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John M. Kelly Library

Research Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism

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This research guide was originally created by Dave Hagelaar. It is currently maintained by Richard Carter. It was last updated April 2008.


In addition to providing useful summary and survey information, encyclopedias often provide a list of recommended readings on particular topics.

The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism

Edited by Michael Groden and Martin Kreiswirth. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PN 81 .54 1994]
[Available online for UofT use.]
This large single-volume encyclopedia covers theorists, movements, terms and critics. Entries are individually authored and each contains a bibliography.

Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory: Approaches, Scholars, Terms

Edited by Irena R. Makaryk. Toronto: University of Toronto, 1993.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PN 81 .E63 1993]
Divided into the three sections indicated by its title, this large single-volume encyclopedia consists of individually authored entries.

Dictionary of Concepts in Literary Criticism and Theory

By Wendell V. Harris. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PN 41 .H36 1992]
71 entries are discussed using short essay-length format. Contrary to its title, this is more of a single-volume encyclopedia than a dictionary. Each entry contains a bibliography.

Encyclopedia of the Novel

Edited by Paul Schellinger. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PN 41 .E487 1998]
A two-volume work that includes detailed entries on the world's novels and novelists, as well as ssues and ideas of literature.

Encyclopedia of Semiotics

Edited by Paul Bouissac. Oxford: University Press, 1998.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - P 99 .E64 1998]

Signed articles with bibliographies and cross-references.

Glossaries and Dictionaries

Glossaries and dictionaries are used to define terms and concepts. Glossaries generally provide a much more detailed explanation of the term in question.

A Glossary of Contemporary Literary Theory

By Jeremy Hawthorne. London: Arnold, 2000.
[Victoria Pratt - PN 44.5 .H37 2000]
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PN 44.5 .H37 1998]

The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism

Edited by Joseph Childers and Gary Hentzi. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - BH 39 .C62 1995]
Short-essay format with a focus on 'contemporary' as opposed to 'modern' criticism.

A Dictionary of Critical Theory

By Leonard Orr. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.
[Robarts Reference - PN 98 .S6O77 1991]
Includes entries pertaining to Anglo-American literary theory as well as Continental.

A Dictionary of Literary Devices

By Bernard Marie Dupriez. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN 172 D813 1991]
Translated from the French, contains interesting definitions of terms from Linguistics, Rhetoric, and Philology.

Critical Terms for Literary Study

Edited by Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.
[Victoria Pratt - PN 81 .C6 1995]
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PN 81 .C84 1990]
High quality, individually written, essay-length entries for 22 core terms in literary study.

A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms

By Richard A. Lanham. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
[Robarts - PE 1445 .A2L3 1991]
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PE 1445 .A2L3 1968]
Clear and well illustrated coverage of quite technical terms.

A Glossary of Literary Terms

By M. H. Abrams. Boston: Thomson, Wadsworth, 2005.
[Victoria Pratt - PN 41 .A184 2005]
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PN 41 .A184 1993]
A scholarly work that is, nonetheless, accessible to those less well versed in the field.

A Dictionary of Literary Terms

By J. A. Cuddon. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.
[Robarts - PN 41 .C83 1991]
Contains more terms than Abrams work but each entry is less detailed.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
[Robarts Reference - PN 41 .B26 2001]
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PN 41 .C67 1990]
Contains a succinct explanation for 1,000 terms.

Journal Indexes

Journal Indexes are used to find articles in scholarly journals, magazines, newspapers, conference proceedings, etc.
Unless otherwise noted, all of the following indexes can be searched from the University of Toronto Library Homepage.

MLA International Bibliography (Modern Language Association)

This is the most significant source for current articles on this topic. "The database indexes international scholarly materials on modern language, literature, linguistics, and folklore. Covering 1963 to the present, the MLA International Bibliography includes 1.3 million citations from over 3,000 journals and series, monographs, working papers and conference proceedings."

Philosopher's Index.

In addition to being a major source on information in the area of Literary and Cultural Theory and Criticism, "Philosopher's Index" is the primary source for information in the areas of aesthetics, epistemology, ethics, logic, and metaphysics. It is also a rich source of material on the philosophy of various disciplines, such as education, history, law, religion, and science.

Essay and General Literature Index

Emphasizing the humanities and social sciences, "Essay and General Literature Index" provides access to nearly 45,000 English-language essays in 3,500 collections and anthologies. In addition to 'Literature' and 'Literary Theory,' subjects covered include history, economics, psychology, religion, political science, folklore, film, music, and drama.

Literature Online

"A fully searchable library of more than 330,000 works of English and American poetry, drama and prose, plus biographies, bibliographies and key criticism and reference resources."

The Bakhtin Group

The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays

By M. M. Bakhtin, edited by Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN 3331 .B2513]
Includes an 11 page glossary of terms coined, or commonly used, by Bakhtin.

Mikhail Bakhtin: The Dialogical Principle

By Tzvetan Todorov ; translated by Wlad Godzich. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PG 2947 .B3T613 1984]
An excellent introduction to Bakhtin's work.

After Bakhtin: Essays on Fiction and Criticism

By David Lodge. London: Routledge, 1990.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PG 2947 .B3L63 1990]
Demonstrates how Bakhtin's ideas can be used by the literary critic.

Cultural Studies

Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society

By Raymond Williams. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - PE 1580 .W58]
Williams, himself one of the most important figures in Cultural Studies, examines the origins and historical changes in key terms in the vocabulary of culture and society.

Studying Culture: An Introductory Reader

Edited by Ann Gray and Jim McGuigan. 2nd Edition. London: E. Arnold, 1993.
[Trinity - CB 430 .S78 1997]
A collection of key texts in Cultural Studies. Includes editorial commentary and suggestions for further reading.

A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader

Edited by Antony Easthope and Kate McGowan. Buckingham: Open University Press, 1992.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN 81 .C83 1992]
Another collection of seminal works.


Deconstruction, Theory and Practice

By Christopher Norris. London: Routledge, 1991.
[Victoria Pratt - PN 98 .D43N6 2002]
A good introduction to this school.

Beyond Deconstruction: The Uses and Abuses of Literary Theory

Howard Felperin. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985.
[Robarts - PN 94 .F45 1985]

Derrida and Deconstruction

Edited by Hugh J. Silverman. London: Routledge, 1989.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - B 2430 .D484D478 1989]
This philosophical account includes a bibliography of works by and about Derrida.


A Glossary of Feminist Theory

Edited by Sonya Andermahr, Terry Lovell, and Carol Wolkowitz. New York: Arnold, 2000.
[Robarts - HQ 1190 .A53 2000]

Includes a chronology of opinion, biographical sketches of important figures, statistics, techniques, organizations, glossary, index, and a select bibliography.

The Dictionary of Feminist Theory

By Maggie Humm. New York: Prentice Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1995.
[Robarts - HQ 1115 .H86 1995]
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - HQ 1115 .H86 1990]

Feminist Literary Theory: A Reader

Edited by Mary Eagleton. 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN 98 .W64F44 1996]
An essential collection of works.

gender Inn

"gender Inn is a searchable database providing access to over 7500 records pertaining to feminist theory, feminist literary criticism and gender studies focusing on English and American literature."

Linguistics and Stylistics

A Dictionary of Stylistics

By Katie Wales. 2nd Edition. New York: Longman, 2001.
[Robarts Reference - P 301.W35 2001]
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - P 301 .W35 1990]
Contains many specialist terms from Linguistics and Stylistics.

A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics

By R.L. Trask. London: Routledge, 1993.
[Robarts Reference - P 152 .T7 1993]

The Stylistics Reader: From Roman Jakobson to the Present

Edited by Jean Jacques Weber. London: Arnold, 1996.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - P 301 .S879 1996X]
A collection of classic writings in the field.


Contemporary Marxist Literary Criticism

Edited and introduced by Francis Mulhern. London: Longman, 1992.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN 98 .C6C66 1992]
Includes a chronology of opinion, biographical sketches of important figures, statistics, techniques, organizations, glossary, index, and a select bibliography.

Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader

Edited by Terry Eagleton and Drew Milne. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1996.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN 98 .C6M28 1996]
A collection of editorial columns and political cartoons concerning abortion, with subject and author access.

The Politics of Literary Theory: An Introduction to Marxist Criticism

By Philip Goldstein. Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1990.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN 98 .C6G6 1990]
A source book of sociological, philosophical, religious, and legal aspects of the issue.

Media Studies

A Dictionary of Communication and Media Studies

By James Watson and Anne Hill. 7th edition. London : Hodder Arnold, 2006.
[Robarts Reference - P 87.5 .W3 2006]
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - P 87.5 .W3 2006]

Mass Media and Society

Edited by James Curran and Michael Gurevitch. 3rd edition. New York: Arnold, 2000.
[Robarts Reference - HM 258 .M273 2000]
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - HM 258 .M185 1996]
An excellent introduction to the subject.

Media Studies: A Reader

Edited and introduced by Paul Marris and Sue Thornham. 2nd edition. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - P 91.3 .M386 1999]

Modernism and Postmodernism

Modernism: 1890-1930

Edited by Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991.
[Victoria Pratt - PN 56 .M54M6 1991]
A good starting point for includes a chronology of opinion, biographical sketches of important figures, statistics, techniques, organizations, glossary, index, and a select bibliography.

Practising Postmodernism, Reading Modernism

By Patricia Waugh. London: Edward Arnold, 1993.
[Trinity - PR 478 .P67W38 1993]
Examines some of the key ideas of these schools and their implications for textual analysis.


A Dictionary of Narratology

By Gerald Prince. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003
[Robarts - P302.7 .P75 2003]
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - P 302.7 .P75 1989]
Short, yet informative entries. Detailed and comprehensive.

Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction

By Michael J. Toolan. 2nd Edition. London: Routledge, 2001.
[Robarts - P 302.7 .T66 2001]
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - P 302.7 .T66 1988]
A good introductory text.

New Historicism and Cultural Materialism

New Historicism and Cultural Materialism: A Reader

Edited by Kiernan Ryan. London: Arnold, 1996.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN 81 .N4317 1996]
Includes good introductory material on the subject and its many facets.

Cultural Materialism: Theory and Practice

By Scott Wilson. Oxford: Blackwell, 1995.
[Robarts - PR 428 .P6W55 1995X]

Cunning Passages: New Historicism, Cultural Materialism, and Marxism in the Contemporary Literary Debate

By Jeremy Hawthorne. London: Arnold, 1996.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - HQ 767.5 .N7 A26 1996]


Literary Pragmatics

Edited by Roger D. Sell. London: Routledge, 1991.
[Robarts - P 302.5 .L58 1991]


Wolfgang Iser is probably the best known contemporary literary critic who has been strongly influenced by phenomenology. His books are recommended to those wishing to see phenomenological ideas put into literary critical practice.

Literary Meaning: From Phenomenology to Deconstruction

By William Ray. Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1984. New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1990.
[Robarts - PN 81 .R348 1984]

The Erotic Bird: Phenomenology in Literature

By Maurice Natanson. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN 49 .N35 1998]
This work is particularly valuable for its clarification of concepts and terms that frequently emerge in the phenomenology of literature. Natanson, a prominent champion of phenomenology, draws upon this method's unique power to show how fiction can highlight aspects of experience that are normally left unexamined. Drawing upon his philosophical predecessors Edmund Husserl, Alfred Schutz, and Jean-Paul Sartre, Natanson paves his own way with stories and examples that themselves bear witness to how phenomenology occurs in literature.


Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: A Reader

Edited by Padmini Mongia. London: Arnold, 1996.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN 771 .C595 1996]
Includes many essays and extracts.

The Post-Colonial Studies Reader

Edited by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. London: Routledge, 2006.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PR 9080 .P57 2006]
Includes more essays and extracts than the title listed above but some of these are abridged.

Russian Formalism and the Prague School

"A Contextual Glossary of Formalist Terminology," in Formalist Theory

pages 14-48. By Igor Chernov, et al.; translated and edited by L.M. O'Toole and Ann Shukman. Oxford: Holdan Books, 1977.
[Robarts - PG 3026 .F6F6]

The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship: A Critical Introduction to Sociological Poetics

By M. M. Bakhtin, P.N. Medvedev; translated by Albert J. Wehrle. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - PN 98 .F6M413 1991]
A contemporary critique of Russian Formalism.


Encyclopedic Dictionary of Semiotics, Media, and Communications

By Marcel Danesi. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000.
[St Michael's 1st Floor Reference Area - P 87.5 .D36 2000]
This compact volume includes brief entries for the major terms in semiotics.

Glossary of Semiotics

Vincent M. Colapietro. New York: Paragon House, 1993.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - P 99 .C569 1993]
Useful for ready reference but the entries are quite short.

Structuralism and Poststructuralism

Superstructuralism: The Philosophy of Structuralism and Post-Structuralism.

By Richard Harland. London: Methuen, 1987. [St Michael's 2nd Floor - B 841.4 .H37 1987]
Contains useful discussions about many of the central terms in both schools.

Structuralism: A Reader

Edited by Michael Lane. London: Cape, 1970.
[St Michael's 2nd Floor - B 841.4 .L3]

Internet Resources


[Available online for free.]
Provides links to websites on critical theorists, poets, dramaturges, novelists, and literary periods.

Voice of the Shuttle

[Available online for free.]
A source of links to all things about literary theory including general resources, listservs, conferences, journals.

Introduction to Modern Literary Theory

[Available online for free.]
Quick definitions of major theories with bibliographies for further research compiled by a professor of English at Mount Mary College, Milwaukee, WI.

SWIRL: Your Guide to Post-Millenial Paradigms

[Available online for free.]
A zany site that includes information about theories and theorists.

Introductory Guide to Literary Theory

[Available online for free.]
An excellent introductory site for the uninitiated.