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Queen's University Library

English Language and Literature: Undergraduate Resources

The listing below indicates resources most often used by undergraduate researchers in English. For a fuller list of resources, see the complete English Resources by Subject (the headings of which appear in the blue box to the left).



  • To find books, use QCAT Basic Search:
  • For advice on search methods, see Books
  • For titles you cannot find in Queen’s Libraries, check out:

Electronic texts (etexts) (of primary sources)

  • Literature Online (LION)
    Online from 1892-

Searchable database of more than 350,000 works of English and American poetry, drama, and prose. Also indexes criticism from The Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL) and MLA International Bibliography (MLAIB), and includes the full text of 104 specialist literature journals.

Provides e-text editions of public domain novels and historical documents.

  • Early English Books Online
    Online (1475-1700)

From the first book published in English through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare, contains about 100,000 of over 125,000 titles listed in Pollard & Redgrave's Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640), Wing's Short-Title Catalogue (1641-1700), the Thomason Tracts (1640-1661) collection, and the Early English Books Tract Supplement.

  • Eighteenth Century Collections Online
    Online (1701-1800)

Digital reproductions of nearly 150,000 English-language titles and editions published during the eighteenth century and representing every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in the United Kingdom, along with thousands of important works from the Americas.

PEP Web provides access to the PEP Web archive, which contains both books and journal articles. The book archive includes the full text of the Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Freud's letters to his major collaborators and the full text of the major works by Wilfred Bion, Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott along with other major psychoanalytic authors. The journals in the archive presently include the full text many premier English-language journals in psychoanalysis.

  • Check out similar resources and short-title catalogs (listing titles of historical works throughout history) at Primary Sources

Concordances and Collected Quotations

A concordance is a comprehensive index of the words used in a given text or set of texts. It is useful for locating a passage that you cannot otherwise find, for discovering similar passages, or for establishing the frequency with which particular words are used.

You can find concordances to the Bible, to major poets, and even to some prose works. For instance:

  • James Strong et al. New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. (1984)
    REF BS425.S8 1984

For other examples and advice on finding specific concordances, check out Concordances

Collections of famous quotations, such as Bartlett's, also function as concordances.

  • Barlett's Familiar Quotations
    REF PN6081.B2 1968

Provides keyword concordance and author indexes to quotations from literary works, sacred writing and other sources worldwide.

  • Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
    REF PN6080.O95 1996t

Search for familiar quotations in English using keyword, exact phrase, author, and Boolean and pattern searches.

For others,

  • go to QCAT and use a “title” search on “Quotations” or “Book of Quotations”; or
  • check out Quotations


  • The Oxford English Dictionary
    REF PE1625.O87 1989t

The OED, as it is known, is the most comprehensive and authoritative dictionary of the English language. Besides providing definitions and pronunciations, it provides quotations to illustrate the history of usage, beginning with the earliest known usage of each word.

[need some instruction on how to use it—esp. the advanced search, where they can look up how many words are introduced into the language by a particular work or author, etc.]

Glossaries of Literary, Critical, and Rhetorical Terms

  • Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms
    Online (based on 2004 print edition)
    REF PN41.C67 2001
  • Abrams, M. H. Glossary of Literary Terms
    REF PN41.A184 2005
  • The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. 2nd ed.
    REF PN44.5 .M86 2003
  • Lentricchia, Frank & Thomas McLaughlin., eds. Critical Terms for Literary Study.
    PN81.C84 1995.
  • Lanham, Richard. A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms
    REF PE1445.A2 L3 1991
  • Check out other dictionaries and glossaries at Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

Genre Guides

“Genre” is the French word for “type” or “kind.” In literary studies the term refers to traditional classifications, such as drama, novel, or lyric, or to sub-classifications; thus comedy and tragedy are genres or sub-genres within the larger genre of drama.

For studies of the concept of genre, see:

  • Dubrow, Heather. Genre
    PN45.5.D8 1982

Lucid overview of genre theory with references to further studies.

  • Rosmarin, Adena. The Power of Genre
    PN45.5.R67 1985

This “pragmatic” theory of genre questions whether genre classifications can be correct in any absolute sense and stresses the explanatory power of mis-classifications. Examples emphasize dramatic monologue.

For studies of particular genres, see:

  • Drama
  • Prose Fiction
  • Poetry
  • The Critical Idiom” series, published by Methuen between 1969 and 1985, includes useful introductory guides to specific literary genres, modes, and forms. Titles in the series include (but are not limited to) “The Absurd,” “Allegory,” “Ballad,” “Biography,” “Comedy,” “Comedy of Manners,” “Drama,” “Dramatic Monologue,” “Epic,” “Farce,” “Genre,” “Lyric,” “Melodrama,” “Ode,” “Pastoral,” “Picaresque,” “Realism,” “Romance,” “Satire,” “Short Story,” “Sonnet,” “Tragedy,” “Tragicomedy.” To find specific titles in this series through QCAT, type “critical idiom” and search by “series/uniform title.”
  • The similar “New Accents” series, also published by Methuen between 1977 and 1987, includes further titles such as “Fantasy,” “Literature and Propaganda,” “Metafiction,” “Narrative Fiction,” “Science Fiction.” To find specific titles in this series through QCAT, type “new accents” and search by “series/uniform title.”

Encyclopedias,Companions, and Guides

1. General Encyclopedias and Reference Works

  • New Encyclopædia Britannica
    Online (most recent)
    REF AE5.E363 Lederman Law Library (15th ed., 2003)
    REF AE5.E363 Stauffer Library (15th ed., 1997)

A general encyclopedia, so don't expect extensive coverage or entries on more obscure authors. However, it does provide good overview information on major authors, and articles may give information on where to find the more influential criticism.

  • Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed. (1911)
    REF AE5.E56

The 11th ed. (1911) is the last edition to offer articles in such depth. With articles by writers such as T.H. Huxley, William Morris, Leslie Stephen, A.C. Swinburne, and A.N. White­head, it is especially useful to humanities students and for topics concerning the nineteenth century or in which nineteenth-century scholar­ship was strong. The online version is a work in progress.

For dictionaries, thesauruses, quotations, literary terms, and companions to literature. ORO contains the full text of more than 100 dictionary, language and subject reference books. Some of the resources most useful to literary study include The Concise Oxford Dictionary, The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, The Dictionary of Art, The Oxford Companion to British Literature, The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, The Oxford Companion to American Literature.

2. Literary Companions, Handbooks, and Guides

  • The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature
    Online (2003, 2nd edition)
    REF PR19.D732 1996t
  • Oxford Companion to English Literature
    REF PR19.O94 2000
  • The Harper Handbook to Literature
    REF PN41.F75 1985
  • Preminger, Alex and T.V.F. Brogan, eds. The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics.
    REF PN1021 .N39 1993
  • For others, check out Literature Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

3. Other Specialized Companions, Encyclopedias, Guides, etc.

  • For Guides to Mythology, Philosophy, or History, see Other Disciplines
  • To find a more specialized companion to an author or topic, go to QCAT and use a “keyword” search using the structure <Subject and (encyclopedia or companion or guide)>, e.g.:

Wordsworth and (encyclopedia or companion or guide)

Blues and (encyclopedia or companion or guide)

“English Drama” and (encyclopedia or companion or guide)

Literary History, History of Criticism, and Literary Theory

1. Literary History

Literary histories aim to offer well informed and reasonably objective overviews, but they are usually more detailed and interpretive than encyclopedias. They are useful for learning about literary developments over time. If you wonder what writers were influential in a given period or how and when realistic fiction became popular, of if you just want to place a work in the context of a literary movement or period, a literary history may be your most useful resource.

Electronic version of the 1907-1921 edition of the Cambridge History of English and American Literature.

  • A Literary History of England
    REF PR83.B3 1967

The best single-volume history of English literature.

For other literary histories,

  • Check out Literary Histories; or
  • Use a keyword search, e.g., for “(literature or literary) and history and (united and states)” in QCAT.

2. History of Criticism

It can be useful to know how literature was read and evaluated by contemporaries—this may shed light, for instance, on the degree to which a work was either conventional or original or on why an author revised a work or took a new direction in a subsequent work. There are many resources to help you learn about reception. For instance,

  • “Critical Heritage” volumes reprint reviews and other documents reflecting the reception of major authors as diverse as Jonson, Byron, Gaskell, and Nabokov. Queen’s Library has 116 volumes in this series. For a complete listing, do a "Series/Uniform Title" search in QCAT for “critical heritage”; for a particular volume, use a keyword search with “critical and heritage and [name].”
  • Other reprint series have done similar work for periods or movements: for instance, The Romantics Reviewed consists of nine volumes of photo-facsimile reprints of reviews, PR590 .R43.

For more general history of criticism, see

The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism
REF PN86.C27 1989

Intended as a history of Western literary theory and criticism from classical antiquity to the present. Each volume of the 9 volume set (volume 2 and 6 are forthcoming) consists of separately authored essays on major theorists, groups, movements, schools, periods, and genres, and concludes with a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

For further suggestions, check out History of Criticism.

3. Literary Theory

There are many reference works (i.e. dictionaries, encyclopedias, histories) dealing with literary theory in the Reference section of the Library between PN44 and PN86. A good starting point is:

  • Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism.
    REF Z6514.C97 J64 1994
    Online (2nd ed. 2005)

Here are some more useful titles:

  • A Glossary of Contemporary Literary Theory
    REF PN44.5.H37 2000
  • The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism
    REF PN81.C656 1995t
  • Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory: Approaches, Scholars, Terms
    REF PN81.E54 1993t
  • The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism
    REF PN86.C27 1989
  • Lentricchia, Frank & Thomas McLaughlin., eds. Critical Terms for Literary Study.
    PN81.C84 1995.
  • Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. 2nd ed.
    PN81.B367 2002
  • Bressler, Charles E. Literary Criticism : An Introduction to Theory and Practice. 2nd ed.
    PN81.B666 1999
  • For further guidance, check out Literary Theory


  • To find book-length biographies in Stauffer, use a subject-search by the author’s name in QCAT. For further advice, see Biographies
  • For briefer biographies of British and Commonwealth citizens, see:
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
REF DA28.O95 2004

Revised edition of the Dictionary of National Biography. A definitive resource for British and Commonwealth biography, comprising 50,000 biographies written by over 10,000 contributors. Print version covers from the earliest times to the year 2000 (60 volumes). Online version covers from earliest times to 2001.

  • For other national biographies of the same type, check out Biographies

Scholarly Articles

Articles are smaller in scope than books and can therefore focus on more particular aspects of a given topic. Since articles are faster to produce and publish, the most up-to-date research often appears in this form. Many are now available on-line, making them attractive also in terms of convenience. Articles in scholarly journals are peer-reviewed—that is to say, they have gone through an anonymous formal vetting and editing process—whereas articles in magazines or newspapers are accepted at the discretion of a single editor. In general, the most nuanced and thoroughly researched articles on literary topics are found in scholarly journals: these are what you should most often cite in research essays in the English Department.

Tip: Articles are not listed in QCAT. You must use an index to find articles in scholarly journals and magazines. Then, search for the journal or magazine in QCAT.

  • MLA Online from 1926-
    REF PB6.M61 (1921-1992)

Published by the Modern Language Association, this is the standard bibliography for scholarly writing on literature, linguistics, drama, folklore, etc. Indexes over 4,000 international journals, as well as monographs, dissertations, and other publications.

Other National Literatures in English

To find out about other (i.e., non-British) National Literatures in English, see:


Last Updated: 23 September 2015