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Research Guide: Contemporary American Literature

Finding Books

Using Catalogs: Use the WSU online catalog to find location and availability of books and other media in Stewart Library. Circulating books are found in the General Collection under the call numbers "PS1" and "PN1." There are also related videos and other media in the Media collection on the lower level.

Use World Cat to find books in other libraries. Use Interlibrary Loan  to order materials not owned by Stewart Library. For home or off campus access please use your WSU Login.

Subject Headings: Use the term "Criticism" and the name of an author or title in the catalog to find books analyzing specific author's works. For example: enter  criticism Frost as a general keyword search in the catalog. Other useful subject headings may include: Literature - History and Criticism, Rhetoric, Deconstruction, Feminist Criticism, Formalism, and  Literary Analysis.

Electronic Books: 

  • NetLibrary  - A searchable collection of electronic books on many subjects.

From Bookstores: Order books online from Amazon Books orBarnes and Noble.

Interlibrary Loan: If we do not own a particular book or article you need, we will borrow it for you from another library through Interlibrary Loan.

Reference Resources

Reference resources include encyclopedias, dictionaries and other materials you use to "refer" to. Use these resources for background information on a topic. For home or off campus access please use your WSU Login.


  • Literature Resource Center (includes Contemporary Authors, Dictionary of Literary Biography and other materials) -  Literature Resource Center provides fulltext access to biographies, bibliographies and critical analysis of over 90,000 authors from every age and literary discipline. Search by Author Name, Title, Genre, Literary Movement or Literary Themes. A great place to start any literature research project or paper.
  • Oxford English Dictionary
  • Academy of American Poets - Encyclopedia of poetry and poets with exhibits and audio files.
  • Lit Finder - Full text of over 70,000 poems. 750,000 poems are indexed from all time periods. Also access stories, essays, speeches and plays.


Listed below are some selected examples. Use the catalog or browse the shelves to see many more reference books on literature and literary criticism.

  • American Writers (Supplement)- Stewart Library, REFERENCE PS129.A55
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism - Stewart Library, REFERENCE PN813.C6
  • The Oxford Companion to African American Literature - Stewart library, REFERENCE PS153.N5 O96 1977


There are several good sources for book reviews they include:

Academic Search Premier - Full text to over 4000 magazines and journals

Books in Print with Reviews  - Some full text reviews. - search for a book by author or title, scroll down to see both editorial reviews and review excerpts from major publications and customer reviews from interested readers

Atlantic Monthly - Search and view full text of back issues of The Atlantic Monthly that have appeared on the Web. From November, 1995, to the present.

The New York Times Book Reviews - Search the books archive for full text book reviews and news since 1996.

The New York Review of Books - over 20 full text reviews and article from each issue are available online. Also includes the complete table of contents for each issue and an excellent searchable archive. 

The article databases listed below can also be used to find book reviews and critical articles.


Finding Articles


To find articles on your topic you need to use article databases, also known as periodical indexes. Each database usually covers a group of subject related journals. Search by subject or keyword in these indexes. Most indexes are available from off campus. 

  • MLA - MLA International Bibliography is usually the best index for researching literature and literary criticism topics. MLA provides article reference for articles in literature, languages, linguistics, and folklore back to 1963. Updated ten times per year.
  • Arts & Humanities Search - Citations from many of the world's leading arts and humanities journals. 1980 - present, updates weekly. 
  • Academic Search Elite - Provides some full text articles in over a thousand magazines and journals  
  • IIPA -- International Index to Performing Arts - Citations, abstracts and some full-text articles on all aspects of the performing arts including plays and playwrights.
  • JSTOR -  A group of full-text journals in many subjects, including literature. Dates of coverage vary.
  • LexisNexis Academic  - Full-text coverage of many newspapers from across the US and around the world.  
  • Masterplots - 12,000 entries covering world literature, ancient to modern day. Plot summaries, character profiles and author biographies. In Stewart Library use Ref Station #33. Ask for CD at Reference Desk. 


  • Many other newspapers and broadcast news services are available on the Web.


Current magazines and journals on literature and literary criticism can be browsed in the Current Periodicals Area, including:

  • Critique  PN1. C934
  • Contemporary Literature PN1.C761
  • American Literature PS1 .A512
  • Latin American Literary Review PS1. L357
  • Quarterly West PS1. Q974
  • Modern Fiction Studies PS1. M689
  • Mosaic PN 1.M894

Bound volumes of older issues are found upstairs in the periodicals stacks.


Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), 1950, by Jackson Pollock

Web Resources

Here are some WWW sites to get you started. Most of these will take you to other links, so explore!




  • Literary Kicks - Web site devoted to the Beats.
  • The Writers Guild of America - The official Web site of the Writers Guild of America, with information on screen writing for film, television, and  interactive projects. It includes writing tips, research links, and script pages.
  • Literary Awards - Links to many literary awards from

Research Tips

The illustration on this page is the painting Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), 1950, by Jackson Pollock, (American, 1912-1956), ©1999 Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Updated December 29, 2008 .
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Stewart Library - Weber State University - Ogden, Utah 84408. (801) 626-6403 - Copyright © 2008 ALL Rights Reserved