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EN 104 - Exploring Dramatic Literature


The following is a guide to secondary sources in Geisel Library that pertain to the assigned literature as well as to sample themes that are embraced in the writings. All of these resources can be accessed either on campus or remotely by entering the S number on the back of your student ID.

Hopefully, this guide will point you to some useful reference books and library databases. It will also serve as a 'reality check', reminding you of the search tips you picked up during the library segment of your EN 103 class last term, providing helpful examples. You will be introduced to special tools and library services that will make the process of searching and locating relevant materials a bit easier.

For further assistance, please stop by the Reference Desk in person or pose your question online.


Selected Reference Books

Reference books are shelved by call number in a separate area near the Reference Desk on the main level of the library. They may not be checked out, but photocopiers are available on the lower level. Here's why you should consult reference books:

  • They will assist you in the topic selection process by providing ideas and insights. Many of them are arranged so that larger topics are broken down into sub-sections, allowing you to evaluate where a topic fits within its broader context and helping you to decide whether a topic is too broad or narrow.
  • In the field of literature, they will offer succinct literary analyses of the authors, titles, and sometimes the genre under discussion in your class.
  • Reference books will also help you to locate background information about structure and themes pertaining to your primary source readings.
  • Reference books will familiarize you with vocabulary that might be unique to your topic of study, making searching of the databases easier later.
  • They will point you to additional sources for more detailed scholarly information through bibliographies and lists of 'Further Readings'. If a citation found this way is of interest, determine its 'whereabouts' by using the Journal Finder tool available on the library's home page.

The library also has a growing collection of E-Reference resources. One of these is the Literature Resource Center (LRC); it is helpful for literary criticism and is included in the selected list of Reference Books below.

Critical Survey of Drama
     Ref PN1625. C68 2003 (8 volumes)

Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama
     Ref PN1861 .C65 (2 volumes)

Contemporary Dramatists
     Ref PR737. C57.  (Focus is American and British)

Drama Criticism
    PN1655 .C6 (2 volumes)

Dramatic Criticism Index
     Ref PN1707 .B74

Guide to Critical Reviews
      Ref PN2266 .S32.  Consult volumes 1-3 for drama reviews.

Literature Resource Center (LRC)
LRC is an online resource that includes the following databases and each of them contains biographical and critical essays about modern playwrights and their works. Scope is international.

  • Contemporary Authors (Over 120,000 current authors are covered).
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism (Critical essays on contemporary authors.)
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography (Shorter essays on 7,000+ authors.)
  • Twentieth Century Literary Criticism (Covers authors who died between 1900 and 1959).

     Ref PN44 .M33 1996 (12 volumes)

McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama
     Ref PN1625 .M3 1984 (4 volumes)

Modern Drama; a Checklist of Critical Literature on 20th Century Plays
     Ref PN1707 .A35

Modern World Drama: An Encyclopedia
     Ref PN1851 .M36

Oxford Companion to Theatre and Performance

Reader's Encyclopedia of World Drama
     Ref PN1625 .G3 1969

Tennessee Williams Encyclopedia
     Ref PS3545 .I5365 Z459 2004


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Find Books and Book Chapters

Use the Library Catalog when searching for specific books and book chapters pertaining to your research. Most works on drama criticism are classified within the PN-PT range of call numbers and are located on the upper level of the Geisel Library (as well as in the Reference Collection as noted above).

Individual playwrights
To find biographies, books of criticism or bibliographies about the works of a specific playwright, perform a subject search on the name (last name, first name) in the Library Catalog. Some examples:

  • Soyinka, Wole
  • Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich, 1860-1904
  • Ibsen, Henrik 1828 1906 - Criticism And Interpretation

Exploring the critical, thematic, historic, or cultural context of dramatic works
Perform keyword searches and then look for appropriate subject heading links when detailed results appear. You might also try keyword searches of individual titles as shown in one of the examples below.

  • hansberry and "american dream"
  • miller and salesman and father*
  • absurd* and brecht
  • ibsen and "doll* house"

Keyword Search Tips

These were discussed in more detail in EN 103 classes. As a refresher:

  • Use the AND operator to combine multiple concepts, and use the OR operator to expand your search with synonyms and related terms. For example, cherry orchard AND (comedy OR tragedy).
  • Use the * (asterisk) as a truncation symbol to retrieve variant forms of a word root; for example, nigeria* will catch books with either the words "nigeria" OR "nigerian" in the catalog record.

If you are unable to locate enough materials in the Geisel Library catalog, repeat your search by using the collections of libraries worldwide through WorldCat. This expansive database enables you to identify relevant books owned by other colleges and have them delivered to Geisel Library for your use, via our Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service. Try using the same keywords and subject headings that you used in the Library Catalog as noted above. If you find a relevant book, click on the title and look for the 'Request ILL' link. Once you submit the request, the book is typically delivered to Geisel Library within 7-10 days.

Use ebary to search through over 40,000 e-books spanning across all scholarly disciplines. Books can either be opened in QuickView for instant viewing or in the ebrary Reader (a downloadable plug-in), which provides enhanced functionality such as the ability to copy/paste, highlight, or take notes.

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Find Journal Articles

Before you begin your search for articles in online journal databases there are three helpful library tools for which you need to be aware.

When examining search results, you may come across the WebBridge icon. This icon means that the full text is not available in the database you are currently searching. To locate the full text, simply click on the icon to determine whether the journal is available in Geisel Library or in another electronic database.  If the article isn't available, click on the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) link to request a PDF copy of the article from another library. Articles requested via ILL will be delivered to your email inbox in approximately 2-5 business days. To learn about how to use WebBridge, please watch our video tutorial (3.5 mins; includes audio).

Journal Finder
When WebBridge is not available, such as when you find a journal citation in a book's bibliography, use Journal Finder to see whether Geisel Library has access to the volume and issue that you need. Simply type in the name of the journal in Journal Finder and click search. You will then be prompted with links for finding the article, including an Interlibrary Loan link. To learn more on how to use Journal Finder watch our video tutorial.

To search for journal articles across multiple databases at once, try CrossSearch. For articles with a literary analysis focus, check the 'English' subject category and perform your search. For other perspectives, you may wish to search in 'History', 'Psychology' or 'Sociology'. CrossSearch displays the first 20 results from each database. If an article looks useful, click on the WebBridge icon to see if it is available in full-text or in Geisel Library's periodicals collection on the lower level.

Here now is a list of the most useful databases to support research in drama analysis.

Academic Search Premier and ProQuest Central
These two databases are multi-disciplinary and many of the articles are available in full-text.  They are a good place to begin searching for scholarly sources.

Arts & Humanities Citation Index
This index provides citations to more than 1,300 arts and humanities journals. Special feature: cited references.

Google Scholar
Returns results for articles and documents from scholarly publications and academic institutions - many full-text sources. Links to SAC subscriptions if accessed from the library's web pages.

Search here for full-text articles from major journals in the humanities and social sciences. Coverage is generally from the beginning of publication to within 5 years of the current issue.    User Guide

Literature Resource Center
In addition to providing lengthy biographical profiles of authors, plot summaries, and literary criticism, this resource also provides the full text of articles from more than 100 literary journals. Includes publications such as Modern Drama. It also provides an interesting feature entitled "Selected Websites" that provides links to sites of importance on authors and topics.    

MLA International Bibliography
Produced by the Modern Language Association of America, this electronic index consists of bibliographic records pertaining to all literary genres including drama. (1963-present). Scope is international. No full-text. Check out the Citation Maker feature, allowing you to save your citation to the appropriate (MLA) format, for use when preparing your bibliography.

Project MUSE
This database is also multi-disciplinary and most of the articles are available in full-text. Project Muse includes articles from relevant journals such as Theatre Journal and Modern Drama.


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Citing Sources

Print guide:
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
Ready Ref LB2369 .G53

Online guides:
Citation Examples (UNC Charlotte)
Writer's Handbook (U-Wisconsin)


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