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Distinguished Majors Seminar

Fall 2017

Guides to Literary Research

Library Catalogs

VIRGO, the U.Va. Library’s primary search tool, contains catalog records for books, print journals, DVDs, maps, and digitized materials, as well as links to online articles from our rich array of subscription journals.  You can search catalog materials and articles together, or view those results separately, using the "facets" provided to limit your results by author, format, publication period, and more.  

WorldCat is a vast union catolog, containing listings of books, journals, manuscripts, maps, and other materials in thousands of libraries worldwide. It's a wonderful resource for locating obscure items, although inclusion of older and/or foreign materials is not always complete.

Indexes of Scholarly Journal Articles

The MLA International Bibliography (MLAIB) indexes the broadest range of resources about literature in all languages, including over 4,000 journals as well as books and dissertations.  It is not a full-text resource, meaning that you can only search the description of an article, rather than the text of the article.  To get the full text of an article, click on “Find article @ UVa Libraries”, or look up the journal title in VIRGO.

Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL) is a good supplement to the MLAIB, and may turn up additional articles and book citations.  Unlike the MLAIB, ABELL includes reviews of scholarly books.

Google Scholar is an index of scholarly literature across all disciplines, somewhat weighted toward the sciences.  Use the "Library Links" (under the Settings menu) to identify the University of Virginia as your library; this will activate Find@UVA links in your results list.

Digital Journal Archives

Project Muse provides full-text searching of recent articles from major scholarly journals, including about 120 journals about literature.  Not as comprehensive as MLAIB, but the full-text search will do a better job of picking up matches for specific themes or subjects.  Articles are immediately available as PDFs.

contains back issues (usually five years old or older) of significant scholarly journals in many subjects, including language and literature.  Like Project Muse, JSTOR is not as comprehensive as the MLAIB, but offers the advantages of full-text searching and instant access to PDFs.

Searchable Databases of Primary Works

Early English Books Online [EEBO] contains bibliographic records, page images, and (in some cases) transcriptions of virtually every work printed in the UK from 1473-1700, literary or otherwise.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) contains searchable page images of virtually every text published during the 18th c. (mostly British, although some American works are included).  Like EEBO, ECCO contains texts about all subjects -- art, architecture, travel, religion, music, etc. Rough keyword searching is available.

Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO) contains primary source collections from the long 19th century, in many languages. Includes the Corvey Collection, which contains 9,000 English, French, and German literary monographs from 1790-1840

Sabin Americana, 1500-1926 is a vast online collection of books, pamphlets, serials and other works about the Americas and the Caribbean.

Early American Imprints (Evans) is the American equivalent of EEBO and ECCO, containing complete bibliographical citations and page images of American imprints from 1639-1800.  Series II (Shaw-Shoemaker) extends the coverage from 1801 to 1819.

Literature Online (LION) contains a surprisingly complete collection of full-text poetry, prose, and drama up through the early 20th century. You can search within a particular author or title, or limit by date, gender, ethnicity, or literary movement.

Google Book Search Search the books Google has scanned from libraries and publishers. Choose "About this book" for abstract, table of contents, and books and articles related to the book. Full-text search of books in non-Roman alphabets is still imperfect.

HathiTrust includes material scanned by the American Google Books partner institutions (including U.Va.) plus other digitized materials from those institutions. Features better bibliographic data and better treatment of multi-volume works than Google Books.

Historical Newspapers and Periodicals

The library has vast collections of newspapers and periodicals, historical and current, in print, on microfilm, and online.  Listed below are just a few of the online resources for finding historical newspapers and periodicals; consult the newspapers guide for more information.  For current newspapers, LexisNexis and Factiva are your best bets.

British Newspapers:

The Times Digital Archive contains full text of the London Times from 1785-1985, including articles, advertisements, illustrations, and photographs.

The Burney Collection Newspapers are a large collection of full-text British newspapers from the 17th and 18th century.

19th Century British Library Newspapers includes searchable full text and page images of 48 national and regional British newspapers from the collections of the British Library.

American Newspapers:

America's Historical Newspapers is a searchable full-text collection of US newspapers from 1690 to 1922.

ProQuest Historical Newspapers is a searchable archive of mainstream US newspapers, including the NY Times (1851-1999), the Wall Street Journal (1889-1995), the Chicago Tribune (1890-1969), the Washington Post (1877-1987), and the LA Times (1881-1985), as well as prominent black newspapers including the Chicago Defender, Norfolk Journal and Guide, Pittsburgh Courier, Baltimore Afro-American, and NY Amsterdam News.

African-American Newspapers - 1827-1860  provides searchable text and page images for 7 African-American newspapers published between in the decades leading up to the Civil War. 

Ethnic NewsWatch - 1985-present includes full-text of newspaper, magazine, and journal articles from 200 ethnic, minority, and native publications in the U.S., in English and in Spanish.


Periodicals Archive Online (PAO) provides access to nearly 400 British and American humanities and social sciences journals published from 1770 to the 1990s. 

American Periodicals (Series 1) includes full text of over 1000 journals published in the US between 1740 and 1900.

British Periodicals includes hundreds of periodicals from the late seventeenth century to the early twentieth, reproduced in high-resolution facsimile page images. Topics covered include literature, philosophy, history, science, the social sciences, music, art, drama, archaeology and architecture.

19th Century UK Periodicals, Part 1 includes a variety of British periodicals, with a focus on topics such as politics, the rural life, children’s literature, leisure and humour. 

The American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals Collection provides access to thousands of American periodicals published between 1684 and 1912. The individual collections, each covering a particular timeframe, can also be searched independently.


The Oxford English Dictionary is an invaluable resource for studying how the words and phrases that comprise our language have evolved over time.

The Middle English Dictionary provides "a comprehensive analysis of lexicon and usage for the period 1100-1500."

The Dictionary of American Regional English documents words, phrases, and pronunciations that vary throughout the United States, with definitions enhanced by interactive maps and audio recordings.


The Dictionary of Literary Biography, available online through the Literature Resource Center database, is an excellent source for detailed biographies of major literary figures across all periods, genres, and nationalities. Contemporary Authors, in the same database, offers shorter but more current biographies, including many of living authors. Search for an author name and click the Biographies tab to see the results.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography includes biographies of deceased British persons from the earliest times to the present.


Dissertations and Theses Online: Lists dissertations and some master’s theses from as early as 1861. All entries since 1997 are available in full text as PDFs. Note that in recent years, many dissertations have been deposited in institutional repositories (like our own Libra) and may not be included in the Dissertations database.  For tips on finding them, visit our Dissertations guide.

Theory and Criticism

The Oxford English Dictionary is an invaluable resource for studying how the words and phrases that comprise our language have evolved over time.

The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism provides "a comprehensive historical survey of the field's most important figures, schools, and movements."

Year's Work in English Studies (YWES) is an annual journal that surveys and evaluates recent scholarship on British and American Literature. It can quickly provide an overview of the current critical conversation in a particular field. Similar titles include Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory and American Literary Scholarship.