Twentieth-Century Literature

Most works in section Q: American Literature/General and some in section M: English Literature/Twentieth-Century Literature are important to research in twentieth-century American literature.

Research Methods


Matuozzi, Robert N., and Elizabeth Blakesley Lindsay. Literary Research and the American Modernist Era: Strategies and Sources. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2008. 173 pp. Lit. Research: Strategies and Sources 3. (Updates appear at PS228.M63 M38 810.9′112072.

A guide to research strategies and reference sources for the scholar working with literature of the modernist era (c. 1914–50s). Following an admirably clear explanation of the basics of online searching are chapters on general literary reference sources; library catalogs; print and electronic bibliographies, indexes, and annual reviews; scholarly journals; contemporary reviews; newspapers, little magazines, and microforms; manuscripts and archives; and Web resources. (Many of the preceding chapters discuss works devoted to individual authors.) The last 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 and subjects (excluding those in the appendix). Describing fully the uses of kinds of reference tools, providing illuminating examples in discussions of key individual resources, detailing techniques for finding kinds of information (including primary works), and illustrating research processes, Literary Research and the American Modernist Era admirably fulfills its intent: to offer “a clear introduction to the best contemporary library sources and practices for researching American modernist writing.”

See also

Stein and Lehu, Literary Research and the American Realism and Naturalism Period (Q4100).

Histories and Surveys


Hoffman, Daniel, ed. Harvard Guide to Contemporary American Writing. Cambridge: Belknap–Harvard UP, 1979. 618 pp. PS221.H357 810′.9′0054.

A critical history of trends and movements in American literature from 1945 to c. 1978 that emphasizes established writers and literature as an exposition of culture. Separate essays consider intellectual backgrounds; literary criticism; realists, naturalists, and novelists of manners; southern fiction; Jewish writers; experimental fiction; African American literature; women’s literature; drama; and poetry. Although not a connected history and not always balanced in its treatment, the Harvard Guide offers the fullest overview of the period. Reviews: Nina Baym, JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology 79.2 (1980): 271–75; Jerome Klinkowitz, College English 42.4 (1980): 382–89.

Literary Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias


Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century (M2755).

Guides to Primary Works


Books in Print. Global ed. Bowker, 2012. 2 Jan. 2013. <>. (A variety of specialist databases are cloned from the Books in Print database; for a list, see

A database of books in a variety of print and other formats published worldwide and available for general purchase. The basic search screen allows for searching by keyword, subject, author, title, series title, or publisher. Advanced Search allows users to combine keyword searches of a variety of record fields (e.g., author, title, subject) and to limit searches by such filters as format, status, market, date, country of publication, language, and audience level. Results can be sorted in a variety of ways (including author, title, and ascending or descending date) and refined by several filters (e.g., market, price, format, and language). Records can be marked for saving to a list, searching in a library’s catalog, downloading, printing, or e-mailing. Users can also set up RSS feeds. A typical entry records author, title, publication information, market, ISBN, binding, status, price, and subject descriptors; many records also include a synopsis or review(s). Because names are not standardized, users must check all forms of an author’s name. Compiled from information supplied by publishers, Books in Print is neither comprehensive nor always accurate, but it is the most convenient source for determining what books are currently available for sale from publishers and distributors in the major English-speaking countries.

The following are useful related Bowker publications:

  • Books in Print (BIP). Amenia: Grey House, 1948– . Annual, with supplement between editions. Currently published in three parts—authors, titles, and publishers—the printed BIP does not offer the breadth of coverage of the online version.

  • Children’s Books in Print (U5470).

  • Publishers’ Trade List Annual (PTLA). 1873–2001. Annual. A compilation of publishers’ catalogs (of four or more pages) along with a yellow-page section comprising smaller lists. Although far from comprehensive, PTLA was once a useful supplement to BIP, especially for a description of a book or list of titles within a series. Since few libraries have extensive holdings of publishers’ catalogs, PTLA is a valuable resource for studying publishing history and reconstructing a firm’s list.

For author, title, publisher, and subject lists of books published by small and private presses, see the current edition of Small Press Record of Books in Print, CD-ROM (Paradise: Dustbooks, 1969– ; irregular; online through Dustbooks eDirectories [K775]). Coverage is international but emphasizes English-language works printed in the United States.


Lepper, Gary M. A Bibliographical Introduction to Seventy-Five Modern American Authors. Berkeley: Serendipity, 1976. 428 pp. Z1227.L46 [PS221] 016.81.

Checklists of first printings of separately published works through 1975 by 75 authors who achieved prominence after 1945. Lepper includes signed and revised editions, ephemera (such as broadsides and mimeographed or photocopied material), and some bound proofs and advance review copies; he excludes sheet music, recordings, and edited books. Authors are listed alphabetically; works, chronologically. Entries include title, publication information, type of binding or method of reproduction, format, notes on priority of issues, identifying marks of first printings, illustrator, and series. The descriptions are not bibliographically sophisticated; criteria governing selection of authors are unstated; there are some notable omissions; and coverage is sometimes inconsistent. Nonetheless, the Bibliographical Introduction offers a useful and reasonably accurate preliminary guide to first printings of works by writers who are not the subject of separate author bibliographies. Some other contemporary authors are treated in Bruccoli, First Printings of American Authors (Q3250a). Review: Patricia McLaren-Turner, Book Collector 28 (Autumn 1979): 449–50, 453.


Vrana, Stan A. Interviews and Conversations with 20th-Century Authors Writing in English: An Index. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1982. 239 pp. Series II. 1986. 288 pp. Series III. 1990. 435 pp. Z2013.V73 [PR471] 016.82′09′0091.

A selective author index to interviews and similar works from 1900 through 1985 in periodicals, newspapers, and books (the majority of which are published in the United States and involve American authors). Entries are listed chronologically under an author and include citations to reprints. Authors in Series II are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565); Series III includes addenda for 1900–80. Although not at all comprehensive—since it omits recordings and numerous serials—Interviews and Conversations is a useful starting point for locating interviews; however, the inadequate explanation of scope and failure to record the years or volumes actually searched for periodicals and newspapers in the list of sources consulted mean that a user will frequently end up having to duplicate much of Vrana’s research.

Reviews in selected little magazines are listed in “Little Magazine Interview Index,” Serials Review 11.2 (1985– ). A card file covering 1976–83 is available in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Researchers with access to the MLAIB (G335) database can identify additional interviews.

See also

American Book Publishing Record (Q4110).

Literary Writings in America (Q3255).

Nineteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue (M2475).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

Surveys of Research


Bryer, Jackson R., ed. Sixteen Modern American Authors: A Survey of Research and Criticism. New York: Norton, 1973. 673 pp. PS221.F45 810′.9′0052.

———. Sixteen Modern American Authors: A Survey of Research and Criticism since 1972. Durham: Duke UP, 1989. 810 pp. PS221.S625 810.9′0052.

Evaluative surveys of research and criticism on Anderson, Cather, Crane, Dreiser, Eliot, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Frost, Hemingway, O’Neill, Pound, Robinson, Steinbeck, Stevens, William Carlos Williams, and Wolfe. The first volume revises Fifteen Modern American Authors (Durham: Duke UP, 1969; 493 pp.), correcting errors, extending coverage through 1971–72, and adding the essay on Williams. The second volume continues coverage through 1985, with most essays having an addendum that superficially treats publications from late 1985 through mid-1988. Although each chapter consists of five parts—bibliographies, editions, manuscripts and letters, biographical studies, and criticism, with a supplementary section for each—there is considerable variation in the extent of coverage, especially of dissertations and foreign language scholarship (with very little attention to either in the second volume). A majority of the contributors are frank in their evaluations but seldom offer suggestions for further research and do not provide full publication information for articles. These authoritative surveys remain indispensable for their winnowing of pre-1986 scholarship. For evaluative surveys of recent scholarship, see American Literary Scholarship (Q3265). Review: (1st ed.) Willard Thorp, American Literature 42.1 (1970): 122–24.

See also

American Literary Scholarship (Q3265): Chapters on Pound and Eliot; Faulkner; Fitzgerald and Hemingway; fiction: 1900–1930s; fiction: 1930s–1960s; fiction: 1960s–present; poetry: 1900–1940s; and poetry: 1940s–present.

Contemporary Authors: Bibliographical Series (J595a).

Serial Bibliographies


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

“Annual Review,” Journal of Modern Literature (M2780).

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

MLAIB (G335): American Literature division in the volumes for 1922–25; American V: 1890 to the Present in the volumes for 1926–28; American V: Contemporary Literature (occasionally called Twentieth Century) in the volumes for 1929–34; American VI: Contemporary in the volumes for 1935–40; American V: Twentieth Century (also called Contemporary in 1941–56) in the volumes for 1941–80; and American Literature/1900–99 and 2000–99 (as well as any larger chronological section encompassing either century) in later volumes. Researchers must also check the headings beginning with “American” in the subject index to post-1980 volumes and in the online thesaurus.

Other Bibliographies


Contemporary Authors: Bibliographical Series (J595a).

Pownall, Articles on Twentieth Century Literature (M2790).

Somer and Cooper, American and British Literature, 1945–1975 (M2800).



Quirk et al., Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (M2810).

Biographical Dictionaries


Contemporary Authors (J595).

Dictionary of Literary Biography (J600).


Guides to Primary Works


Sec. K: Periodicals/Little Magazines.

Chielens, American Literary Magazines: The Twentieth Century (Q3410).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism


Chielens, Edward E. The Literary Journal in America, 1900–1950: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale, 1977. 186 pp. Amer. Lit., English Lit., and World Lits. in English: An Information Guide Ser. 16. Z6951.C572 [PN4877] 016.051.

An annotated, selective bibliography of English-language studies (through the early 1970s) of periodicals devoted to creative works or criticism. Chielens excludes weeklies and annuals and includes only those publications that have been the subject of at least one dissertation, book, chapter, or article. Entries are listed alphabetically by author in eight divisions (most of which have sections for general studies and individual titles): general works, general mass circulation periodicals, little magazines, regional publications, politically radical literary periodicals, academic quarterlies of scholarship and criticism, bibliographies and checklists (including sections for some of the preceding divisions), and background studies. Scholarship on literary material in nonliterary periodicals is listed in an appendix. Most annotations are helpfully descriptive. Indexed by persons and titles. While Literary Journal in America is not comprehensive, is inefficiently organized, and lacks an adequate explanation of scope, it is a useful compilation of studies that are sometimes difficult to locate in standard serial bibliographies and indexes. This work continues Chielens, Literary Journal in America to 1900 (Q4145).



Literary Writings in America (Q3255).


Most works in sections L: Genres and Q: American Literature/General/Genres are important to research in twentieth-century American literature.


Most works in sections L: Genres/Fiction and Q: American Literature/General/Genres/Fiction are useful to research in twentieth-century American literature.

Histories and Surveys

Karl, Frederick R. American Fictions, 1940–1980: A Comprehensive History and Critical Evaluation. New York: Harper, 1983. 637 pp. PS379.K24 813′.54′09.

———. American Fictions, 1980–2000: Whose America Is It Anyway? N.p.: Xlibris, 2001. 535 pp. PS379.K244.

A critical history of American fiction that emphasizes its relationship to modernism and favors experimental works (in 1940–1980) and its reflection of “a cultural mosaic of so many conflicting ideas and efforts” that precludes any sense of direction or judgment of achievement (in 1980–2000). Indexed by persons, titles, and subjects in the first installment; by persons only in the second. An encyclopedic and polemical work, it is especially valuable for placing fiction in cultural contexts. Review: Sanford Pinsker, Georgia Review 38.4 (1984): 891–93.

See also

Allen, Tradition and Dream: The English and American Novel from the Twenties to Our Time (M2830).

Bibliographies of Bibliographies

McPheron, William, and Jocelyn Sheppard. The Bibliography of Contemporary American Fiction, 1945–1988: An Annotated Checklist. Westport: Meckler, 1989. 190 pp. Z1231.F4 M36 [PS379] 016.813′54′09.

An annotated bibliography of bibliographies of works by or about writers of adult fiction (including science fiction, fantasy, crime, historical, regional, ethnic, and small-press authors) who have achieved prominence since 1945 (along with a few whose reputations were established earlier and who continued to publish into the late 1970s). Coverage extends to books, articles, dissertations, and parts of books published through 1986 (but with some as late as 1988). The 613 entries are organized in two divisions: multiauthor bibliographies (listed alphabetically by editor, author, or title of anonymous work and excluding serial bibliographies, highly selective checklists, and outdated works); single-author bibliographies (listed by publication date, then alphabetically by compiler, under each fiction writer [except, unaccountably, Baldwin]). Many of the informative annotations are evaluative (but not always rigorously so, especially in the first division) and point out the importance of a work. Two indexes: fiction writers; authors of bibliographies. An essential guide because so many bibliographies of contemporary fiction writers appear in obscure journals or parts of books or are published by little-known presses—and thus not indexed in the standard serial bibliographies and indexes in section G.

Guides to Primary Works

American Fiction Database. Rare Books Room, Ohio State University Libraries, Columbus.

A database of American fiction based on—but not limited to—the William Charvat Collection of American Fiction at Ohio State University. The focus is 1901–50 (but includes works before and after); selection generally follows Lyle H. Wright’s criteria for American Fiction, 1774–[1900] (Q4180). Records for 1901–25—for which coverage is virtually complete—are published as Geoffrey D. Smith, American Fiction, 1901–1925: A Bibliography (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997; 1,038 pp.); work on 1926–50 is ongoing. Although the database, which is housed in the Rare Books Room, is not publicly accessible, individual volumes can be identified through the Ohio State University Library Catalog (; search for “Bibliography of American Fiction” as a keyword and restrict the location to Special Collections and Archives. Because of the depth of coverage and multiple points of access, the database is a key resource for the study of twentieth-century American fiction—one that makes possible a multitude of subject and genre studies. For a description of the project, see Smith, “Literary Databases: Some Thoughts on Standards,” Literary Research 13.1 (1988): 5–12.

See also

Facts on File Bibliography of American Fiction, 1919–1988 (Q3474).

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

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

Woodress, James. American Fiction, 1900–1950: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale, 1974. 260 pp. Amer. Lit., English Lit. and World Lits. in English: An Information Guide Ser. 1. Z1231.F4 W64 016.813′03.

A selective guide to scholarship (mostly in English and published before c. 1972) on 44 authors who have received substantial critical attention. Entries are organized in two divisions: general works and individual authors. The first division consists of inadequately annotated lists of references works (including general historical and critical studies), general works on the novel (with sections for history and criticism, types, themes, and regionalism), studies of the short story, and collections of interviews. Individual authors are treated in essays, with sections for bibliographies and manuscripts, primary works, editions and reprints, biographical studies, and criticism. The commentary here is much fuller and judiciously evaluative, with important works marked by an asterisk; however, the essay form prevents skimming. Indexed by persons. Although now dated, American Fiction is superior to Blake Nevius, comp., The American Novel: Sinclair Lewis to the Present (New York: Meredith-Appleton, 1970; 126 pp.; Goldentree Bibliogs. in Lang. and Lit.), and remains useful for its guidance to important scholarship before c. 1972 on authors not included in Bryer, Sixteen Modern American Authors (Q4240). For evaluative surveys of recent scholarship, see American Literary Scholarship (Q3265).

See also

American Literary Scholarship (Q3265): Chapters on fiction: 1900–1930s; fiction: 1930s–1960s; and fiction: 1960s–present.

Martine, American Novelists (J595a).

Biographical Dictionaries

Contemporary Novelists (M2845).

Drama and Theater

Most works in sections L: Genres/Drama and Theater and Q: American Literature/General/Genres/Drama and Theater are useful for research in twentieth-century American drama and theater.

Guides to Reference Works

Although there is no general guide to reference tools for the study of twentieth-century American theater, the musical theater of this century is more than adequately treated in Paul Metzger, “American Musical Theater: A Guide to Information Sources,” Bulletin of Bibliography 49.4 (1992): 251–61 and “American Musical Theater: Supplement, 1992–1996,” Bulletin of Bibliography 54.3 (1997): 181–86. The annotations are very brief, but several are helpfully evaluative.

Histories and Surveys

Histories and general studies are surveyed in Jackson R. Bryer and Ruth M. Alvarez, “American Drama, 1918–1940: A Survey of Research and Criticism,” American Quarterly 30.3 (1978): 298–330, and C. W. E. Bigsby, “Drama as Cultural Sign: American Dramatic Criticism,” 331–57; these are updated by Mark W. Estrin, “The American Drama 1900–1940: Areas of Recent Scholarly Achievement and Critical Neglect,” Resources for American Literary Study 17.1 (1990): 35–49, and Thomas P. Adler, “American Dramatic Scholarship, 1940–Present: The Contours and Some Items for an Agenda,” 51–61 (both with useful suggestions for future research).


Bigsby, C. W. E. A Critical Introduction to Twentieth-Century American Drama. 3 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1982–85. PS351.B483 812′.52′09.

A critical rather than historical survey of major playwrights, theater groups, and—in vol. 3—types of drama that emphasizes alienation as the central theme of modern American drama. Vol. 1 has several appendixes listing productions by important theater groups; in vol. 3, an appendix traces the growth of not-for-profit professional theater. Indexed in each volume by persons, titles, and theater groups. Densely written and omitting some important writers, Bigsby nonetheless is the best survey of the topic. Reviews: Peter L. Hays, Theatre Research International 8.3 (1983): 265–67; Myron Matlaw, Essays in Theatre 5.1 (1986): 77–81.

Literary Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias

Notable Names in the American Theatre. [Ed. Raymond D. McGill.] Rev. ed. Clifton: White, 1976. 1,250 pp. PN2285.N6 790.2′0973.

An accumulation of biographical and other information on the American stage through c. 1974 that revises Walter Rigdon, ed., The Biographical Encyclopaedia and Who’s Who of the American Theatre (New York: Heinemann, 1966; 1,101 pp.). Notable Names is organized in nine divisions:

  • a title list of New York productions since 1900, with entries providing theater, opening date, and number of performances

  • a title list of premieres in America since 1968, with entries citing author, date of first performance, producing group, and theater and with an author index following

  • a chronological list of premieres of American plays abroad from 9 December 1948 through 8 April 1974, with entries noting date, title, author, director, producer, theater, and location

  • an alphabetical list of active and defunct American theater groups, with entries giving address, major personnel, and a brief history

  • an alphabetical list of active and defunct American theaters, with entries citing address and opening date

  • an alphabetical list of theater awards, with a chronological list of recipients of each

  • a subject bibliography of biographies and autobiographies of American and foreign theater persons

  • an alphabetical necrology of American and foreign theater persons, with entries providing birth and death dates

  • a biographical dictionary of notable persons in the American theater, with stylistically wooden entries providing basic biographical information, address, and lists of credits, publications, and awards

While the work lacks an adequate statement of scope for most of the lists, fails to provide a general index, and is sometimes inaccurate, it does bring together a significant amount of useful detail about the American stage. (Biographies in Notable Names and Biographical Encyclopedia are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index [J565].)

See also

Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama (M2858).

Guides to Primary Works

Leiter, Samuel L., ed. The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage, 1920–1930. 2 vols. Westport: Greenwood, 1985. 1930–1940. 1989. 1,299 pp. 1940–1950. 1992. 946 pp. PN2277.N5 L36 792.9′5′097471. All are online through North American Theatre Online (Q3512).

A description of Broadway and off-Broadway plays (as well as foreign language and ethnic theater productions reviewed in the English-language press) staged from mid-June 1920 through the end of May 1950. Productions are organized alphabetically by title. For each production, a typical entry includes (where appropriate) genre, subject categories, language if other than English, author, translator or adapter, reviser, librettist, music composer, lyricist, source, director, choreographer, set and costume designers, producer, theater, opening date, length of run, plot synopsis, and notes on critical reception. Concludes with a selected bibliography and 10 appendixes: chronological calendar of productions, with length of run; classified lists by genre, subject, and language (but confusingly organized by subcategories); awards; sources of plays; institutional theaters, with a list of plays produced; foreign companies and stars; longest running shows; critics cited; seasonal statistics; theaters. Two indexes: proper names; titles. The inclusion of cast lists and the provision of clearer subject access would increase the Encyclopedia’s utility; it is still, however, a valuable compendium of information on the New York theater.

See also

Bzowski, American Women Playwrights, 1900–1930 (Q3513a).

Dramatic Compositions Copyrighted in the United States, 1870 to 1916 (Q4195).

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

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism
Surveys of Research

Kolin, Philip C., ed. American Playwrights since 1945: A Guide to Scholarship, Criticism, and Performance. New York: Greenwood, 1989. 595 pp. Z1231.D7 A53 [PS350] 016.812′54′09. Online through North American Theatre Online (Q3512).

A collection of separately authored bibliographic essays on 40 playwrights who have written for the American stage since 1945. Each essay consists of six parts: a brief overview of the playwright’s critical reputation, achievements, and important contributions to American theater; a classified list of published and unpublished primary works (including interviews); a history of productions and their critical reception; an evaluative survey of scholarship and criticism (with separate sections for bibliographies, biographies, source studies, general studies, and analyses of individual plays); suggestions for further research; and a checklist of all sources cited in the essay. Two indexes: persons; titles of plays and screenplays. Coverage is selective—too much so for major playwrights—and limited to English-language publications, and some contributors are cryptic or insufficiently rigorous in assessing secondary works; yet, American Playwrights offers a convenient introduction to the reputation of and scholarship on several contemporary dramatists and is especially valuable for its numerous suggestions for further research. Still needed, however, is a full bibliography of studies of contemporary American drama and theater.

Other Bibliographies

Gavin, Christy. American Women Playwrights, 1964–1989: A Research Guide and Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1993. 493 pp. Garland Reference Lib. of the Humanities 879. Z1231.D7 G38 [PS338.W6] 016.812′54099287.

A selective bibliography of plays by and publications about American women playwrights “who have demonstrated a sustained record of achievement and who have produced at least one play on Broadway, Off Broadway, or Off-Off Broadway from the early 1960s through 1989.” Following a prefatory survey of feminist scholarship (which concludes with suggestions for future research), the 4,214 entries are organized in two divisions: general studies of contemporary women dramatists and feminist theater; playwrights (with sections for selected plays, profiles and interviews, and reviews and studies of individual plays). Entries for profiles, interviews, and studies (as well as a few reviews) are accompanied by annotations that are often evaluative (and usually wordy). Indexed by authors of annotated entries only. An utterly inadequate (and incomplete as well as frequently erroneous) index, lack of an explanation of the criteria governing selection of works by and about the playwrights, omission of International Bibliography of Theatre (L1160) and ABELL (G340) from the serial bibliographies searched for entries, and poor design (e.g., the failure to include names of dramatists in running heads makes locating sections on individuals needlessly difficult) make American Women Playwrights frustrating to consult; that is unfortunate since the volume offers the best available guide to the widely scattered literature about contemporary American women playwrights.


Harris, Richard H. Modern Drama in America and England, 1950–1970: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale, 1982. 606 pp. Amer. Lit., English Lit., and World Lits. in English: An Information Guide Ser. 34. Z1231.D7 H36 [PS351] 016.822′914.

A selective bibliography of editions of British and American plays published for the first time between 1950 and 1975 and of English-language scholarship through 1975 on plays published between 1950 and 1970. Excludes plays produced during the period but published after 1975, musicals, and works by African American playwrights (presumably because such works are included in French, Afro-American Poetry and Drama [Q3845], in the same Gale series). Entries are organized in three divisions: bibliographies; general criticism; and 255 authors, each with sections for editions of plays, collaborative works, bibliographies, selected nondramatic works, and criticism. Annotations typically combine description with evaluative comment, but several are inaccurate or inadequately descriptive. Three indexes: persons; titles; subjects (including playwrights). There are significant omissions and the description of scope is confusing and incomplete; thus Harris is useful only for preliminary work. Review: Albert Wertheim, Literary Research Newsletter 8.1 (1983): 38–41. Carpenter, Modern Drama Scholarship and Criticism, 1966–1980 (M2875), offers more thorough coverage of studies after 1965.

Superior coverage of works (through c. 1981) by and about Albee, Baraka, Bullins, Gelber, Kopit, Mamet, Rabe, Shepard, Simon, and Lanford Wilson can be found in Kimball King, Ten Modern American Playwrights: An Annotated Bibliography (New York: Garland, 1982; 251 pp.; Garland Reference Lib. of the Humanities 234), which is particularly valuable for its full annotations, coverage of foreign scholarship, lists of reviews, and inclusion of translations of primary works.


Wildbihler, Hubert, and Sonja Völklein. The Musical: An International Annotated Bibliography / Eine internationale annotierte Bibliographie. München: Saur, 1986. 320 pp. ML128.M78 W56 016.78281′09.

A bibliography of studies through 1985 on the musical (including stage and film productions, extravaganzas, vaudeville and variety shows, and operettas), primarily in North America but also in Great Britain, the Federal Republic of Germany, and a few other countries. Most reviews of individual productions are excluded. The approximately 3,600 entries are organized by publication date in five classified divisions: general reference works (with sections for encyclopedias and guides, review and song indexes, bibliographies, yearbooks, and discographies); stage musical in North America (predecessors, history and development, elements of the musical [such as music and dance], production, and public reception); stage musical in other countries (Great Britain, Federal Republic of Germany and Austria, socialist countries, and other countries); film musical (general studies, essays and short criticism, special effects, adaptations of stage musicals, and dance); and people (general biographical works; composers, lyricists, and librettists; directors, choreographers, and producers; performers). The subtitle is misleading, since only about one-fourth of the entries are accompanied by descriptive annotations, a few of which incorporate an evaluative comment; none of the entries in the people divisions is annotated. Two indexes: scholars; subjects and titles of musicals. Despite the incomplete annotation, this work provides the fullest list of scholarship on the musical and is especially valuable for its international coverage of scholarship.

See also

Carpenter, Modern Drama Scholarship and Criticism, 1966–1980 (M2875).

“Modern Drama Studies: An Annual Bibliography,” Modern Drama (M2870).

Roudané, American Dramatists (J595a).

Wilmeth, American Stage to World War I (Q3525).

Review Indexes

Salem, James M. A Guide to Critical Reviews. 4 pts. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1971–91. Z5781.S16 [PN2266] 016.8092.

  • Pt. 1: American Drama, 1909–1982. 3rd ed. 1984. 657 pp.

  • Pt. 2: The Musical, 1909–1989. 3rd ed. 1991. 820 pp.

  • Pt. 3: Foreign Drama, 1909–1977. 2nd ed. 1979. 420 pp.

  • Pt. 4: The Screenplay from The Jazz Singer to Dr. Strangelove . 2 vols. 1971. Supplement One: 1963–1980. 1982. 698 pp.

A selective checklist of reviews in general-circulation American and Canadian periodicals and the New York Times of productions on the New York stage and of movie and television screenplays. Salem excludes productions of plays written before the late nineteenth century (but the precise cutoff date is unclear). Plays are listed alphabetically by author; screenplays and musicals, by title. Under each work, reviews are organized alphabetically by periodical title. Each part includes a list of major awards; lists of popular or long-running plays appear in pts. 1–3. Indexes: pt. 1 (names; titles); pt. 2 (authors, composers, lyricists; directors, designers, choreographers; original works and authors); pt. 3 (authors, adapters, translators; titles). Limited in scope, the series is principally useful as a compilation of reviews indexed in the standard general indexes in section G.

Biographical Dictionaries

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television: A Biographical Guide Featuring Performers, Directors, Writers, Producers, Designers, Managers, Choreographers, Technicians, Composers, Executives, Dancers, and Critics in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and the World. Detroit: Gale-Cengage, 1984– . Annual. (Subtitle varies.) PN2285.C58 791′.092′2. Online through Gale Biography in Context (J572) and Gale Virtual Reference Library (I535).

The expanded continuation of Who’s Who in the Theatre (Detroit: Gale-Cengage, 1912–81), which emphasizes established, active individuals but also includes some major figures who are inactive or who died after 1960. Entries, which are modeled after Contemporary Authors (J595), provide biographical information; career data; publications; screen credits; recordings; memberships; awards; miscellaneous details; and home, office, or agent address. All but a few entries are based on information supplied or checked by the entrant or an agent. Succeeding volumes print updated or revised entries. Cumulative index in each volume; beginning with vol. 2, the cumulative index also covers all 17 editions of Who’s Who in the Theatre and Who Was Who in the Theatre: A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Directors, Playwrights, and Producers of English-Speaking Theatre, 4 vols. (Detroit: Gale, 1978; Gale Composite Biographical Dictionary Ser. 3). All these volumes are also indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565). Although the guide is not comprehensive and although the information supplied by entrants or agents is not always accurate or complete, Contemporary Theatre is a useful source of biographical and career information (as well as addresses) of important persons connected with American or British theater, film, or television.

See also

Contemporary Dramatists (M2880).

Notable Names in the American Theatre (Q4280).


Most works in section L: Genres/Poetry are important to research in twentieth-century American poetry.

Histories and Surveys

Nelson, Cary, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012. 889 pp. PS323.5094 811′.5409.

An edited collection of twenty-six essays that endeavors “to recognize major voices and to bring many other poets into our conversations about modern poetry.” Focused on recovering American poets who have fallen outside the literary canon, Nelson explains that recovery in this setting is necessarily theorized in complex social and historical contexts. Part 1, the opening chapter, introduces the century of poetry and weaves strands among entries to create a cohesive whole made of diverse parts. The chapters that follow have been arranged in logical and complementary order. Part 2, the main body of the text, covers movements, genres, and theories such as modernism, sentimentality, poetry and labor, poetry and music, surrealism, psychoanalysis, political poetry, and disability poetics and topics such as American Indian poetry, women, economics and gender, American culture, war, African American poetry, Asian American poetry, religion, news, diaspora, environmental criticism, the Black Arts movement, and technology. Sparsely but effectively illustrated. Two indexes: poets; subject. Review: Stephen Fredman, Modern Language Review 109.3 (2014): 791–94.


Perkins, History of Modern Poetry (M2890).

Bibliographies of Bibliographies

McPheron, William. The Bibliography of Contemporary American Poetry, 1945–1985: An Annotated Checklist. Westport: Meckler, 1986. 72 pp. Z1231.P7 M37 [PS323.5] 016.811′54.

A bibliography of bibliographies of works by or about American poets whose reputations were established since 1945. Coverage includes separately published bibliographies, articles, dissertations, theses, and parts of books through 1984. The 267 entries are listed in two divisions: multiple-author bibliographies (organized alphabetically by compiler or editor and including bibliographies of private presses) and single-author bibliographies (listed by publication date under each author). The annotations offer a clear description of scope and (usually) a succinct evaluation of a work’s utility or quality. The introduction provides an overview of the bibliography of contemporary poetry. Although the first division includes some works that hardly qualify as bibliographies and although access is hampered by the lack of a subject index or cross-references to multiple-author bibliographies, McPheron includes a number of works not indexed in the standard serial bibliographies and indexes in section G and is the essential guide to bibliographies of contemporary poets.

Guides to Primary Works
Bibliographies and Indexes

Davis, Lloyd, and Robert Irwin. Contemporary American Poetry: A Checklist. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1975. 179 pp. Davis. Second Series, 1973–1983. 1985. 297 pp. Z1231.P7 D38 [PS323.5] 016.811′5′4.

An author list of books of poetry by Americans born after 1900 and still publishing after 1950. The original volume covers 1950 through 1972 (as well as some earlier publications by established poets); the latter, 1973 through 1983. Both exclude vanity press books, collaborations, translations, children’s books, broadsides, reprints, and most publications of fewer than 10 pages, although exceptions are made for established writers. Books are listed by publication date under each poet. Indexed by titles. Because the works are far from complete, include many errors, list several non-American writers, and take many entries unverified from unidentified sources, they are useful only as a preliminary guide to volumes of poetry published after 1950 by writers who are not the subject of an author bibliography. For most others, WorldCat (E225) will provide a more accurate, thorough list of separate publications.

Kirby Congdon, Contemporary Poets in American Anthologies, 1960–1977 (Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1978; 228 pp.), is virtually useless since it indexes poets but not poems.


Index of American Periodical Verse: [1971–2006]. Lanham: Scarecrow, 1973–2008. Annual. Z1231.P7 I47 016.811′5′4.

An author list of poems appearing in selected periodicals, primarily English-language little magazines, university reviews, and scholarly journals published in North America (although a few Spanish-language publications have been indexed since the volume for 1981). Coverage encompasses 200 to 300 periodicals and includes poets from all periods and countries, although the majority are contemporary American writers. Entries are listed alphabetically by author; cross-references cite variant forms of names. Indexed by titles. Compilations from 1982 through 2006 are also available as digital files from the editors. Although the criteria governing selection of periodicals are vague (“a broad cross section” and “recommendations of poets, librarians, literary scholars, and publishers”) and although coverage is far from comprehensive, this work is a useful source for locating poems by contemporary poets in periodicals indexed nowhere else.

Some additional periodicals—along with a variety of single-author collections—are indexed by author, title, and first line in Roth’s American Poetry Annual, [1988–90]: A Reference and Guide to Poetry Published in the United States during [1987–89] (Great Neck: Roth, 1989–91; annual), which continues Annual Index to Poetry in Periodicals, [1984–86] (Great Neck: Poetry Index, 1985–88) and American Poetry Index: An Author, Title, and Subject Index to Poetry by Americans in Single-Author Collections, [1981–86] (Great Neck: Granger, 1983–88). None of the preceding explains the criteria governing the selection of periodicals or collections.

For earlier publications, see the following:

  • Caskey, Jefferson D., comp. Index to Poetry in Popular Periodicals, 1955–1959. Westport: Greenwood, 1984. 269 pp. 1960–1964. 1988. 232 pp. Author, title, first-line, and subject indexes to poems in periodicals covered by Readers’ Guide (G400), which does not index poems after 1957.

  • Index to Poetry in Periodicals, 1925–1929: An Index of Poets and Poems Published in American Magazines and Newspapers. Great Neck: Granger, 1984. 265 pp. Covers about 450 periodicals and newspapers.

  • Index to Poetry in Periodicals, 1920–1924: An Index of Poets and Poems Published in American Magazines and Newspapers. Great Neck: Granger, 1983. 178 pp. Covers 302 periodicals and newspapers.

  • Index to Poetry in Periodicals: American Poetic Renaissance, 1915–1919: An Index of Poets and Poems Published in American Magazines and Newspapers. Great Neck: Granger, 1981. 221 pp. An author index to 122 American magazines and newspapers.


Reardon, Joan, and Kristine A. Thorsen. Poetry by American Women, 1900–1975: A Bibliography. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1979. 674 pp. Reardon. Poetry by American Women, 1975–1989: A Bibliography. 1990. 232 pp. Z1229.W8 R4 [PS151] 016.811′008.

An author bibliography of about 12,380 separately published volumes of poetry by some 7,065 female United States citizens who published significant works between 1900 and 1989. Both compilations exclude mixed-genre works, foreign language editions, and most broadsides; reprints and collaborative works are excluded in the 1900–75 volume but not in the supplement. Entries—listed by publication date under an author—cite title, publication information, and pagination. Indexed by titles. Although the authors base most entries on standard bibliographical resources rather than the examination of copies and are inconsistent in citing later editions and providing cross-references for pseudonyms and variant forms of names, Poetry by American Women is a serviceable compilation.

See also

Baughman, American Poets (J595a).

Poetry Index Annual (L1235a).

Text Archives

Twentieth-Century American Poetry. 2nd ed. Chadwyck-Healey Literature Collections. ProQuest, 1996–2013. 16 Mar. 2013. <>.

An archive of rekeyed texts of more than 100,000 English-language poems by twentieth-century American poets that includes Twentieth-Century African American Poetry (Q3848a) and adds 500 volumes to the original Twentieth-Century American Poetry . Editions were selected according to the following criteria: a collected edition; other editions for poets without a collected one. Selection is based on an attempt to present “a broad representative collection that reflects the diversity of modern American literary traditions, including . . . major figures alongside historically important writers and younger emergent poets” and on the ability to secure rights for electronic publication.

Simple keyword, first-line or title, and author searches can be limited to notes and by publication date, publisher, gender, date during a poet’s lifetime, ethnicity, and literary movement. Searchers can also browse lists of authors, titles or first lines, publishers, ethnic groups, and literary movements. 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 American Poetry’s text archive makes feasible a variety of kinds of studies (stylistic, thematic, imagistic, and topical).

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

Continues American Poetry (Q3536).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

Gingerich, Martin E. Contemporary Poetry in America and England, 1950–1975. Detroit: Gale, 1983. 453 pp. Amer. Lit., English Lit., and World Lits. in English: An Information Guide Ser. 41. Z1231.P7 G56 [PS303] 016.811′5.

An annotated selective bibliography of English-language studies (published through 1978, but with some additions through 1981) on contemporary British and American poetry. The approximately 100 poets (two-thirds of them American) are selected on the basis of having been the subject of a reasonable amount of criticism, although writers who appear in other volumes in the series are excluded. The studies included seem to represent what the compiler found in standard bibliographies and indexes. The descriptively annotated entries are organized alphabetically in eight divisions: bibliographies and reference works, contemporary culture and sociology, general aesthetics and poetic theory, general studies of poetry and poets, general studies of American poets and literature, general studies of British poets and literature, studies of two or more poets, and individual authors (each with sections, when needed, for books of poetry, bibliographies, biographies, books about, and articles about). Users must consult existing author bibliographies, since Gingerich supplements but does not duplicate listings in them, and use the name index to locate general studies that discuss an author, since there are no cross-references. Two indexes: names; titles of works cited. The considerable gaps in coverage and lack of a subject index leave this work far short of the sorely needed bibliography of scholarship and criticism on contemporary poetry. It is, however, far superior to Phillis Gershator, A Bibliographic Guide to the Literature of Contemporary American Poetry, 1970–1975 (Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1976; 124 pp.), which relies extensively on other sources, is far from complete, is inadequately indexed, and includes only books published between 1970 and 1975.

See also

Sec. M: English Literature/Twentieth-Century Literature/Genres/Poetry/Guides to Scholarship and Criticism.

American Literary Scholarship (Q3265): Chapters on poetry: 1900–1940s and poetry: 1940s–present.

Baughman, American Poets (J595a).

Kuntz and Martinez, Poetry Explication (L1255).

Leo, Guide to American Poetry Explication, vol. 2 (L1255a).

Biographical Dictionaries

Contemporary Poets (M2895).


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

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

Brier, Peter A., and Anthony Arthur. American Prose and Criticism, 1900–1950: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale, 1981. 242 pp. Amer. Lit., English Lit., and World Lits. in English: An Information Guide Ser. 35. Z1231.P8 B74 [PS362] 016.81′08′0052.

A bibliography of works (through the mid-1970s) by and about prose writers “who transcend the idiom and intention of purely journalistic or academic writing.” The entries are organized in two separate parts: prose and criticism. The first is composed of two divisions: general works (with sections for handbooks, bibliographies and checklists, intellectual background, rhetorical studies, anthologies, and studies of periodicals) and individual authors, who are categorized as entertainers, teachers, or reporters and then ranked in three groups: A, who receive an annotated list of primary and secondary works; B, for whom selected primary works and studies are summarized in a few paragraphs; and C, who are given a couple sentences each. The criticism part is composed of three divisions: general works (with sections for bibliographies, general histories of criticism, studies of schools and movements, and literary histories important to the history of criticism), collections of critical essays, and major critics (with separate lists of bibliographies and critical works, an essay discussion of representative studies, and a list of other sources). In both parts, annotations or discussions are largely descriptive. Three indexes: scholars; titles; subjects. Because of the incomplete coverage and lack of criteria governing the selection of both writers and studies, American Prose and Criticism is only marginally useful as a starting point for research and must be supplemented by the serial bibliographies and indexes in section G.