Skip to main content
John M. Kelly Library

Research Guide to French Literature

PDF version

This research guide is maintained by Richard Carter. It was last updated April 2008.

Reference and Resource Guides

Guide to Reference Books.

Edited by R. Balay and others. 11th edition. Chicago: American Library Association, 1996
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - Z 1035.1 .G89]
This annotated guide is an excellent way for researchers who are new to French literature to identify the most useful French literature sources such as critical reviews, guidebooks, histories, and dictionaries on French literature. The French section runs from pages 599-608.

A Guide to French Literature

A Guide to French Literature: From Early Modern to Postmodern.

By J. Birkett and J. Kearns. New York: St. Martin's, 1997.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area -PQ 305 .B524]
This guide provides descriptive annotations of bibliographies and literature studies related to French literature. Sources are divided by literary genre and can be accessed by an index that provides subject, title, and author references. Special topics include French-language writers from Canada and the rise of feminist literature in France.

Research and Reference Guide to French Studies.

By C.B. Osburn. Second edition. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1981.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PC 2071 .O83 1981]
This guide is useful for researching French literature as well as related topics such as themes, outside influences, literary movements, etc. It principally covers the literature of France, but it has a small section on writings from Quebec, Belgium, etc. It includes an author and subject index for looking up materials.

Guide to French Literature

Guide to French Literature.

By A. Levi. 2 volumes. Chicago; London: St. James, 1992-1994.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area -PQ 41 .L48]
An excellent place for the French literature novice to start searching for information and criticism on novels, poetry, plays, and other genres. Levi summarizes major works and offers biographical information and bibliographic references.

Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

The New Oxford Companion to Literature in French

The New Oxford Companion to Literature in French.

Edited by P. France. Oxford, [England]: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area -PQ 41 .N48]
The Companion is an excellent introductory guide to authors, works, history and concepts in French and Francophone literature as well as related topics. Entries cover major aspects of French literature and indirectly related topics. Longer articles are accompanied by bibliographies.

Dictionary of Modern French Literature: from the Age of Reason Through Realism.

By S.W. Dolbow. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1986.
[Robarts Library 4th Floor Reference Area - PQ 41 .D65]
This bibliographic dictionary provides brief entries on the major writers, works and literary movements in France from the 18th to the early 20th century. Entries include biographical information about major authors and synopses of major literary works. It includes indexes listing authors by subject and literary period as well as an appendix of historical and literary events.

Feminist Encyclopedia of French Literature

Feminist Encyclopedia of French Literature.

E. Martin Sartori, editor-in-chief. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1999.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PQ 149 .F47]
An exhaustive compendium of bibliographic and biographical information on French women writers from the Middle Ages to the modern era. The signed articles discuss feminist and literary topics and provide short listings of related primary and secondary sources.

Cyclopedia of Literary Characters.

Revised edition. 5 volumes. Edited by A.J. Sobczak. Pasadena, CA: Salem, 1998.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PN 44 .M3]
This encyclopedia provides over 16,000 entries on minor and major characters. Each description discusses the traits of and the relationships between characters motivation. There are character name, author, and title indexes for looking up items. Coverage of French characters is extensive.

The Year's Work in Modern Language Studies.

Modern Humanities Research Association. London: Oxford University Press, 1929/30-.
[Robarts Library 4th Floor Reference Area - PB 1 .Y45]
This annually updated critical bibliography provides excellent coverage of ongoing research in language and literature. Chapters on French literature are broken down by time period (e.g., "late medieval"). The best way to look up entries is through the extensive name and subject indexes.


Revised second edition. Edited by F.N. Magill. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 1996.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PN 44 .M33]
Masterplots is a useful tool for finding a quick explanation of the plot and characters and for finding criticism and history of the "Great Books" of Western literature. There are extensive author, title, geographic, and chronological indexes in the 12th volume.

Dictionnaire Bordas de littérature française.

By H. Lemaître. Paris: Bordas, 1996.
[Robarts Library 4th Floor Reference Area - PQ 41 .L45]
Lemaître's work looks at French authors, literary history, and criticism. Entries on a particular author include a list of that authors' writings. Articles are arranged alphabetically, and the title index points the reader to the correct entry.

Le Robert des Grands Ecrivain de Langue Francaise

Le Robert des grands écrivains de langue française.

Edited by P. Hamon and D. Roger-Vasselin. Paris: Dictionnaires Le Robert, 2000.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PQ 41 .R53]
This dictionary provides criticism of 150 French writers from varied theoretical perspectives. Each entry offers an analysis of the writer's work, a brief biography, selected quotations, and a select bibliography. Authors can be looked up in the personal name or title indexes.

Dictionnaire des Oeuvres du XXe Siecle: Litterature Francaise et Francophone

Dictionnaire des oeuvres du XXe siècle: Littérature française et francophone.

Edited by H. Mitterand. Paris: Dictionnaires Le Robert, 1995.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PQ 305 .D53]
This work provides analysis and criticism of 20th century French literary works and movements. Entries include a summary, an analysis of the work, and a short bibliography. The chronology highlights major developments in contemporary French literature. Entries can be looked up either by author or title in the index.

Dictionnaire de la littérature française et francophone.

Edited by H. Lemaître. Paris: Bordas, 1986.
[Robarts Library 4th Floor Reference Area - PQ 41 .D4]
This source includes succinct articles on all types of French and Francophone authors. Entries on authors list the writer's major publications. There are also articles on literary terms and concepts, as well as significant works.

Dictionnaire des Litteratures de Langue Francaise

Dictionnaire des littératures de langue française.

By J.P. Beaumarchais. 4 volumes. Paris: Bordas, 1994.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PQ 41 .B4]
This comprehensive guide provides articles covering criticism, genres, themes, periods, and authors. Author entries provide detailed biblographies. It includes literature from France, Africa, Canada, and the Caribbean.

Dictionnaire des personnages littéraires et dramatiques de tous les temps et de tous les pays: poésie théâtre, roman, musique.

Editor in chief, J. Brosse. Paris: Société d'édition de dictionnaires et encyclopédies, [1960].
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PN 41 .D485]
This dictionary is helpful when looking up the names of and background information about characters in literary "classics". The coverage of French literatry characters is good, with several lengthy articles on important characters from French poetry, music, and literature.

Bibliographies and Indexes

French Language and Literature: An Annotated Bibliography.

By F. Bassan, D.C. Spinelli, and H.A. Sullivan. New York; London: Garland, 1989.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PC 2071 .B38]
This source lists and annotates important French literature research such as bibliographies, anthologies, surveys, reference sources, and background materials. It covers authors native to France as well as Francophone countries. Sources can be looked up by author or title in the index or in the detailed table of contents.

Critical Bibliography of French Literature.

Edited by D.C. Caheen. 6 volumes. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1947-1985.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PQ 103 .C75]
An exhaustive, annotated bibliography of books, dissertations and articles related to French literature from the Medieval period to the 20th century. Each volume covers a specific period. Entries are arranged by genre and author. An index of names and topics is included.

Bibliographie der französischen Literaturwissenschaft / Bibliographie d'histoire littéraire français.

Edited by O. Klapp. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1960 - .
[Robarts Library 4th Floor Reference Area - Z 2171 .B46]
An annual bibliography of the history and criticism of French literature. The chapters in each volume are arranged by time period from the Middle Ages to the modern period. Each chapter is broken down by subject and author. There is an extensive name and subject index.

Revue d'histoire Litterature de la France

Revue d'histoire littérature de la France.

6 times/year. Paris: Colin, 1894 -
[St Michael's - Ground Floor Journals]
The Revue publishes extensive articles on French literary history from the 16th to the 20th century. It includes an annual bibliography in every third issue since 1986.

French 17

French 17: An Annual Descriptive Bibliography of French Seventeenth Century Studies.

New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1954-
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PQ 240 .M6]
This annotated bibliography summarizes articles, books, papers, and reviews on topics related to 17th century French studies such as the history of the book; artistic, political, and social background; literary history and criticism; authors and personages; and current research.

Bibliographie de la littérature française du dixseptième siècle.

3 volumes. By Alexandre Cioranescu. Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1965 - 66.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PQ 240 .C56]
Cioranescu focuses more closely on literary history in this study of 17th century writers and writing. The bibliography presents entries alphabetically by author, listing works by and about the author. Author and subject indexes are found in volume three.

Bibliographie de la littérature frangaise du dixhuitième siècle.

By Alexandre Cioranescu. 3 volumes. Paris: Éditions Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique,1969.
[Robarts Library 4th Floor Reference Area - Z 2172 .C48]
The first section of this source provides entries on the history of 18th century literature in France. The second part lists and annotates research on French authors of the 1700s published before 1960. It includes an author/subject index.

French VII Bibliography.

Modern Language Association. New York: Stechert-Hafner, 1949-68.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PQ 305 .F74]
This bibliography of 20th century French literature from the provides articles on the literary history of France and lists books and articles by and about particular French authors. There is a cumulative author index. This series is superceded by the French XX series.

French XX Bibliography

French XX Bibliography.

Modern Language Association. New York: French Institute, 1969 -
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PQ 305 .F74]
This annual bibliography lists current books and articles that provide critical or biographical information related to 20th century French literature. It includes a cumulative author index.

Nineteenth-Century French Fiction Writers.

Edited by C. Savage Brosman. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.
[Trinity College Library- PN 41 .D46]
This series from the Dictionary of Literary Biography has two excellent volumes on French literature titled Romanticism and Realism, 1800-1860 (v. 119) and Naturalism and Beyond, 1860-1900 (v. 123). Each source provides detailed biographical, critical, and bibliographic information on famous 19th century French writers.

Histories and Chronologies

 A New History of Frence Literature

A New History of French Literature.

Edited by D. Hollier. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PQ 119 .N48]
This source provides a series of essays covering key historical events and themes in French literarure from the 770s to the 1980s. The detailed general index allows ready access to the book's contents. The bibliographies that follow each chapter and the extensive cross-references make it easy to expand on a topic. The text is supplemented by a useful chronology and maps.

A Literary History of France

5 volumes. Edited by P.E. Charvet. London: E. Benn, 1967.
[Victoria College E.J. Pratt Library - PQ 103 .L5]
Each volume covers a period of French literature from the Middle Ages to 1940 and contains a selective bibliography and an index of names and subjects. The research focuses on general trends and individual writers.

Histoire de Littérature de Langue Française des Annees 1930 aux Annees 1980

By Pierre de Boisdeffre. Revised edition. Paris: Libraire academique Perrin, 1985.
[Robarts Library 4th Floor Reference Area- PQ 305 .B556]
This work on the history and criticism of 20th century French literature provides bio-bibliographic information about French-language authors.

Histoire de la Litterature Francaise du Moyen Age a la Belle Epoque

Histoire de la littérature française du moyen age à la belle époque

Edited by P. Guth. Paris: Éditions du Rocher, 1992.
[Robarts Library 13th Floor Stacks - PQ 101 .G8]
The chapters in this collection of essays on French authors and literary movements are arranged by century. Entries can be accessed by either the detailed table of contents or the personal name index.

La Litterature Francaise

La littérature française

By H. Lemaître and others. 5 volumes. Paris: Bordas-Laffont, 1970-72.
[Victoria College E.J. Pratt Library - PQ 101 .L44 (v.1-5)]
[St Michael's 2nd Floor Stacks - PQ 101 .L44 (v.1-3 only)]
Lagarde and Michaud have created a useful synthesis of literary history, critical analysis and bibliography of French literature from the Middle Ages to the 1970s. Each volume includes a bibliography divided by chapter and an author/title index.

Finding Journal Articles

MLA International Bibliography

MLA International Bibliography.

[Available online (1963-) for UofT use.]
[Robarts Library 4th Floor Reference Area- Z 7006 .M64]
The MLA International Bibliography indexes critical materials on modern languages and literature since 1963. (The electronic version continues the print series MLA International Bibliography of Books and Articles on the Modern Languages and Literatures.) Coverage of French literature and literary topics such as history and theory is extensive.

ProQuest Digital Dissertations Abstracts

[Available online (1861-) for UofT use.]
This database offers access to over 1.6 million bibliographic references to theses published since 1861. Papers published after 1997 are available in full-text.) Dissertations provide in-depth research on a narrowly focused topic, so this source is invaluable for looking up research on French authors, works, criticism, and literary theory. It is less useful for finding sources providing a general overview of a topic.

Humanities Abstracts.

[Available online (1983-) for UofT use.]
This index offers citations and abstracts for book reviews, interviews, bibliographies, and articles from over 350 humanities periodicals from 1983 onwards. Coverage of French literature and literary criticism is extensive.


[Available Online (1984-) for UofT use.]
A multilingual index with over 700,000 records to journal articles, books, conference papers, reports and other humanities and social sciences materials published since 1984. Coverage of French literature and criticism is strong, but the majority of the sources are in French.

Essay and General Literature Index

[Available online (1985-) for UofT use.]
An index to 45,000 English-language essays in 3,500 collections and anthologies, this index is useful for finding articles, interviews, etc. about authors. This index does a good job of covering contemporary French literary criticism, but its coverage of earlier French authors is poor.

Expanded Academic ASAP

[Available online (1980-) for UofT use.]
Expanded Academic indexes and abstracts nearly 1,600 scholarly and general interest periodicals and offers access to full-text articles from over 500 academic journals. Coverage of prominent French authors is strong, although the index is limited to English language sources.


[Available online for free.]
Repere indexes over 200,000 references from over 500 French-language journals in all fields published since 1980. (Full-text articles are available from 40 journals.) Coverage of scholarly sources is limited, but Repere is useful for finding reviews and criticism of French authors.

Book Review Indexes
Bulletin Critique du Livre Francais

Bulletin critique du livre français

Paris. no 1- juil./oct. 1945-
[Robarts Library 13th Floor Stacks - Z 2165 .B924]
A monthly serial providing short review of French texts, annual publication, news editions of French classics, translations, etc. Reviews are arranged by subject and there is an annual index arranged by title and author.

Critique: Revue Generale des Publications Francaises et Etrangeres

Critique: revue générale des publications françaises et étrangères

Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1946-
[Robarts Library 13th Floor Stacks - Z 1007 .C8]
Critique offers monthly reviews providing reviews of French books and periodicals. It includes an annual index.

Biographical Information

Contemporary Authors

v. 1- .1962-. Detroit: Gale, 1962-.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - Z 1224 .C6]
Biographical and bibliographic information on current authors in fiction, general non-fiction, peotry, drama, film, and other fields. Includes contemporary French authors.

Dictionary of Literary Biography

Detroit: Gale, 1978- .
[Robarts Reference - PN 41 .D46 ]
A multivolume work which includes short entries on minor figures and comprehensive articles on major writers by noted literary authorities. French writers are covered in volumes 65, 72, 83,119, and 123.

European Writers

George Stade, editor in chief. New York: Scribner, 1983-1989.
[Robarts Library 4th Floor Reference Area - PN 501 .E9]
This series on the history and criticism of European literature discusses European authors from the Middle Ages to modern times. The coverage of major French authors (e.g., Descartes, Voltaire, Hugo) is extensive and articles are accompanied by bibliographies.

French Women Writers

French Women Writers: a Bio-Bibliographical Source Book

Edited by Eva Martin Sartori and Dorothy Wynne Zimmerman. New York: Greenwood, 1991.
[Robarts Library 4th Floor Reference Area - PQ 149 .F73]
This source covers the lives of women considered important to the history of French literature and provides a chronology of events and discussion of literary trends of significance to French women. Entries are arranged chronologically and bibliographies are provided. Subject and author indexes are included.

Dictionaires littéraire des femmes de langue française: de Marie de France à Marie NDiaye

By C.P. Makward and M. Cottenet-Hage. Paris: Karthala, 1996.
[Robarts Library 4th Floor Reference Area - PQ 149 .M25]
Makward and Cottenet-Hage investigate the history of French-speaking women authors over the last eight centuries in this source. Entries range from short listings to in-depth articles providing biographical and bibliographic information.

Dictionnaire des littératures française et étrangères

Edited by J. Demougin. Paris: Larousse, 1992.
[Robarts Library 13th Floor Stacks - PN 456 .D54]
This source provides biographies of French and foreign writers as well as entries on the history and criticism of French literature.

Literary Terms and Theory

La Critique littéraire française du XXe siècle

By M. Jarrety. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1998.
[Robarts Library 13th Floor Stacks - PQ 305 .J36 1998]
A useful guide to French theoretical approaches to literary criticism and history with a focus on 20th century French literature.

The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism

The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism

Edited by M. Groden and M. Kreiswirth. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PN 81 .J54 2005]
This encyclopedia provides articles and bibliographies on theorists, movements and schools, and the critical and theoretical developments of specific countries and historical periods. French literary theory is covered from the 17th century to modern times.

Internet Sources


American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language

[Available online for free.]
ARTFL is a searchable concordance to over 2000 French works of prose, poems, criticism and reference sources. There a few medieval and Renaissance texts, but coverage 18th to 20th century literature is strong. Access to some of the resources is restricted to Univerity of Toronto students.

Athena: Textes Français

[Available online for free.]
Athena offers access to electronic texts from France and Switzerland. Works are arranged alphabetically by author. A small number of the texts have been translated into English.



[Available online for free.]
This database from the Bibliothhque Nationale de France (the National Library of France) lists over 300,000 images and 100,000 full-text sources related to French literature from the Middle ages to the 19th century. The database is searchable by author, date, or period. All information on the website is in French, so this source is most useful to fluent scholars.

French Studies Web: Literature, Linguistics & Culture

[Available online for free.]
This online textual database provides links to full-text French and Francophone literature by a variety of authors.

L'Association des bibliophiles universelles: La Bibliothèque Universelle

[Available online for free.]
A collection of nearly 300 electronic French texts by over 90 authors that can be accessed by author or title indexes or by using the site search engine. The language of the site is French. The site also offers several French dictionaries.

Le Rayon Litteraire

[Available online for free.]
A collection of public domain works by less well-known French and French-language authors. The site includes fictional and non-fictional works. It provides bibliographical and biographical information.

Electronic Text Center - French Language Resources

[Available online for free.]
An extensive, well-organized archive of electronic texts compiled by the University of Virginia, this source lets users carry out keyword searches of numerous literary works by famous French authors. Some sources are restricted to subscribers.

The World Wide Web Virtual Library: Littérature Française

[Available online for free.]
A guide to Web-based resources on French literary criticism with catgories such as online texts, bibliographies, French authors, etc. Entries are French, but there are links to English-language sources. This source is part of the highly reputable WWW Virtual Library.