Chapter 19. Foreign Language Literatures

Table of Contents

This section is limited to guides to reference works that will direct researchers to essential sources, along with a very few important bibliographies of bibliographies or major serial bibliographies. For a basic list of specialized bibliographies, literary dictionaries and encyclopedias, and other reference works on a particular literature, consult Thompson, Key Sources in Comparative and World Literature (S4850), Guide to Reference (B60), or New Walford Guide to Reference Resources (B65).

Users should also remember that studies of all literatures (except classical Greek and Latin) are covered by MLAIB (G335).


Guides to Reference Works


Thompson, George A., Jr. Key Sources in Comparative and World Literature. New York: Ungar, 1982. 383 pp. Z6511.T47 [PN523] 016.809.

A highly selective, annotated guide to reference works on a variety of literatures, but emphasizing those in English and Western European languages. Entries are organized in 11 extensively classified divisions: comparative, general, and international literatures; classical; Romance; French; Italian; Hispanic; German; literatures in English; other European literatures; Oriental literatures; and related fields. Many sections list bibliographies and concordances for major authors. The annotations are typically descriptive, noting scope, organization, related works, and (sometimes) reviews. While some are full, many of the annotations inadequately detail the content or significance of a work. Poor layout makes skimming difficult. Three indexes: names; selected titles and institutions; subjects. Although it does not really emphasize comparative literature, omits several essential works, and is frequently uncritical in selection or annotation, Thompson is the best general guide to essential bibliographies, handbooks, histories, and other reference works for foreign literatures.

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism


Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies (YWMLS). London: Mod. Humanities Research Assn., 1931– . Annual. PB1.Y45 405.8. <>.

A selective, evaluative review of research on Romance, Celtic, Germanic, and Slavonic languages and literatures. Currently organized by language or geographic area within five divisions (Latin, Romance, Celtic, Germanic, and Slavonic languages), with essays on language, literary periods, and film studies as required by the extent of the scholarship. For example, in vol. 65 (for 2003) French studies takes 13 essays whereas Swedish studies needs only two.

The necessarily selective coverage depends on availability of material, individual contributors, the extent of coverage in other bibliographies, and—since vol. 45 (for 1983)—the number of pages allocated by the editors to a chapter. As in Year’s Work in English Studies (G330), the quality and objectivity of individual essays vary depending on the contributor(s), but most (until the mid-1990s) attempt judicious evaluations of the significant scholarship. Recent volumes have been published within a year or two following that of the scholarship covered. Indexed by persons (including authors discussed); a cumulative author index for 66–71 (for 2004–09) can be downloaded from the YWMLS Web site. The elimination of the subject index beginning in 58 (1996) is partly compensated for since YWMLS is now available on JSTOR (K700).

Although some topics are covered more exhaustively in other sources, YWMLS was for many years the single most comprehensive evaluative survey of scholarship on European and Latin American languages and literatures. Since the mid-1990s, however, the majority of the essays are little more than lists of citations accompanied by one- or two-sentence descriptions of content; many essays in recent volumes are listed as “Postponed.” Taken together, the annual volumes offer an incomparable record of scholarly and critical trends as well as of the fluctuations of academic reputations of literary works and authors.