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Literatures in English Research Guide

The following is intended as a general guide to research in literature.

Sources Set the Stakes

Especially if you're working with a lesser-known text, it can be difficult to identify scholarly sources that help frame your argument. It can help to think about the purpose that different kinds of sources might serve in your paper. (This is true of research on better-known texts as well, but it's particularly apparent when you hit a research void.) Each library tool is designed to help you easily find and evaluate a particular type of resource, and each type of resource, when used well, helps illuminate a different aspect of your argument. Together, these sources -- and your use of them -- establish the stakes of your argument in different contexts.

The chart below offers some examples of how you might approach research on a lesser-known text and the role different library resources play at each stage.

This flow-chart has four headings and related resources: 1. relationship to existing literary circles & historical context a. background info: library reference sources and Wikipedia b. find mentions of obscure texts or authors in JSTOR 2. adjacent scholarly conversations a. find mentions of obscure texts or authors in JSTOR b. what theoretical lenses might apply here? what scholarly key terms are at stake? conduct keyword search in MLA International Bibliography c. books can provide an overview of current scholarship 3. adjacent literary & historical  conventions a. books can provide an overview of current scholarship b. reviews can establish reception history; history of literary genre can establish the stakes; primary sources can establish historical context 4. relationship to genre a. reviews can establish reception history; history of literary genre can establish the stakes; primary sources can establish historical context b. how does this text disrupt genre? what scholarly reframing needs to be done to explain these disruptions?

Recommended Databases

Recommended Subject Headings

When you're searching for books in OneSearch, it can be helpful to use subject headings to identify scholarship that broadly conceptualizes your topic.

There are a lot of subject headings relating to medical narratives in American literature. This is just a small sample:

  • Abortion in literature
  • AIDS (Disease) in literature
  • Body image in literature
  • Disability Studies
  • Diseases in literature
  • Ethnic groups in literature
  • Feminism -- United States
  • Gay liberation movement -- United States
  • Gay rights -- United States
  • Gender identity in literature
  • Health in literature
  • Homosexuality in literature
  • Human body in literature
  • Literature and medicine
  • Marriage in literature
  • Medical fiction, American -- History and criticism
  • Medicine in literature
  • Mental Illness in literature
  • Mind and body in literature
  • Overweight persons
  • People with disabilities
  • People with disabilities -- Civil Rights
  • People with disabilities in literature
  • People with disabilities -- Medical care -- United States
  • Sex in literature
  • Sick in literature

This is only a partial list. You can identify additional subject headings during your research by consulting the subject headings listed in the Details section of the book description in OneSearch. More specific subject headings will lead to fewer books, and more general subject headings will lead to more books.

Recommended Books