Find Helpful Reference Materials

The library has a wide variety of reference materials such as specialized subject encyclopedias that can help you find overviews of topics and background information. Here is a small sampling of some useful specialized encyclopedias that may be helpful when writing about literature.

If you are not sure which reference work might have an entry for the subject you need, try searching Reference Universe, which indexes articles in thousands of reference books.


Encyclopedia of the Novel
D.H. Hill Reference Collection PN41 .E487 1998 (Learning Commons)

The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics
D.H. Hill Reference Collection PN1021 .N39 1993 (Learning Commons)

Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Short Story
D.H. Hill Library PS374 .S5 C57 2000 (5th floor bookstacks)

Encyclopedia of the Victorian Era
D.H. Hill Reference Collection DA550 .E527 2004 (1st Floor East Wing)
Interesting, well-written entries on all aspects of the Victorian Era. An excellent example of a reference source that can spark interest in new areas of exploration, and lead to further reading on a topic.


When you are writing about a literary work, you may come across some words that need further clarification. It may be a word that is just unfamiliar to you, or a slang term, or a word that you expect has some special meaning you want to understand.

There are also dictionaries that help in defining literary terms, the specialized vocabulary used to analyze literature.

A Handbook to Literature
D.H. Hill Reference Collection PN41 .H355 2009 (Learning Commons)
In addition to defining specialized literary terms, this handbook also provides convenient chronological overviews of high points of British and American literary history.

Literary Reference Center Plus
Use the 'Reference Shelf' for access to short articles defining literary terms, and some other helpful information for writing papers.

Oxford English Dictionary (online version)
D.H. Hill Reference Collection PE1625 .O87 1989 (Special Collections Reading Room)
This amazing reference work seeks to show how the usage of each word in the English language has evolved over time. Included are examples of usage of each term that demonstrate how the meaning has changed. This is indispensable e for anyone trying to gain insight into the meaning and usage of words in the English language.

The Anthem Dictionary of Literary Terms and Theory
D.H. Hill Reference collection PN41 .A9 2010 (Learning Commons)
Includes nice thematic appendix.

The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English
D.H. Hill Reference Collection PE3721 .P325 2006 (Learning Commons)
Specialized scholarly dictionary to aid in understanding how slang is used in the English language. Provides examples from literature.

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
D.H. Hill Reference Collection PN43 .B65 1989 (Learning Commons)
Good source for unwrapping literary allusions, especially hard-to-understand proper names that often don't appear in standard dictionaries.

Shakespeare’s Words: A Glossary and Language Companion
D.H. Hill Reference PR2892 .C78 2002 (Learning Commons)
Provides clarification on the meaning of words in Shakespeare's works, emphasizing words that are no longer in current usage or whose meanings have changed since his time. Also provides quotations illustrating the meaning of the words in the writings of Shakespeare.