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ENGL 2500: Literature and Sexuality

Research guide for students in John Modica's spring 2022 ENGL 2500 class.

Proposal Essay Resources

The resources on this guide will help you as you undertake your proposal essay this semester. This page includes information for identifying a text (novel, short story, essay, poem, etc.) to recommend for the proposal essay based on your interests. In addition, the guide provides resources to help you find reviews and scholarship that discuss your chosen text. The other tabs in this guide provide guidance on citing works you have used in your essay and tools for making off-Grounds access to our resources easier. If you have questions or want to talk more about your topic of interest, please email Sherri at

Identifying topic keywords and terms

Spend some time thinking about what search terms you might use as you search both on the web and using library resources like Virgo (the UVA Library catalog) and research databases. 

There are many Library of Congress subject headings that relate to the broad field of sexuality and literature (see PDF in the box to the left for a glimpse at subject headings). Some example subject headings for searching in Virgo or WorldCat include:

You can combine these subject heading search terms when searching Virgo with other keywords - say fiction or poetry or stories

The Indiana University Bloomington Libraries has compiled a great list of Library of Congress Subject Headings for LGBTQI Topics.

You can also start with a keyword search based on your interests and then look at what subject headings come up in the records you get. Often you can click on a subject heading in Virgo or another research database to see titles classified using the same subject heading. 

Websites like Goodreads and LibraryThing use tagging to generate categories for browsing.

Goodreads allows you to browse by genre and also provides different lists that might be of interest.  LibraryThing allows you to search tags and other bibliographic categories as well. 


Finding Literature - Novels, Short Stories, Essays, Poetry

Library resources

Virgo is UVA Library's catalog. Search Virgo for literature, poetry, and stories related to your topic of interest. Use keywords and subject headings (like those described in the box above) to help you find possible works of interest for your proposal essay. If you want a broader search (not just what is owned by UVA) you can run searches by subject and keyword in WorldCat, an online catalog that lists locations of books, videos, and other materials in thousands of libraries worldwide. 

Looking for poetry on a particular topic? Take a look in Columbia Granger's World of Poetry which provides the full text of over 250,000 poems, mostly in English, but also including poems in French, German, Italian, and Spanish. It also includes citations for other poems that are still under copyright. You can browse for subject terms, then use an advanced search to narrow your subject search to a particular time period or type of poetry. If the full text of a poem you are interested in is not displayed, the database should provide you with the name of anthologies where it was published (you can search for the anthology title in Virgo to see if we own it). You could also try a Google search to see if you could find the poem available online. 

Online websites can be great resources too. Examples of possible sites of interest for finding books of interest include:

  • Goodreads - "the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Our mission is to help people find and share books they love."
  • LibraryThing - "an online service to help people catalog their books easily. You can access your catalog from anywhere—even on your mobile phone. Because everyone catalogs together, LibraryThing also connects people with the same books, comes up with suggestions for what to read next, and so forth."
  • If you know a book you liked you can use recommender sites like What Should I Read Next? to find books with similar themes (this site also applies subjects to categorize books, so use those to your advantage). Or use a site like Whichbook to search for books based on characters and plot. 

Lots of other sites for book recommendations exist- you can take a look at some recommended sites in a 2019 post on Book Riot: "15 of the best book recommendation sites to find your next book." 

Also consider looking for Award Winners (and those long- and short-listed for prizes) at sites like: 

  • Lambda Literary Awards - Finalists & Winners - These awards, celebrate the best LGBTQ books published each year back to 1988. Awards are given in over thirty categories and across many genres. 
  • Stonewall Book Awards - These awards, sponsored by the American Library Association's Rainbow Round Table, date back to 1971 and honor LGBTQIA+ books. Several named awards are bestowed each year, and other books are chosen as Stonewall honor books. 
  • Adelphi University has created a list of other fiction and non-fiction awards in LGBTQ/Sexuality Studies that might also be worth checking out. 

Finding reviews and scholarship about your chosen text

Many of the sites suggested for finding a work of literature may also provide helpful information about the work including a book blurb/book description, online reader reviews, and more. 

If you are looking at a work in Virgo, you can use the link labelled Full metadata within the item record. Sometimes this will take you to a summary of the work, excerpts, and/or reviews. You can also search Virgo for a work title and then look under the articles tab to look for book reviews and scholarship. 

Depending on how well known the chosen work is, you may find a Wikipedia entry for it. Of course the amount of detail provided varies by title and author, but some Wikipedia pages can be gold mines for finding out more about your work (and possibly linking you to other useful sites as well). 

Library resources to look for book reviews or articles/scholarship related to your work: 

1. Academic Search Complete is a good place to look for reviews and you may find scholarship as well. 

2. Literary scholarship and some reviews may also be found in the MLA International Bibliography. While you don't necessarily need to read a full scholarly article, you can use the abstracts (if they have them) to get a sense of what scholars talk about when they discuss the work. 

3. A third database you could try is Gale Literature Resource Center. If you look up the title of your work you may find reviews, literary criticism, and biographical information about the author. 

**Also think broadly when searching for information - is there an interview with the author about the book available as a video or audio clip? If the work is not recent are there contemporary reviews from when the work was first released? How do they differ (or do they differ) from how the work is talked about today? 

Each work is different and where you may find reviews and criticism varies depending on the time period when it was written, the author, and more. If you want help finding resources about your chosen work, contact Sherri for assistance.