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CMST 215 Critical Analysis of the Media: Finding Criticism & Commentary

What is Literary Criticism?

What is literary criticism?

Literary criticism is analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of authors and their works of literature, which can include novels, short stories, essays, plays and poetry. 

Such critical analysis is often written by literary critics and is found in essays, articles and books. Literary "criticism" is not necessarily negative; "criticism" means a thoughtful critique of an author's work or an author's style in order to better understand the meaning, symbolism or influences of a particular piece or a body of literature. 

Some criticism, such as book reviews, may be created for the general public and its primary purpose goal is recommending - or not recommending - books. 

Scholarly criticism engages in sustained and in-depth analysis of what the texts says and how it says it, and is written for an academic audience.

You will also find introductory literary analysis that is written for a student audience. 

  • Use introductory analysis and quality reviews to learn about historical and biographical contexts, key themes, and the general reception a work or author has received.
  • Turn to scholarly analysis for a more sophisticated and sustained discussion of literature and ideas.

Communication and Mass Media Complete Database (EBSCOhost)

Schools of Criticism

Looking through different lenses

Many times literary critics analyze works of literature from a particular philosophical or literary perspective. This perspective often evolves as a reaction to the political, economic, cultural, educational and artistic climate of a historical period

  • These perspectives are referred to as Schools of Literary Criticism and may include, but are not limited to, the following:
    • Formalist 
    • Historical
    • Mythological 
    • Gender Studies
    • Deconstructionist
    • Post-Colonial
    • Marxist
    • Biographical
    • Psychological 
    • Sociological
    • Reader Response
    • Cultural Studies
    • Feminist
    • Critical Race Studies

Note:This is not necessarily an exhaustive list. There is ongoing debate as to naming conventions and overlap between the literary schools

Finding background information

Gale Virtual Reference Library, also known as Gale Ebooks, is a great source to find background information on a variety of topics, including literature, authors, time periods, literary theory and more. Use the link below to search for articles in the database. 

Literary Criticism Database

Using Gale Literature

Search for critical analysis of novels, plays, short stories and poetry in the literary criticism database Gale Literature

Trying an initial search

Use Gale Literature for more introductory information, such as interviews, biographies, work overviews, reviews, etc. There is some scholarly content in the database as well, but you will need to assess if it is really scholarly.

  1. As shown in the image below, some of the most effective ways are to search using just keywords or you can search using an author name or the title of the work 
  2. The database will often make suggestions, filing in the search box
  3. Be sure to limit to articles that you can immediately access by clicking on "full-text"

(click on image to enlarge)

screenshot of the advanced search page in Gale Literature - showing how to search by keyword or by title, as outlined in the text before the image

Limiting by series, or literary criticism collections

​Use the Electronic Resources Collections Contemporary Literature Criticism, Poetry Criticism, Drama Criticism, Shakespearean Criticism, etc. to get some full-text and some excerpts of key scholarly literary criticism on literary works and authors.

  • This is a great way to get a sense of the scope of the literary conversation on a work, as well as to find individual sources.
  1. To search Gale Literature, be sure to use relevant keywords to find resources on your topic, search by author name, and/or search by named work. 

  2. Under Limit Results, you can search for articles within a particular collection. This is a useful tool for finding the most relevant articles.

  • At By Product/Series:
    • Click on the small drop-down arrow 
    • Check the box next to the collection you want. Ex: poetry, Shakespeare, etc. 

(click on image to enlarge)

screenshot of the advanced search page showing how to limit to a series

Refining the results

After you have completed a search, you will see the list of results - limited by type - and tools to change your search over on the side.

  • Click on the large title to get the whole article
    • Notice the information about the type of article, length, and date that appears just below the title.
  • Note how you can use options in the menu to further focus your search results and get more relevant articles.
    • The "Search Within" tool can be especially helpful when searching for specific terms within the results of a search
  • For scholarly literary criticism, you can also search only for peer reviewed (scholarly) articles on your text.
    • Limit to full-text and peer reviewed on the initial search page, or here, on the side of the page once you have searched.

(click on image to enlarge)

screenshot of the results page in gale literature, showing how to pick an article, and highlighting the tools to limit the search as explained in the text before the image