Ann Watkins
May 15, 2009
Learning Tools: Class Guides: Dana Class Guides:
Finding Criticisms of Poetry by Arnold, Donne, and Marvell

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

A. General encyclopedias
Encyclopedia Americana REF AE5 .E333
Encylopedia Britannica REF AE5 .E363

B. Subject specific encyclopedias
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:
  • Fredeman, William E., ed. Victorian poets before 1850. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1984. (Dictionary of Literary Biography ; vol. 32) REF PR 591 .V53 1984 (Arnold)
  • Hester, M. Thomas, ed. Seventeenth-century British nondramatic poets. First series. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1992. (Dictionary of Literary Biography ; vol. 121) REF PR 541 .S47 1992 (Donne)
  • Hester, M. Thomas, ed. Seventeenth-century British nondramatic poets. Third series. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1993. (Dictionary of Literary Biography ; vol. 131) REF PR 541.S49 1993 (Marvell)
  • Lein, Clayton, D., ed. British prose writers of the early seventeenth-century. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1995. (Dictionary of Literary Biography ; vol. 131) REF PR 769 .B75 1995 (Donne)
  • Thesing, William B., ed. Victorian prose writers after 1867. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1987. (Dictionary of Literary Biography ; vol. 57) REF PR 781 .V52 1987 (Arnold)

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.

Locating Books

Use the subject portion of Rutgers University Libraries' library catalog, or Dana Library's card catalog to find books about the poets. The card catalog contains a complete record of Dana Library's holdings through 1988. IRIS includes 50% of the items acquired by Dana prior to 1985. From 1985 to the present, Dana Library's entire holdings are part of the Web-based catalog. The books in other Rutgers University Libraries are also listed in IRIS.
When searching for books in the subject catalog, look for the subheadings, "Criticism and interpretation," and "Bibliography." The bibliographies will lead you to the locations of relevant articles. They usually incorporate some form of subject access. Books cataloged with the subheading, "Criticism and interpretation," usually include analytical essays by one or more authors.

Locating Journal Articles

There are two journal indexes that are important in finding critical studies in literature.
  • Humanities Index examines the content of journal titles in literature as well as history, philosophy, religion, and the arts. It is available in two formats, print and electronic. The electronic version is an Ovid database and may be accessed through the Libraries homepage on the Web. It covers the years 1984 to the present. In the print format, coverage includes 1974 to 1995. The index volumes may be found on Index Table B a (v. 12 - v.22, 1985-1995) and in the reference stacks at REF AI3 .R472 (v. 1 - 11, 1974-1985).
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) Bibliography focuses on articles about literature. It is also available in two formats, print and electronic. The electronic version is also an Ovid database and it incorporates items from 1963 to the present. These items may be chapters in books as well as journal articles and they include foreign language materials. The print version is kept on Index Table B (1984-1993) and in the reference stacks at REF Z7006 .M64 (1926-1983).
In either index, try searching on the poet's name as a subject term. In the electronic version of MLA Bibliography, you might also experiment with searching on the title of the work as a subject.
After you have identified appropriate journal articles, log on to the library catalog and search "PERIODICAL TITLE begins with" for the location of the journal holdings. If Dana Library owns the title for the time the article was published, you are ready to go to the Lower Level and find the journal volume on the shelf.

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 are ready to assist you. I am also available via phone: Ann Watkins (973) 353-3809 or email:

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