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English Literature

Consult Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Encyclopedias may have an important role in the early stages of your research. They provide a general overview of a subject, and aim to present objective data (names, dates, and facts that can be independently verified). They may help you to identify areas of controversy or special interest from which you can pursue further research and interpretive criticism.
Dictionaries are useful for more than just looking up definitions. A historical dictionary like the Oxford English Dictionary includes full etymologies, and dated quotations to show shifting meanings over time.
Specialized encyclopedias or dictionaries provide a broad overview of a subject, a concise overview of a concept, school of thought or person. To find encyclopedias or dictionaries on your topic, search Omni using the keywords of your topic combined with "encyclopedias" or "dictionaries" or guide or companion.
"jane austen" AND (encyclopedias OR dictionaries)
wordsworth AND (encyclopedia? OR companion OR guide)
"english drama" AND (encyclopedia OR dictionaries OR guide OR companion)

Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

Language and Literary

The Oxford English Dictionary
REF PE1625.O87 1989t
The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology
REF PE1580.05
A scholarly, comprehensive dictionary on the history and origin of English words.
For dictionaries, thesauruses, quotations, literary terms, and companions to literature. ORO contains the full text of more than 100 dictionary, language and subject reference books. Some of the resources most useful to literary study include Concise Oxford Dictionary, Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, Dictionary of ArtOxford Companion to British Literature, Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, Oxford Companion to American Literature, and companions to numerous other literatures.
Guide to Canadian English Usage
PE3235 F44 2007
A scholarly resource for original research into the entire lexical content of Early Modern English.
A comprehensive guide to the English language from 1100-1500, including exhaustive citations. Available online through the Middle English Compendium.
Includes both The Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and The Scottish National Dictionary (10 volumes shelved in Reference at PE2106.S4)
A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English
REF PE3721.P3 1984t
Standard source for definitions of English slang words and phrases covering both contemporary and historical usage.
The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. 3nd ed.
REF PN44.5 .M86 2009
Abrams, M. H. Glossary of Literary Terms
 PN41.A184 2014
Lanham, Richard. A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms
REF PE1445.A2 L3 1991
Cuddon, J.E., & C.E. Preston. Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (5th ed.)
REF PN41.C83 1998 (4th ed.)


A selection of specialized dictionaries/encyclopedias is listed below.
Also see Appendix A to the MLA Handbook, which lists "Selected Reference Works by Field," e.g. Art, Education, History, Language and Literature and Religion.
For dictionaries, thesauruses, quotations, literary terms, and companions to literature. ORO contains the full text of more than 100 dictionary, language and subject reference books. Some of the resources most useful to literary study include The Concise Oxford Dictionary, The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, The Dictionary of Art, The Oxford Companion to British Literature, The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, The Oxford Companion to American Literature.
Cambridge Guide to Literature in English
REF PR85.C29 1993
Handbook to Literature
REF PN41.H355 2006
The Feminist Companion to Literature in English : Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present
REF PN471.F45 1990t
The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism
REF PN81.C656 1995t
Offers a clear and succinct explanation of terms, groups, and schools of thought.
The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms (3rd ed.)
REF PN44.5 .M86 2009
General Encyclopedias
Encyclopædia Britannica
REF AE5.E363 Lederman Law Library (15th ed., 2003)
AE5.E363 Stauffer Library Compact Shelving (15th ed., 1997)
Free version on the web
A general encyclopedia, so don't expect extensive coverage or entries on more obscure authors. However, it does provide good overview information on major authors, and articles may give information on where to find the more influential criticism.
Encyclopædia Britannica
This 11th edition is still useful to humanities students for topics concerning the nineteenth century or in which nineteenth-century scholarship was strong.
The following is a very selective list of examples of the library's numerous resources for specialized literature.
The Alexander Pope Encyclopedia
REF PR3632.R64 2004
A Jane Austen Encyclopedia
REF PR4036.A28 1998
Mary Shelley Encyclopedia
REF PR5398.A2M67
Shakespeare: an Oxford Guide
REF PR2976.S333 2003
Virginia Woolf A to Z
REF PR6045.O72Z729 1995

Other Disciplines


The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy
B41.C35 1999

The Encyclopedia of Philosophy
REF B41.E5 1972

The Oxford Companion to Philosophy

Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Literature


Encyclopedia Mythica
A searchable database of mythical personae, mostly text but with some images.

The Gods of the Greeks
BL781.K363 1974

Dictionary of Classical Mythology
BL715.G713 1987

Oxford Companion to World Mythology

Oxford Classical Dictionary
REF DE5 .O9 2012


The Oxford Companion to British History

Dictionary of Ancient History
DE5.D53 1994t

Dictionary of Eighteenth-Century World History
D286.D53 1994t

Dictionary of Modern History, 1789-1945
D205.P34 1962 (Lederman Law Library)

A Dictionary of British History, 1815-1973

Penguin Dictionary of Twentieth Century History
D419.P29 1983

Dictionary of Twentieth-Century History, 1914-1990
D419.T44 1992

The Timetables of History: a Horizontal Linkage of People and Events
D11.G78 1982

Oxford English Dictionary (OED)

The OED, as it is known, is the most comprehensive and authoritative dictionary of the English language. As a citations dictionary, it quotes sentences used by authors to illustrate the history of usage beginning with the earliest known usage of each word.