Literature Guides

The following works cover two or more national literatures. Guides devoted to a single national literature or period appear in appropriate sections under the heading “Guides to Reference Works.”

For a discussion of 71 literary reference works that need to be written or revised, see James L. Harner, “Literary Reference Works: Some Desiderata,” Scholarly Publishing 21.3 (1990): 171–83.


Baker, Nancy L., and Nancy Huling. A Research Guide for Undergraduate Students: English and American Literature. 6th ed. New York: MLA, 2006. 96 pp. PR56.B34 820.72.

An introduction for undergraduate students to the use of electronic and print versions of major bibliographies of bibliographies, bibliographies and indexes of criticism, book review indexes, text archives, biographical dictionaries, concordances and quotation indexes, dictionaries, and literary encyclopedias. Particularly noteworthy is the detailed explanation of how to search an OPAC. The thorough explanations are accompanied by screen shots and reproductions of entries from the reference works. An appendix provides a highly selective, descriptively annotated bibliography of reference sources, including several not discussed in the text. Sound selection and clear, helpful explanations make this an ideal guide for introducing undergraduate English majors to library research.


Bateson, F. W., and Harrison T. Meserole. A Guide to English and American Literature. 3rd ed. London: Longman, 1976. 334 pp. Z2011.B32 [PR83] 016.82.

An evaluative survey of the best editions and criticism of important authors as well as the reference works, literary histories, anthologies, and special studies essential to the study of a period. In addition, there are chapters on general works, modern literary criticism, and research techniques, as well as “interchapters” offering historical perspectives on the medieval, Renaissance, Augustan, and Romantic periods. Readers will disagree with some of the frequently trenchant evaluations; many authors are treated more fully elsewhere; and all sections are outdated; but no single work encompasses so much, so successfully, and so conveniently. Literature scholars sorely need a new edition. Review: Rodney L. Smith, Seventeenth-Century News 36.1 (1978): 23–24.

For recent works see Year’s Work in English Studies (G330), Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory (U6133), and American Literary Scholarship (Q3265). Reader’s Adviser (B70) offers broader, but far less discriminating, coverage.


Marcuse, Michael J. A Reference Guide for English Studies. Berkeley: U of California P, 1990. 790 pp. PR56.M37 016.82′09.

A selective guide to reference works (current through 1985 but with some publications as late as 1989) important to the study of the English language and literatures in English. Entries are organized in 24 variously classified divisions for general reference works; libraries; retrospective and current national bibliographies; guides to serial publications; miscellaneous topics (including dissertations, microforms, reviews, indexes to anonymous and pseudonymous works, and films); historical sources; biography and biographical references; archives and manuscripts; language, linguistics, and philology; literary materials and contexts (including folklore, mythology, the Bible, proverbs, quotations, and symbols); literature (a miscellany including sections for literary dictionaries, various foreign literatures, children’s literature, and women and literature); English literature (with sections for general works as well as various new literatures in English); medieval literature; Renaissance and early seventeenth century; Restoration and eighteenth century; nineteenth century; twentieth century; American literature; poetry and versification; theater, drama, and film; prose and prose fiction; literary theory and criticism, rhetoric, and composition; bibliography; and the profession of English (including sections on research guides, scholarly writing and publishing, computers, and careers). Within a typical section, guides and reviews of research appear first, then bibliographies, and then other reference works; many sections also include unannotated lists of journals and frequently recommended studies. Reference sources are fully annotated, usually with descriptions of a work’s history, purpose, scope, and organization; comments on uses; a judicious evaluation; and references to related works, many of which are not entered separately. Three indexes: persons; titles; subjects (with works appearing in the lists of recommended studies indexed in only the last). Given the principles determining placement of a work and the sometimes confusing organization, the subject index offers the best access to contents. Thorough in its annotations, usually judicious in selection and evaluation, and covering some non-English language works, Reference Guide for English Studies is a valuable complement to the present Literary Research Guide and a trustworthy companion for the novice as well as for the advanced scholar. Users must remember that Marcuse is current only through 1985 and thus cites many superseded editions or works and describes editorial policies or taxonomies that are now quite different.

For a comparison of the first edition of this Literary Research Guide and Marcuse see the review by Robert Schweik, Analytical and Enumerative Bibliography ns 4.4 (1990): 171–83.

See also

ALS (Q3265): Chapter on reference works since the volume for 1977.

Thompson, Key Sources in Comparative and World Literature (S4850).

YWES (G330): Chapter on Reference, Literary History, and Bibliography in vols. 66–72 (for 1985–91); in addition, some chapters survey reference works, and the Bibliography and Textual Criticism chapter (which begins with vol. 76 [for 1995]) evaluates some reference works.