Twentieth-Century Literature

Many reference works devoted to twentieth-century literature are international in scope. Multinational works that emphasize British literature and those that treat British and American literature more or less equally appear in this part. Other works important to research in twentieth-century English literature are listed in sections G: Serial Bibliographies, Indexes, and Abstracts; M: English Literature/General; and Q: American Literature/General and American Literature/Twentieth-Century Literature.

Research Methods


Lewis, Alison M. Literary Research and British Modernism: Strategies and Sources. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2010. 227 pp. Lit. Research: Strategies and Sources 7. (Updates appear at PR478.M6 L45 820.9′112.

A guide to research strategies and reference sources for the scholar working with British modernist literature (here, 1901–45). Following an admirably clear explanation of the basics of online searching are chapters on general literary reference sources (including some devoted to individual writers); library catalogs; print and electronic bibliographies, indexes, and annual reviews (again, with some devoted to individual writers); scholarly journals (including some devoted to individual authors); contemporary reviews; contemporary journals, literary magazines, and newspapers; microform and digital collections; manuscripts and archives; and Web resources. A final chapter demonstrates how to use many of the works and strategies previously discussed to develop a research plan. An appendix lists sources in related disciplines. Indexed by titles, authors, and subjects.

Describing fully the uses of kinds of reference tools, providing examples in discussions of key individual resources, detailing techniques for finding kinds of information (including primary works), and illustrating research processes, Literary Research and British Modernism offers an important guide to those researching British literature of the first half of the twentieth century.

Histories and Surveys


The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature. Ed. Laura Marcus and Peter Nicholls. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004. 886 pp. New Cambridge Hist. of English Lit. PR471.C36 820.9′0091. Online through Cambridge Histories Online (

A collection of 44 separately authored essays that address the development of English-language literature in the United Kingdom from late-nineteenth-century decadence through the avant-garde, modernism, and post–World War II culture to the millennium. The essays focus variously on movements, groups, sociocultural influences, genres, forms, and the interaction of media and literature. Unlike earlier volumes in this series, this one lacks a chronology but does include a 36-page selective bibliography organized unhelpfully by the five major divisions of the volume. The index of persons, subjects, and titles is, as John Sutherland points out, a “disaster”; a revised index is available under the Contents link at The online version omits the index. The volume is more valuable for its individual contributions than for any sense of narrative history. Review: John Sutherland, TLS: Times Literary Supplement 4 Mar. 2005.


A History of Modernist Poetry. Ed. Alex Davis and Lee M. Jenkins. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2015. 532 pp. PR605.M63 H57 821. '9109112.

With twenty-three essays in three sections, the collection covers the historical background and analysis of foremost modernist poets, movements, and schools. Following an introduction that places modernist poetry in its historical context, the first grouping of essays explores the form and context of modernist poetry, covering such topics as race, gender, periodicals, and politics. The second grouping traces origins to the nineteenth-century movements such as decadence, imagism, vorticism, and the Irish revival. The final eleven essays in the third grouping explore British and American poetry after World War II, focusing on topics that range from Mina Loy to the Beats and from objectivism to the beginnings of postcolonialism. Includes a list of contributors with brief biographies. Prefaced by a lengthy chronology that begins in 1818 and runs through 2011. The book closes with a guide to further reading and a thorough index of names, works, movements, organizations, publications, and more.


Baldick, Chris. 1910–1940: The Modern Movement. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. 477 pp. Vol. 10 of The Oxford English Literary History (M1310a). Jonathan Bate, gen. ed. PR85.O96 820.9.

A literary history of the modernist phase of English literature, with sections devoted to its infrastructure (the literary marketplace, notions of authorship, and English language usage), its genres and forms, and topics that significantly engaged authors (Englishness, World War I, childhood and youth, and sexuality). Concludes with a series of author bibliographies that note standard editions and important critical studies and a selective survey of scholarship and reference works that is more evaluative than is typical in other volumes of Oxford English Literary History. Indexed by persons and subjects. 1910–1940: The Modern Movement is a welcome replacement for Stewart, Eight Modern Writers (M1310a).


Stevenson, Randall. 1960–2000: The Last of England? Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. 624 pp. Vol. 12 of The Oxford English Literary History (M1310a). Jonathan Bate, gen. ed. PR85.O96 820.9.

A literary history of the latter part of the twentieth century, with sections devoted to forces that shaped literature of the era (including social pressures, the media, theory, and the book trade), poetry, drama, and narrative (with the latter three including chapters on movements and forms). Concludes with a series of descriptive author bibliographies and a list of general studies. Indexed by persons and subjects. Fully aware of the inevitable ensuing shifts in perspectives on and judgments about English literature in the latter half of the twentieth century, Stevenson wisely offers “an account only of what seemed significant during the period itself.”

Complemented by Bruce King, 1948–2000: The Internationalization of English Literature (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004; 386 pp.; vol. 13 of The Oxford English Literary History; Jonathan Bate, gen. ed.), which examines how immigrants and their children changed the literary landscape in the United Kingdom during the second half of the twentieth century. Concludes with a series of descriptive author bibliographies and a selective survey of scholarship. Indexed by persons and subjects.

See also

Sec. M: English Literature/General/Histories and Surveys.

Literary Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias


Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century. Ed. Steven R. Serafin. 3rd ed. 4 vols. Farmington Hills: St. James, 2000. PN771.E5 803.

Offers truly international coverage of significant twentieth-century literary activity in signed entries by established scholars on literary movements, ideas, the arts, national literatures, and authors who produced important work after 1900. Each entry concludes with a brief bibliography. The author entries—which constitute the bulk of the work—give basic biographical information, offer a general critical assessment of major works, list other publications, and provide a very selective bibliography of scholarship. Two indexes: writers by nationality; authors and subjects.

The overall reliability of the entries, breadth, critical commentary superior to what usually appears in encyclopedic compilations, balance, and currency make this source the best of the numerous encyclopedias of twentieth-century literature.

A useful complement is The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English, ed. Jenny Stringer (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996; 751 pp.), which contains entries on groups, movements, individual works, concepts, genres, and (predominantly) writers.

Entrants in both works are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565).

Bibliographies of Bibliographies


Mellown, Elgin W. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Bibliographies of Twentieth Century British Poets, Novelists, and Dramatists. 2nd ed., rev. and enl. Troy: Whitston, 1978. 414 pp. Z2011.A1 M43 [PR471] 016.01682′08′00912.

An annotated bibliography of bibliographies (including articles and parts of books) published through 1977 of works by and about (1) British authors who were born after 1840 and published the majority of their work after 1890; (2) Scottish, Welsh, and Irish authors who were born before 1920, wrote in English, and are closely associated with English literature; and (3) a few Commonwealth writers. Under each author, entries appear in one of three sections: bibliographies of primary works, bibliographies of secondary works, and bibliographies in selected general reference sources (listed on pp. ix–xiv). Most annotations offer a detailed, but telegraphic, description of scope and content, as well as an incisive evaluation. Indexed by persons. Although the national scope is fuzzy, reasonably thorough coverage and helpful annotations make Mellown the principal bibliography of bibliographies for the period, but it must be supplemented with Howard-Hill, Index to British Literary Bibliography (M1355), and Bibliographic Index (D145). The first edition (A Descriptive Catalogue of the Bibliographies of 20th Century British Writers [1972; 446 pp.]) remains useful for its inclusion of nonliterary writers omitted from the second edition. Review: Peter Davison, Analytical and Enumerative Bibliography 3.2 (1979): 135–38.

Guides to Primary Works



Location Register of 20th-Century English Literary Manuscripts and Letters. University of Reading Library. U of Reading, n.d. 14 Dec. 2012. <>. Updated weekly during 2011–14.

A union catalog of manuscripts (including proofs, tape recordings, e-mail printouts, and computer disks) and letters by British literary figures (including immigrants and refugees) who are currently alive or who died after 31 December 1899. Only items (including photocopies and microform copies) available for public consultation in the British Isles are listed among the approximately 53,000 entries. The Register’s name authority list (click The Names of Modern British and Irish Literature) identifies major collections—including ones outside Great Britain—of authors included or to be added.

The database can be searched by author, title, and keyword or browsed by author or title. Author searches done through the browse screen will bring up cross-references (some of which are absent from search results for a keyword author search). Entries, which are listed by descending date, typically consist of title or description, date, physical description, location, shelf mark, and a note on access. Because of the descriptive titles given several items, researchers must read the entire section for an author. Marked records (which can be sorted by author, title, or shelf mark) can be printed or e-mailed.

Because of the utterly inadequate description of the scope, content, and editorial policies offered at the Web site and because the help screen is for the library’s OPAC, users need to consult the printed version: Location Register of Twentieth-Century English Literary Manuscripts and Letters: A Union List of Papers of Modern English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh Authors in the British Isles, 2 vols. (London: British Lib., 1988). Otherwise, the 1988 version is superseded by the database.

Although the database offers only rudimentary access and lacks a remotely adequate description of contents and although descriptions vary in detail and letters are frequently undifferentiated in large collections, the Register is an important resource that presents the most convenient means of locating many twentieth- and twenty-first-century British literary manuscripts.

Printed Works


Whitaker’s Books in Print: The Reference Catalogue of Current Literature. Farnham: Nielsen BookData, 1874–2003. Annual. (Former titles: British Books in Print, 1962–87; The Reference Catalogue of Current Literature, 1874–1961.) Z2001.R33 015.42. Online, CD-ROM, microfiche.

An author, title, and subject list of books in print and on sale in the United Kingdom, which cumulated and updated the weekly list in Bookseller (1858– ). An entry cites author, title, size, number of pages, edition, series, price, publisher, date of publication, and ISBN. A directory of publishers concludes each annual compilation. Since Whitaker’s was compiled from information supplied by publishers, it is neither comprehensive nor always accurate, but it was the essential source for identifying books available for purchase in the United Kingdom. Earlier volumes, which until 1932 included publishers’ catalogs, remain an important source of bibliographical information and book trade history.

For books currently in print or forthcoming in the British Isles, search Books in Print (Q4225) or the printed clone, Bowker’s British Books in Print (Q4225a).


British National Bibliography (BNB). British Library. British Lib., n.d. 14 Dec. 2012. <>.

British National Bibliography (BNB). Boston Spa: British Lib., 1950–2011. Weekly with four-month, annual, and larger cumulations, including ones for 1950–84 and 1981–85; records from 1950 through Dec. 2008 were cumulated monthly on CD-ROM. Z2001.B75 015.42. Although publication has ceased, records added to the database each week are available as PDF files at

A subject list (arranged by Dewey Decimal Classification) of books, electronic resources (since 2003), and new periodicals published in the British Isles. (For a current list of materials excluded, see Entries reproduce full cataloging information, but because they are prepared from books as well as Cataloguing-in-Publication (CIP) information received by the Legal Deposit Office of the British Library, there is sometimes a lag of a year or more between publication and listing, and ghosts occur when books for which CIP entries were prepared are never published. (The quarterly and annual cumulations do not include a CIP entry unless the book has actually appeared.) The subject and author-title indexes cite classification rather than page. The online BNB offers the best access to the data through a modified version of the Explore the British Library interface (E250). For British books published simultaneously in the United States, American Book Publishing Record (Q4110) is usually a more timely source of information. For the genesis and early evolution of the BNB, see Andy Stephens, The History of the British National Bibliography, 1950–1973 (London: British Lib., 1994; 159 pp.) and The BNB Is 60! (

See also

Nineteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue (M2475).

Vrana, Interviews and Conversations with 20th-Century Authors Writing in English (Q4235).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

Surveys of Research


YWES (G330): Twentieth Century chapter.

Serial Bibliographies


““Annual Review, [1970–2000]”.” Journal of Modern Literature 1–24 (1970–2001). PN2.J6 809′.04.

An annotated bibliography of English-language studies and other materials on the modernist period and those writers who achieved recognition after 1880 and before c. 1950. Entries are organized by form (books, “secondary books” [e.g., critical editions, study guides, and surveys], dissertations, articles, special issues of journals, and miscellaneous materials—an organizational scheme last explained in vol. 18 [1993]: facing 165) in two divisions: general studies (with sections for reference works and bibliographies; literary history; themes and movements; regional, national, and ethnic literatures; comparative studies of two or more authors; general studies of modern literature; fiction; poetry; drama; and film and/as literature) and individual authors who were the subject of at least one book or several articles and dissertations. The first two bibliographies (and recent ones) include full-length reviews of some books; in other years, books frequently receive generous annotations (most of which are admirable for their precise descriptions and evaluative comments). The replacement of the name index beginning in the bibliography for 1991–92 with useless indexes of authors of books reviewed and of reviewers inexcusably hampers access to the contents. The cessation of the “Annual Review” deprived scholars of an important resource for research in the modernist period.

See also

ABELL (G340): English Literature/Twentieth Century and Twenty-First Century sections.

“Current Bibliography,” Twentieth Century Literature (M2790a).

MLAIB (G335): English Language and Literature division in the volumes for 1921–25; English XI in the volumes for 1926–56; English X in the volumes for 1957–80; and English Literature/1900–99 and 2000–99 sections (as well as any larger chronological sections encompassing the century) in later volumes. Researchers must also check the headings beginning “English” in the subject index to post-1980 volumes and in the online thesaurus.

Victorian Database Online (M2490).

Other Bibliographies


The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature (NCBEL). Vol. 4: 1900–1950. Ed. I. R. Willison. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1972. 1,408 cols. Z2011.N45 [PR83] 016.82.

(For a full discussion of NCBEL, see entry M1385.) Primary and secondary works are organized in six divisions (each subdivided and classified as its subject requires): introduction (with sections for general, book production and distribution), poetry (general, individual poets), novel (general, individual novelists, children’s books), drama (general, individual dramatists), prose (critics and scholars; historians and political scientists; philosophers, theologians, scientists; travel and sport), and periodicals. Users must familiarize themselves with the organization, remember that there is considerable unevenness of coverage among subdivisions, and consult the index volume (vol. 5) rather than the provisional index in vol. 4. Despite its errors and omissions, the work offers the fullest general coverage of the period. Reviews: TLS: Times Literary Supplement 29 Dec. 1972: 1582; T. A. Birrell, Neophilologus 59.2 (1975): 306–15.


Pownall, David E. Articles on Twentieth Century Literature: An Annotated Bibliography, 1954 to 1970: An Expanded Cumulation of “Current Bibliography” in the Journal Twentieth Century Literature, Volume One to Volume Sixteen, 1955 to 1970. 7 vols. New York: KTO, 1973–80. Z6519.P66 [PN771] 016.809′04.

A descriptively annotated bibliography of some 40,000 journal articles (excluding review essays, popular journalism, and pedagogical discussions) printed between 1954 and 1970 on authors (regardless of nationality) who lived and published in the twentieth century. Pownall cumulates, verifies, and expands the quarterly “Current Bibliography,” Twentieth Century Literature 1–16 (1955–70). Entries are organized alphabetically by literary authors; under each author, articles are listed alphabetically by scholar within sections for general studies and individual works. Although the volumes on comparative, national, and regional literature and general topics were never published, the work is an important compilation because it offers more extensive coverage of articles than the serial bibliographies and indexes in section G. For studies after 1970, see “Current Bibliography,” Twentieth Century Literature 17–27.2 (1971–81), a descriptively annotated bibliography of journal articles on twentieth-century literature worldwide, and the serial bibliographies and indexes in section G.


Davies, Alistair. An Annotated Critical Bibliography of Modernism. Brighton: Harvester; Totowa: Barnes, 1982. 261 pp. Harvester Annotated Critical Bibliogs. Z2014.M6 D38 [PR478.M6] 016.82′09′0091.

A selective, classified guide to “major books and articles” on literary modernism (principally in England), with the bulk of the volume consisting of separate bibliographies of Yeats, Lewis, Lawrence, and Eliot. The general division on modernism includes sections for the theory, literary context, critique, and critical reception of the movement; fiction; poetry; drama; anthologies; general studies; and literary modernism and the arts. Entries (arranged chronologically within each section or division) are accompanied by evaluative annotations that clearly delineate content. Each division has two indexes: subjects; critics. There are numerous important omissions (especially of works published in the 1970s), the indexing system is poorly conceived, the chronological organization is compromised by a failure to list numerous reprinted essays by their respective years of initial publication, and scholarship on the four principal authors is more adequately covered in separate author bibliographies. Still, Davies is useful as a starting point because of its evaluations and (in the general section) compilation of studies not readily identifiable in standard bibliographies such as MLAIB (G335) and ABELL (G340). Review: Edward Mendelson, TLS: Times Literary Supplement 26 Aug. 1983: 901.


Somer, John, and Barbara Eck Cooper. American and British Literature, 1945–1975: An Annotated Bibliography of Contemporary Scholarship. Lawrence: Regents P of Kansas, 1980. 326 pp. Z1227.S65 [PS221] 016.820′9′00914.

An annotated bibliography of 1,060 English-language books published before 1975 on critical theory, trends, patterns, topics, and backgrounds of modern literature, with accompanying unannotated lists of 162 books published after 1975 and 456 bibliographies and reference works. Somer and Cooper excludes books devoted to a single author. The annotated entries are divided among sections for general studies, genres, and critical theory. The list of bibliographies and reference works (which, like that of studies published after 1975, includes a number of volumes not examined by the authors) is classified by topic (e.g., minority literature, science fiction) or type (e.g., biographical guides, handbooks). The descriptive annotations are sometimes vague and depend too much on introductory matter or tables of contents, but they do cite authors or topics that receive substantial discussion. Indexed by authors and subjects (with specific headings that offer efficient access to the annotations). Although American and British Literature is a valuable source for locating discussions of authors and topics buried in books, users would benefit from a more refined classification of entries. Review: Martin Tucker, Analytical and Enumerative Bibliography 5.2 (1981): 127–29.

Related Topics


Robbins, Keith, comp. and ed. A Bibliography of British History, 1914–1989. Oxford: Clarendon–Oxford UP, 1996. 918 pp. Z2020.R63 [DA566] 016.941.

A massive, albeit selective bibliography of primary and secondary works (through 1989 and overwhelmingly in English) in 12 extensively classified divisions: general reference works and studies; constitutional and political history; economy and industry; British society; religion; external relations; armed forces and war; transport; urban and rural life and the environment; medicine and health; education; and culture, recreation, leisure, and sport. Each division begins with a discussion of scope, limitations, and organization. Entries are not annotated, unlike those in earlier volumes in the series (e.g., Hanham, Bibliography of British History, 1851–1914 [M2520]). Indexed by authors (including titles). Although the bibliography is marred by an inadequate explanation of the selection criteria and by the lack of annotations, the breadth of coverage makes it a valuable resource for interdisciplinary research.

Although more selective, Peter Catterall, British History, 1945–1987: An Annotated Bibliography (Oxford: Blackwell for Inst. of Contemporary British History, 1990; 843 pp.), evaluates or annotates its 8,644 entries. Coverage extends through 1989, but the criteria governing selection of books and articles are unclear, and the intellectual and cultural history division omits numerous essential reference works.

See also

Bibliography of British and Irish History (M1400).

Hanham, Bibliography of British History, 1851–1914 (M2520).


Studies of Language


Quirk, Randolph, et al. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. London: Longman, 1985. 1,779 pp. (The ninth impression [1991] was ostensibly revised, but with no explanation of the nature of the revisions.) PE1106.C65 428.2.

A detailed description of the constituents and categories of grammar in Modern British and American English. After a general discussion of the English language and outline of its grammar (which serves as a guide to the remainder of the work), successive chapters examine in extenso verbs and auxiliaries; the semantics of the verb phrase; nouns and determiners; pronouns and numerals; adjectives and adverbs; the semantics and grammar of adverbials; prepositions and prepositional phrases; the simple sentence; sentence types and discourse functions; pro-forms and ellipsis; coordination; complex sentences; the syntactic and semantic functions of subordinate clauses; complementation of verbs and adjectives; noun phrases; theme, focus, and information processing; and sentence and text. Each chapter begins with a detailed table of contents, offers a multitude of examples, and concludes with suggestions for further reading. Three appendixes: word formation; stress, rhythm, and intonation; punctuation. Indexed by lexical items, abbreviations for grammatical categories, and general concepts. A clear, thorough, nearly exhaustive description, Comprehensive Grammar is the essential resource for understanding the grammar of Modern English. It supersedes Quirk et al., A Grammar of Contemporary English (New York: Seminar-Harcourt, 1972; 1,120 pp.). Reviews: F. G. A. M. Aarts, English Studies 69.2 (1988): 163–73; Rodney Huddleston, Language 64.2 (1988): 345–54; John M. Sinclair, TLS: Times Literary Supplement 28 June 1985: 715–16.

A similar exhaustiveness marks Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum, Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002; 1,842 pp.), “a synchronic, descriptive grammar of general-purpose, present-day [i.e, post World War II], international Standard English.” Considering both the written and spoken language, chapters treat syntax, the verb, complementary clauses, nouns, adjectives and adverbs, prepositions, adjunct clauses, negation, clause type and illocutionary force, content clauses and reported speech, relative constructions and unbounded dependencies, comparative constructions, nonfinite and verbless clauses, coordination and supplementation, information packaging, deixis and anaphora, inflectional morphology, lexis, and punctuation. Errata and corrigenda are posted at Two indexes: lexical index; conceptual index. Although failing to distinguish between written and spoken English, this is the most exhaustive treatment of the grammar of contemporary English. Review: Peter W. Cullicover, Language 80.1 (2004): 127–41.

Biographical Dictionaries


Contemporary Authors (J595).

Dictionary of Literary Biography (J600).


Guides to Primary Works


Sec. K: Periodicals/Little Magazines.

Bibliography of British Newspapers (M1440).

Sullivan, British Literary Magazines (M1445).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism


Linton, Twentieth-Century Newspaper Press in Britain (M1455a).

“RSVP Bibliography” (M2555).


Most works in sections L: Genres and M: English Literature/General/Genres are useful for research in twentieth-century English literature.


Most works in sections L: Genres/Fiction and M: English Literature/General/Genres/Fiction are useful for research in twentieth-century English fiction.

Histories and Surveys

Allen, Walter. Tradition and Dream: The English and American Novel from the Twenties to Our Time. With a new afterword. London: Hogarth, 1986. 358 pp. PR881.A42 823.912′09.

A critical survey of the British and American novel from c. 1920 to 1960. Limited to works in English and excluding first novels published after 1955 as well as most historical fiction and short stories, Tradition and Dream emphasizes established authors. After an introduction outlining the relation of the American and the British novel, chapters are organized chronologically, then by country. Indexed by persons, titles, and a few subjects. A sequel to Allen, English Novel (M1505a), this work offers a basic overview of important modern British and American novels. In the afterword to the 1986 reprint, Allen reflects on changes in his perception of the novel, discusses how he might now alter the work, and comments on major novels from 1955 to the 1980s. Reviews: Times Literary Supplement 13 Feb. 1964: 126; Irving Malin, American Literature 36.3 (1964): 390–91; Harvey Curtis Webster, Kenyon Review 26.2 (1964): 571–76.

See also

Oxford History of the Novel in English, vol. 4 (L1057).

Literary Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias

Dictionary of British Literary Characters: 20th-Century Novels (M1507).

Guides to Primary Works

Grimes and Daims, Novels in English by Women, 1891–1920 (M2640).

Snell, The Bibliography of Regional Fiction in Britain and Ireland, 1800–2000 (M2650).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

Although studies of modern fiction (to c. 1950) are covered in the following works, there is no satisfactory current bibliography of scholarship and criticism on fiction after 1950. Both Alfred F. Rosa and Paul A. Eschholz, Contemporary Fiction in America and England, 1950–1970: A Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale, 1976; 454 pp.; Amer. Lit., English Lit., and World Lits. in English: An Information Guide Ser. 10), and Irving Adelman and Rita Dworkin, The Contemporary Novel: A Checklist of Critical Literature on the British and American Novel, 2nd ed. (Lanham: Scarecrow, 1997; 666 pp.), are too dated and narrow in scope to offer more than minimal guidance (Contemporary Novel, despite a 1997 publication date, inexcusably covers no studies after 1982). Horst W. Drescher and Bernd Kahrmann, The Contemporary English Novel: An Annotated Bibliography of Secondary Sources (Frankfurt: Athenäum, 1973; 204 pp.), is also outdated but still occasionally useful for its coverage of European (especially German) criticism. Until an adequate bibliography is published, those researching contemporary fiction will need to consult the following: MLAIB (G335); ABELL (G340); Year’s Work in English Studies (G330); Pownall, Articles on Twentieth Century Literature (M2790); “Current Bibliography,” Twentieth Century Literature (M2790a); “Annual Review,” Journal of Modern Literature (M2780); Somer and Cooper, American and British Literature, 1945–1975 (M2800); serial bibliographies and indexes in section G; and the numerous author bibliographies.


Cassis, A. F. The Twentieth-Century English Novel: An Annotated Bibliography of General Criticism. New York: Garland, 1977. 413 pp. Garland Reference Lib. of the Humanities 56. Z2014.F5 C35 [PR881] 016.823′9′109.

A bibliography of studies from 1900 to 1972 of more than one novelist, the theory or technique of the novel, or the genre. The 2,832 entries are listed alphabetically by author in three divisions: bibliographies, criticism (subdivided into books and articles), and dissertations and theses. The descriptive annotations give particular attention to novelists discussed (dissertations and theses are not annotated). Two indexes: novelists; selected topics and themes. Clear annotations and the full (but not comprehensive) international scope make Cassis the best available guide to discussions of novelists in general studies, but poor organization and inadequate subject indexing render the work much less accessible than it should be. Reviews: Melvin J. Friedman, Literary Research Newsletter 4.2 (1979): 95–98; J. K. Johnstone, English Studies in Canada 6.2 (1980): 257–60.


Rice, Thomas Jackson. English Fiction, 1900–1950: A Guide to Information Sources. 2 vols. Detroit: Gale, 1979–83. Amer. Lit., English Lit., and World Lits. in English: An Information Guide Ser. 20–21. Z2014.F4 R5 [PR881] 016.823′9.

A selective annotated bibliography of works by and about British novelists (including major writers, those who “made a significant contribution to modern fiction,” and minor novelists who have been the subjects of a “significant amount” of scholarship, but omitting many who are listed in other guides in this series). Vol. 1 covers English-language studies published through 1976, vol. 2, through 1980; both exclude unpublished dissertations, but otherwise the criteria determining selection are unstated. Entries are organized in two divisions: general (with sections for bibliographies; literary histories; critical studies of modern English fiction; theory of fiction; short story; studies of major types; histories and memoirs; and art, film, and music) and individual authors. Under each author, primary works appear first (with a full list of fictional works and a selection of others); secondary works are divided among bibliographies, biographical studies, book-length critical works, general articles and chapters of books, and studies of individual works. Although an asterisk marks important works, the brief annotations rarely explain the significance of a study or offer an adequate description of content. Three indexes (scholars; titles; subjects) in vol. 1, but only an index of scholars in vol. 2. Insufficient explanation of the criteria determining selection of authors and scholarship, inadequate annotations, and the lack of a subject index in vol. 2 detract significantly from the work, which is primarily useful as a starting point for research. Review: Bruce E. Teets, Conradiana 14.1 (1982): 77–80.

Complementary, but less current, bibliographies include the following:

  • Stanton, Robert J. A Bibliography of Modern British Novelists. 2 vols. Troy: Whitston, 1978. Although plagued by innumerable errors and omissions and restricted to only seventeen novelists, Bibliography of Modern British Novelists offers much fuller coverage of studies—especially popular journalism and reviews—and primary works (through c. 1976). Although unreliable, it is useful for its inclusion of material outside the scope of the standard serial bibliographies.

  • Wiley, Paul L., comp. The British Novel: Conrad to the Present. Northbrook: AHM, 1973. 137 pp. Goldentree Bibliogs. in Lang. and Lit. Although it is judicious in its selection, the work is current only through c. 1971.

See also

Sec. M: English Literature/General/Genres/Fiction/Guides to Scholarship and Criticism.

Biographical Dictionaries

Contemporary Novelists. Ed. Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer. 7th ed. Detroit: St. James–Gale, 2001. 1,166 pp. Contemporary Writers Ser. Online through Gale Biography in Context (J572) and Gale Virtual Reference Library (I535). PR883.C64 823′.91409.

A dictionary of 787 living English-language fiction writers, the majority of whom are established British, American, Australian, and Canadian authors. Each signed entry provides basic biographical details (including addresses), a list of books and uncollected short stories, and a brief critical essay; some entries include one or more of the following: critical studies and reviews recommended by the entrant, a personal comment by the writer, and a note on manuscript collections. Indexed by nationality and titles of novels and collections of short stories; entrants are also indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565). Like other volumes in this series, Contemporary Novelists has improved markedly since its first edition and now deserves its reputation as a standard source for basic information. For lesser known writers, see Contemporary Authors (J595).

Drama and Theater

Many works in sections L: Genres/Drama and Theater and M: English Literature/General/Genres/Drama and Theater are useful for research in twentieth-century English drama and theater.

Histories and Surveys

Nicoll, Allardyce. English Drama, 1900–1930: The Beginnings of the Modern Period. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1973. 1,083 pp. PR721.N45 016.822′9′1209.

Like History of English Drama, 1660–1900 (M1525), which this work effectively continues, English Drama, 1900–1930 focuses on the history of the stage and dramatic forms of legitimate and popular theater in chapters on the theatrical world; influences, patterns, and forms; popular entertainment (musicals, revues, and melodramas); minority drama (e.g., regional and social drama); and “general” drama (essentially that by major playwrights). Nicoll excludes operas, pantomimes, plays of unestablished authorship, and most revues and music hall sketches. The concluding author list of plays (based on extensive research in the lord chamberlain’s records) provides details of performances and printed editions but must be supplemented by J. P. Wearing, “Additions and Corrections to Allardyce Nicoll’s ‘Hand-List of Plays 1900–1930,’” Nineteenth Century Theatre Research 141-42 (1986): 51–96. Indexed by persons and subjects. An essential source for the history of dramatic works of the period.

See also

Revels History of Drama in English (M1530).

Literary Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias

The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama. Ed. Gabrielle H. Cody and Evert Sprinchorn. 2 vols. New York: Columbia UP, 2007. PN1861.C65 809.2003.

An encyclopedia of drama and theater (excluding musical theater) from 1860 to the present. Coverage is international, with signed entries on 540 plays, 640 authors, more than 60 countries, movements, forms, genres, concepts, theater companies, and theater practitioners. The entries, which conclude with selective bibliographies of primary and secondary works, emphasize “the cultural context of dramatic works and their authors,” with more attention to political, philosophical, artistic, and religious milieux than to plot summary. Concludes with a synoptic outline of contents and an index of subjects, names, and titles. A well-edited guide to the global scope of modern drama.

Guides to Primary Works

Innes, Christopher. Twentieth-Century British and American Theatre: A Critical Guide to Archives. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999. 316 pp. Z5782.I55 [PN2266] 792′.0973′0904.

Offers a guide to manuscripts and ephemera related to twentieth-century British and American theater held in 99 archives in Europe and North America. Organized by individuals (including performers, agents, designers, dramaturgs, directors, playwrights, and, occasionally, collectives), an entry begins with an overview of the surviving papers and their potential uses and then describes, by institution, significant holdings (with many descriptions including a critical assessment of the significance of the materials and suggestions for their use by theater historians). Indexed by play titles. Although necessarily selective in institutions covered, sometimes telegraphic in its descriptions (with no list of abbreviations), and inexplicably omitting persons and theaters from the index, the incisive assessments of material and suggestions for research make this essential reading for historians of twentieth-century British and American theater. It should indeed, as the author hopes, “generate research projects by other scholars and encourage graduate theses.”


Wearing, J. P. The London Stage, 1890–1899: A Calendar of Plays and Players. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 2013. The London Stage, 1900–1909: A Calendar of Plays and Players. 2014. The London Stage, 1910–1919: A Calendar of Plays and Players. 2014. The London Stage, 1920–1929: A Calendar of Plays and Players. 2014. The London Stage, 1930–1939: A Calendar of Plays and Players. 3 vols. 1990. The London Stage, 1940–1949: A Calendar of Plays and Players. 2014. The London Stage, 1950–1959: A Calendar of Plays and Players. 2 vols. 2014. PN2596.L6 W37 792′.09421′2.

Wearing, J. P. The London Stage, 1890–1899: A Calendar of Plays and Players. 2 vols. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1976. The London Stage, 1900–1909: A Calendar of Plays and Players. 2 vols. 1981. The London Stage, 1910–1919: A Calendar of Plays and Players. 2 vols. 1982. The London Stage, 1920–1929: A Calendar of Plays and Players. 3 vols. 1984. The London Stage, 1930–1939: A Calendar of Plays and Players. 3 vols. 1990. The London Stage, 1940–1949: A Calendar of Plays and Players. 2 vols. 1991. The London Stage, 1950–1959: A Calendar of Plays and Players. 2 vols. 1993. PN2596.L6 W37 792′.09421′2.

A calendar of first-night, professional, full-length productions in selected legitimate theaters (ranging in number from about 328 during 1890–99 to 291 during 1950–59). Available information varies, of course, with a full entry giving the following information for a first-night performance: title; genre and number of acts or scenes; author, translator, or adapter; theater; date, length of run, and number of performances; male and female casts (with changes in subsequent performances listed); production staff; selected list of first-night reviews; miscellaneous notes relating to the production or discrepancies in sources. The second edition updates, corrects, and expands the earlier volumes, based in large part on the increased availability of primary resources such as newspapers and periodicals made possible through various digitization projects. Erroneous dates and locations have been corrected, and new infomation such as opening night reception has been added. The second edition includes four indexes: title; genre; theater; and general (a subject index that includes people as well as topics such as audiences, locations, and institutions). Reviews: (1890–99, 1900–09, and 1910–19) Choice 51.10 (2014): 51–5350a–c; 4 Jan. 2015. <>.

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism
Serial Bibliographies

““Modern Drama Studies: An Annual Bibliography”.” Modern Drama 17–42 (1974–99). PN1861.M55 809.2′005.

The expanded successor to “Modern Drama: A Selective Bibliography of Works Published in English in [1959–67],” 3–11 (1960–68), this covers studies published since 1972 on dramatic works by authors (with the exception of Büchner—through vol. 35 [1992]—and Becque) who lived past 1899; emphasizes dramatic literature rather than theatrical history; and excludes reviews, unpublished dissertations, “graduate-student periodicals,” and (in most years) works printed in non-Latin alphabets. Entries are organized in divisions for general studies and national literatures (or geographic areas); within the latter are sections for general studies and individual authors. Although the work is not comprehensive, the compiler claims that 35–40% of the entries in early volumes are not listed in MLAIB (G335); however, beginning in vol. 37 (1994) coverage was drastically scaled back, and many books listed were not seen by the compilers. The bibliographies for 1966–90 are incorporated in Carpenter, Modern Drama Scholarship and Criticism, 1966–1980 and 1981–1990 (M2875), which the annual bibliographies after 1980 correct and update.

Other Bibliographies

Carpenter, Charles A. Modern Drama Scholarship and Criticism, 1966–1980: An International Bibliography. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1986. 587 pp. 1981–1990. 1997. 632 pp. Z5781.C37 [PN1851] 016.8092′04.

A classified bibliography of studies of the drama worldwide since Ibsen. Excludes publications in non-Latin alphabets, discussions of theater not related to a dramatic text, unpublished dissertations, most reviews of productions, and most popular journalism; the degree of selectivity in the author lists varies with an individual’s commitment to the drama. The approximately 50,000 entries are classified in divisions for general studies and national literatures or language groups (with the latter including sections for individual playwrights). Each division is prefaced by an outline of its organization. Under each dramatist are separate lists of primary works (including only critical editions of plays, essays, collections of letters, and interviews), reference works, collections of essays, and critical studies (including parts of books). A few entries are accompanied by very brief descriptive annotations. Indexed by persons. Although covering only 25 years and omitting dissertations, Modern Drama Scholarship is clearly a major contribution to the study of modern drama. Even with the exclusions, the scope is admirably full (Carpenter claims to double the MLAIB [G335] coverage before 1970 and add half again as many entries for 1970–80; however, his introductory comments in 1981–1990 suggest that the claim is based on a misunderstanding of the scope of MLAIB). The work must, however, be supplemented by section H: Guides to Dissertations and Theses; MLAIB (G335) and ABELL (G340) for scholarship in non-Latin alphabets; and “Modern Drama Studies: An Annual Bibliography” (M2870), which updates and corrects Carpenter.

Although the following pale in comparison, they are still useful—in varying degrees—for pre-1966 publications:

  • Adelman, Irving, and Rita Dworkin. Modern Drama: A Checklist of Critical Literature on 20th Century Plays. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1967. 370 pp. Occasionally useful for its indexing of parts of books, but for its deficiencies, see Carpenter’s review, Modern Drama 12 (1969): 49–56.

  • Breed, Paul F., and Florence M. Sniderman, comps. and eds. Dramatic Criticism Index: A Bibliography of Commentaries on Playwrights from Ibsen to the Avant-Garde. Detroit: Gale, 1972. 1,022 pp. Principally useful for its indexing of parts of books.

  • Carpenter, Charles A., comp. Modern British Drama. Arlington Heights: AHM, 1979. 120 pp. Goldentree Bibliogs. in Lang. and Lit. Although dated, this work remains the best overall of the selective bibliographies of modern British drama from c. 1860 to the 1970s and is completely superior to the two padded, repetitive, poorly organized, and inadequately annotated bibliographies by E. H. Mikhail: English Drama, 1900–1950: A Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale, 1977; 328 pp.; Amer. Lit., English Lit., and World Lits. in English: An Information Guide Ser. 11)—which actually covers British drama, but lists only bibliographies for authors—and Contemporary British Drama, 1950–1976: An Annotated Critical Bibliography (Totowa: Rowman, 1976; 147 pp.), which includes no listings for individual authors, no introduction, no index, almost nothing that is not in the preceding work, and which in no way merits “annotated critical” in the title.

  • Coleman, Arthur, and Gary R. Tyler. Drama Criticism. Vol. 1: A Checklist of Interpretation since 1940 of English and American Plays. Vol. 2: A Checklist of Interpretation since 1940 of Classical and Continental Plays. Chicago: Swallow, 1966–71.

  • Harris, Modern Drama in America and England, 1950–1970 (Q4290).

  • King, Kimball. Twenty Modern British Playwrights: A Bibliography, 1956–1976. New York: Garland, 1977. 289 pp. Garland Reference Lib. of the Humanities 98.

  • Palmer, European Drama Criticism (L1170).

See also

Wildbihler and Völklein, The Musical: An International Annotated Bibliography (Q4295).

Biographical Dictionaries

Contemporary Dramatists. Ed. Thomas Riggs. 6th ed. Detroit: St. James–Gale, 1999. 891 pp. Contemporary Writers Ser. Online through Gale Biography in Context (J572). PR737.C57 822′.914′09.

A dictionary of 433 living English-language dramatists, the majority of whom are established British, American, Australian, and Canadian writers. Each signed entry provides basic biographical details (including addresses), lists of primary works and theatrical activities, and a brief critical essay; some include one or more of the following: a list of critical studies (recommended by the entrant), a personal comment by the dramatist, and a note on manuscript collections. Two indexes: nationality; titles of plays. Entrants are also indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565). Like other volumes in this series, a standard source for basic information. For lesser known dramatists, see Contemporary Authors (J595).

See also

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television (Q4305).


Most works in sections L: Genres/Poetry and M: English Literature/General/Genres/Poetry are useful for research in twentieth-century English poetry.

Histories and Surveys

Perkins, David. A History of Modern Poetry. 2 vols. Cambridge: Belknap–Harvard UP, 1976–87. PR610.P4 821′.009.

  • Vol. 1: From the 1890s to the High Modernist Mode. 1976. 623 pp.

  • Vol. 2: Modernism and After. 1987. 694 pp.

A history of twentieth-century English and American poetry. Although emphasizing poets and their careers, chapters also consider “opposed and evolving assumptions about poetry[,] . . . the effects on poetry of its changing audiences, . . . premises and procedures in literary criticism, . . . publishing outlets, . . . and the interrelations of poetry with developments in the other arts—the novel, painting, film, music—as well as in social, political, and intellectual life.” Among contemporary poets, only those whose reputations were of significance by the 1970s are examined in detail. Indexed in each volume by persons, titles, and a few subjects. These volumes, praised as well as damned for their breadth and impartiality, remain the only reasonably full survey of twentieth-century poetry. Review: (vol. 1) James E. Breslin, Georgia Review 31.4 (1977): 978–84.

Literary Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias

The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English. Ed. Ian Hamilton. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994. 602 pp. PR601.O9 821′.9109′03. Online through Oxford Reference (I530).

A guide to individuals, magazines, movements, genres, and subjects involving poetry in English from 1900 to the 1990s. The bulk of the signed entries are for poets (about 1,500, most from Great Britain and the United States) who were born before 1964 and lived anytime during the twentieth century. A typical entry includes critical commentary and a brief overview of the poet’s life, career, and publications. Entrants are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565). Although readers will inevitably find omissions, this Oxford Companion is a useful basic desktop reference on twentieth-century English-language poetry.

Guides to Primary Works

Twentieth-Century English Poetry. Chadwyck-Healey Literature Collections. ProQuest, 1996–2013. 5 Sept. 2013. <>.

An archive of rekeyed texts of more than 280 twentieth-century poets born or based in the British Isles. Editions were selected according to the following criteria: a collected edition; other editions for poets without a collected one. Selection seems to be based on the ability to secure rights for electronic publication.

Simple keyword, first line or title, and author searches can be limited by publication date, publisher, gender, date during a poet’s lifetime, and nationality and to notes. Searchers can also browse author and title, keyword, or first-line lists of the contents of the database. Results appear in ascending alphabetical order and cannot be re-sorted. Citations (but not the full text of poems) can be marked for e-mailing, downloading, or printing; each citation includes a durable URL to the full text.

Some works are rekeyed from textually unsound editions; however, the bibliographic record for each work identifies the source of the text and any omissions (e.g., preliminary matter). Besides being a useful source for identifying an elusive quotation or half-remembered line, the scope of Twentieth-Century English Poetry’s text archive makes feasible a variety of kinds of studies (stylistic, thematic, imagistic, and topical).

The contents of Twentieth-Century English Poetry can also be searched through LiOn (I527).

Continues English Poetry (M1593).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature (M2785) offers the single best list of studies on modern poetry (to c. 1950), but its coverage must be supplemented by the works listed below under See also. Of the other available bibliographies, Charles F. Altieri, comp., Modern Poetry (Arlington Heights: AHM, 1979; 129 pp.; Goldentree Bibliogs. in Lang. and Lit.), emphasizes established poets who are more adequately covered in author bibliographies and is too selective and dated to be of much use. Because of its omissions, incomplete indexing, inadequate annotations, and numerous errors, Emily Ann Anderson, English Poetry, 1900–1950: A Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale, 1982; 315 pp.; Amer. Lit., English Lit., and World Lits. in English: An Information Guide Ser. 33), cannot be recommended even for preliminary work. Those interested in contemporary poetry will have to turn to the serial bibliographies and indexes in section G, as well as the works listed below. An adequate bibliography of scholarship and criticism on twentieth-century English poetry is a major desideratum.

See also

Gingerich, Contemporary Poetry in America and England, 1950–1975 (Q4335).

Kuntz and Martinez, Poetry Explication (L1255).

Martinez, Martinez, and Anderson, Guide to British Poetry Explication, vol. 4 (L1255a).

Biographical Dictionaries

Contemporary Poets. Ed. Thomas Riggs. 7th ed. Detroit: St. James–Gale, 2001. 1,443 pp. Contemporary Writers Ser. Online through Gale Biography in Context (J572) and Gale Virtual Reference Library (I535). PR603.C6 821′.91′09.

A dictionary of 787 living English-language poets, the majority of whom are established British, Indian, American, Australian, or Canadian writers. The signed entries provide basic biographical information (including address), a list of published books, and a basic critical evaluation; some include one or more of the following: a selective list of critical studies, a note on manuscript locations, and comments by the poet. Two indexes: nationality; titles of books of poetry listed in the publications section of each entry. Entrants are also indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565). Like other volumes in this series, it is a standard source for basic information.

For lesser known poets, see Contemporary Authors (J595).


Some works in sections L: Genres/Prose and M: English Literature/General/Genres/Prose are useful for research in twentieth-century English prose.

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

Brown, Christopher C., and William B. Thesing. English Prose and Criticism, 1900–1950: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale, 1983. 553 pp. Amer. Lit., English Lit., and World Lits. in English: An Information Guide Ser. 42. Z2014.P795 B76 [PR801] 016.828′91208′09.

A highly selective annotated bibliography of editions and studies (published in English before June 1982) of nonfictional prose by 37 authors (selected for the quality of their work or representativeness). Entries are organized in two divisions: general and period studies; individual authors. The first division (which omits some important works) includes brief sections for bibliographies, literary histories, biography and autobiography, the essay and prose style, literary criticism, and travel writing. Under individual authors are separate lists of primary works (limited to books), editions, bibliographies, biographies, and critical studies. The brief annotations—essentially descriptive, with evaluative adjectives—are barely adequate to convey a sense of content. Two indexes: persons; titles. Although it is highly selective and partly superseded by author bibliographies, English Prose and Criticism does serve as a starting point for the study of nonfiction prose. Because of the increasing interest in the topic, a more thorough bibliography would be welcomed by scholars.