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ENGL 14: Introduction to Literary History and Interpretation (Tremblay-McGaw)

A guide to researching authors and the changing historical receptions and understandings of their works

Surveying Critical Responses over Time



The best sources to use to survey how critical reactions to an author's work have changed over time are the printed volumes in the various sets in the Gale literary criticism series.  These large multi-volume sets reprint the most important critical assessments of an author's works, selected from articles in scholarly journals, magazines, book reviews, books, letters, diaries, and other writings.  These documents appear in chronological order, presenting early views from the author's time down to contemporary analysis.  Covering all genres of literature, these extensive collections of literary criticism are organized by broad time periods into the following sets:

To determine which volumes in these sets contain articles on your particular author or literary work, look in the Cumulative Author Index in the most recent volume in the set.  Always be sure to look in the first volume in which your author was treated.  The earliest critical writings, especially those contemporary with when your author was writing and first published, will appear in that volume. Later volumes will pick up where the last volume left off in publishing more recent criticism.

The most recent criticism published in these sets is available online in a database called Gale Literature Criticism.  You can access the criticism on your author in these volumes as follows:

  1. Look in Gale Literary Index to learn which volumes contain your author.  In the Search box, type the author's name, surname first (for example -- Dickinson, Emily). General articles about the author in reference books are listed first. Below them, listed in alphabetical order by title in the "Works by this Author" section, are articles that discuss specific literary works.  Click on the link for the literary work whose critical reception you are tracing, and find the volumes in the series listed above that contain your author.
  2. Access the Gale Literature Criticism database.
  3. Click the "What's Inside" link near the top of the screen on the right.
  4. Click on the title of the series you want.
  5. Select the volume you want and then click the link for "Volume Table of Contents."
  6. Click on the link for your author or literary work, and then click the link for "Criticism."  You will now see the critical assessments contained in that volume, printed chronologically in the order in which they were originally published.


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