hall, 1980. (Lit Crit #41).
  • Leo, John R. Guide to American Poetry Explication, Volume 2: Modern and Contemporary. Boston, MA: G. K. Hall, 1989. (Lit Crit #42b).

Locating books


The online catalog of the Rutgers University Libraries, IRIS, gives students and faculty ready access to over 3 million print volumes in 22 Rutgers collections, plus multimedia and many full-text electronic journals. You may limit searches to DANA. Use the DELIVER/RECALL BOOK button to intralibrary loan books or use the REQUEST ARTICLE/OTHER to obtain articles and non-circulating books from other Rutgers libraries.

Here are some sample searches:

  • American Poetry -- SUBJECT begins with (This is a subject search.)

  • Whitman Walt -- AUTHOR (last name first) (This finds books by the author.)

  • Plath Sylvia-- SUBJECT begins with (Note that this is the author's name as a subject. That way you find items about the author.)

  • Nineteenth-Century Literature -- PERIODICAL TITLE begins with

Locating journal articles

Click on FIND ARTICLES, then click on Indexes and Databases. In literary indexes, try searching the exact title of the work as a subject. If that does not work, try the poet's name (last name first) as a subject term.

Literature Resource Center (Gale)
The Literature Resource Center contains full text articles about authors and literary classics from many countries plus Web links to even more information. You may search by author, title, or genre (type of literature).

Academic Search Premier (EBSCOhost)
This multidisciplinary database indexes periodicals in many different fields and on many different levels, from general interest to scholarly. Students find it a handy place to begin searches because it is partly full text and because it covers so many different subjects. However, you might find that you need something more. Rutgers offers you more than 180 periodical indexes and databases in many subject areas. Don't stop here if you need additional information.

Humanities Full Text
Humanities Full Text indexes core scholarly periodicals and specialized magazines in literature, history, film studies, mass media, philosophy, archaeology, music, folklore, art and photography, and journalism.

MLA International Bibliography (EBSCOhost)
The premier literary database from the Modern Language Association with coverage from 1963 to the present. International in scope; offers the broadest and deepest treatment of world literature in one database. Can be overwhelming because of its depth and complexity of source material.

Literature Online (LION)
"Searchable full-text of more than 350,000 literary works in the English language-poetry, drama, and prose; 175 full-text literary journals; the Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature; and reference sources including bibliographies, biographies, and dictionaries."--from the Rutgers website.

Arts and Humanities Citation Index
Included as part of Web of Science, provides keyword access to 1,130 leading arts and humanities journals including those discussing literature. After connecting to Web of Science, deselect the Science and Social Science citation indexes. Enter your poet's name in the Quick Search box. Try using the poet's name in two ways, one with the first name first in quotes and the second with first name last (e.g. "wallace stevens" or stevens, wallace).

Four Ways to Find Articles

  1. The article is linked to full text in your database.

  2. Click on Article Linker to search for the article in IRIS, the Rutgers catalog, automatically.

  3. Consult the list of Electronic Journals []

  4. Search IRIS, the Rutgers catalog, to find all owned copies of an article in a periodical in electronic, paper, or microform.
    • Go to the Rutgers University Libraries homepage.

    • Click on Search IRIS and Other Catalogs to find the periodicals owned by the Rutgers Libraries. Search PERIODICAL TITLE begins with; this title is often found in periodical indexes under "Source".
    • Look at the periodical record. (The online record for a given periodical title may be separate from the print record, but is usually found within the non-microform record as electronic access.)

Using the Web

Web resources offer you an introduction to authors and their works. However, the content is not sufficient to be the sole source for your research. The following three sites might prove useful to you.

  • Internet Public Library: Pathfinders: Literary Criticism offers an excellent introduction to the process of locating literary criticisms and using them as a basis for your own work. Suggestions cover resources in print and electronic formats. There are links to sites that provide definitions and basic information on literary forms, authors' biographies, and critical studies. The site is maintained by librarians and library students at the University of Michigan.

  • is an index to free web-based articles that describe aspects of American and English literature. The URLs go directly to articles which have been evaluated for scholarship by the web site's developer, a PhD prepared college English professor.
  • LitLinks has been developed by the well known publisher, Bedford/St. Martin's, to accompany their textbooks. LitLinks has annotated listings of web sites arranged alphabetically by author. There is also a brief biography.

Reference Librarians as a resource

Please don't hesitate to ask questions as you proceed with the research process. The librarians at the Reference Desk (973-353-5901) are ready to assist you.

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