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Literary Criticism

What is literary criticism?

The discussion of a literary work. Literary criticism analyzes and critiques a book, story, or poem and seeks to decipher meaning.

What is NOT literary criticism? 

  • An article about the life of the author (this is a biographical essay)
  • A summary of the plot (Literary criticism goes beyond a simple retelling of the story; it judges the quality of the original work, analyzes meanings, compares the work to others, and/or examines the authors ideas within the context of the times.)

Sources of Literary Criticism:

Databases Search Tips
Literature Criticism Online
Literature criticism, including short story, poetry & drama

If you are looking for criticism on a particular short story or poem, try the Named Work search.

You may choose to expand your search to Full Text for more results. However, a full text search will include many articles in which your story or poem may only be briefly mentioned.

Literature Resource Center
Author biographies, literary criticism

From the Advanced Search page, enter the name of your work AND check only the Literary Criticism box.

Many of your results may be articles taken from journals and republished in this database. If you have a question about how to cite your sources, click here. Still not sure? Ask a Librarian!

Gale Virtual Reference Library
All subjects; extensive collection of reference books

This database has some excellent criticism compiled from reference books; however, you will have to pick and choose to find the articles that are truly literary critiques.

Look for clues: From what book does the article come? When you scan the article do you see words like "themes," "style," and perhaps even "criticism." If in doubt, ask your instructor or a librarian.

Humanities and social sciences journal articles
For the most part, you will find good literary criticism in this database. Again, just be savvy when searching and look for clues that you have found a critical article. Be sure that it is not a biography of the author or simply a summary of the plot.

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