Research Guide: Literary Criticism

This guide will help you understand and locate literary criticism

Gale Literature for Historical Contexts

Gale Literature

Use Topic & Work Overviews to find introductory info on the historical, cultural, political, and biographical contexts out of which an author wrote or a specific text arose. 

Image 1: Table of Contents for a Topic and Work Overview features useful sections, including Historical Contexts.

Topic Overview

Image 2: An excerpt from the discussion of the historical context in which Round House was written.

Excerpt - Round House

Historical Context

Starting with some historical background

Understanding the history of the era in which an author lived or in which a piece of literature was written will often give you better insight into that literature's meaning, symbolism, and themes.

To gain quick insight into the events and themes of eras in American History, utilize the "American Decades" series using the link and following the steps below. 

  1. Choose a historical era
    As shown in the image, you can start by picking a specific volume, or decade, in the series. Here, 1900-1909 has been selected.
  2. Scan "The Arts: Overview" to get a feel for the artistic and literary trends of that time period.
    The image shows a list of topics under "The Arts" covering topics, events, and people in the news.
  3. Explore other historical events and trends that may have influenced the literature of the times by looking through the other sections for the decade you've chosen.

(click on image to enlarge)

Screenshot of a database's advanced search page, showing how to limit to the era (1940s), how to pick an overview subject, and search for historical events - as outlined in the text.

Author Biographies

Search for author biographies

Reference Articles:
Books/ Books Chapters

Search for books/ book chapters in Holman Library to learn more about your author or era.

Type in author's name, era, or other relevant keyword.

Limit to books.

American History through Literature 1820-1920

The reference series American History through Literature offers particularly insightful background articles that contextualize literature, history, ideas, and authors.