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British & American Literature

Literary Criticism or Book Review?

Although many book reviews are written by scholars, book reviews are generally not considered scholarly sources. This is because they are often brief discussions or overviews of a work and not in depth analysis. 

  • A book review can provide important information about a book’s style, plot, and quality and about the author’s credentials. A review will also reflect contemporary critical opinion of a book and will often give comparisons to related titles. Most book reviews will not include the more in-depth analysis found in literary criticism.
  • Literary criticism involves in depth analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of literary work(s). Will include extensive bibliography and engagement with other secondary and scholarly sources.  

Finding Literary Criticism (scholarly articles)

The library subscribes to several databases that specialize in literary criticism. In them  you can find scholarly articles, reviews, books chapters, dissertations, and much more. The most important ones are:

Pro tip: Consider searching interdisciplinary (e.g., JSTOR, Google Scholar, Academic Search Premier) or history databases to find additional sources relevant to your literary research.  

Finding Literary Criticism (in books)

The library has a lot of books that contain literary criticism. The benefit of a book that contains literary criticism is that you can find anthologies with perspectives from different scholars on a given work or author and you can also find criticism from one author but on a variety of themes or issues relevant to a work or author.  

To find books about a particular author or literary work, subject searching in Library Search will provide you with more focused results (than doing a basic keyword search). A subject search allows you to search just the subject headings that have been assigned to a book that describes what it is about. 

To do a subject search you'll need 2 things:

  1. add su: to the beginning of a search (with no space after the colon and your first word)
  2. Library of Congress Subject heading terminology. Sometimes you can guess the language used by the Library of Congress and sometimes it's not as obvious as you'd think. 

Here are a few examples of subject searches for literary criticism in Library Search using Library of Congress subject terminology and the su: prefix: 

Finding Book Reviews

Books are generally reviewed near the date of publication or within the first two years after publication. To locate a book review, you'll need to know the author and title of the book, and sometimes the year of publication.

Keep in mind that the database MLA Bibliography does not include book reviews. Use these databases instead: