Main Content

EN 363 - American Drama and Culture


This is a guide to selected information resources at the Geisel Library for investigating American drama and its relation to political and social history. It is meant as a starting point for your research and an aid for searching and locating relevant information sources. You may also view the general Drama Criticism Guide for other resources. For further research assistance, please stop by the Reference Desk in person or pose your question online at Ask a Librarian.


Reference Sources for Background Information

Reference books are shelved by call number in the reference stacks 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 of the Library. Use reference resources to find background information on authors and literary works, as well as the social issues, historical periods, and themes being addressed in this course. A few selected titles are listed below.

Select Indexes and Encyclopedias in the Reference Collection

American Drama Criticism 1890-1977. (also supplement)
     Ref PS332.E33
Lists critical material found in books and periodical articles on American dramatists.

Critical Survey of Drama.
     Ref PN1625 .C68

Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism.
     Ref PN761 .N56

Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism.
     Ref PN94 .T83
Though both the Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism and Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism titles only provide excerpts of critical works, they are a good starting point to discover patterns of thought on authors, movements, and criticism. Use the bibliographies to explore relevant criticism in other publications. Available in both print and electronic (through Literature Resource Center) formats.

Online Reference Resources

Online reference sources can be found in the library catalog or listed on the E-Reference Resources page.

The Concise Oxford Companion to the Theatre
This title is an excellent starting point for information about theatre. In addition, the database is part of the larger Oxford Reference Online which enables you to search within many of Oxford's highly-regarded reference works in the fields of literature and history, including (among others) The Oxford Companion to United States History, The Concise Oxford Companion to American Literature, and A Dictionary of Writers and their Works.

Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature
This resource provides essays on major American authors, literary works, literary movements, periods, and themes. The encyclopedia's articles offer "historical perspective and social context along with a range of possibilities with regard to critical approach." The entry on "Theater in America" will also guide you to many of the playwrights covered in this course.

American history through literature, 1820-1870
American history through literature, 1870-1920
These two electronic resources present "literature not as a simple inventory of authors or titles but rather as a historical and cultural field viewed from a wide array of contemporary perspectives. The set, which is 'new historicist' in its approach to literary criticism, endorses the notion that not only does history affect literature, but literature itself informs history."


Return to top


Find Journal Articles

Below are several databases that may yield useful journal articles for your research. Some of the resources focus on drama criticism, while others provide historical and socio-cultural context for the works and authors.

In the results screen, if there is no full-text link readily available, click on the WebBridge icon to determine whether the journal is available in the Geisel Library or in full-text via another electronic database. If the article isn't available, click on the Interlibrary Loan link to request a PDF copy of the article from another library. Articles requested via ILL will be sent to your college email address within 3-7 business days. To learn how to use WebBridge, please watch our video tutorial (3.5 mins; includes audio).

Academic Search Premier
Gain access to full-text as well as indexing and abstracting for a wide range of journal titles covering business, social sciences, humanities, general science, and education. Includes publications such as Nineteenth Century Theatre & Film, Theatre, Theatre History Studies, and Theatre Research International.

Literature Resource Center
Find biographical information on authors, as well as bibliographies, plot summaries, and literary criticism of their works. This resource provides the full text of articles from more than 100 literary journals. Includes Comparative Drama, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, and Twentieth-Century American Dramatists.

MLA International Bibliography
Produced by the Modern Language Association of America, this electronic index consists of bibliographic records pertaining to literature, language, linguistics, and folklore. (1963–present).

Arts & Humanities Citation Index
This index provides citations to more than 1,300 arts and humanities journals, including articles, bibliographies, editorials, letters, and reviews. Note the cited references feature, which may enhance your search.

Other Databases Useful for Theatre Research

Project MUSE
"Project MUSE provides online, worldwide, institutional subscription access to the full text of more than 200 scholarly journals in arts and humanities, social sciences, and mathematics." Includes relevant journals in drama research such as Theatre Journal and Modern Drama.

America:  History & Life
This database is an index covering the history and culture of the United States and Canada, from prehistory to the present. There are 1,700 journals indexed ranging from 1964 to present. It contains many journals documenting the arts and theatre in the United States.

ProQuest Historical Newspapers:  The New York Times (1851-2006)
The historical New York Times covers the years 1851 through 2006 and is an excellent source for articles on theatrical performances, playwrights, and the political and social history of the United States.

JSTOR contains the full text of back issues of major journals in the humanities and social sciences. Use this to find articles in selected scholarly literature journals. You can set limiters, such as selecting the 'Performing Arts' check box for journals covering theatre and criticism. Coverage is generally from the beginning of publication to within 5 years of the current issue. JSTOR is an archive of back issues of selected journals such as American Literary History, American Literature, and American Quarterly.

Journal Title of Note

American Theatre
This popular journal provides current articles about productions and other relevant information on the American theatre. Available in both print and electronic versions:  the Print version covers 1985 through the present issue; the Electronic version covers 1992 through the present issue.


Return to top


Find Books/Secondary Sources

Examples of subject headings to search in the Catalog:

Try searching some of the phrases below as Subject Headings in the catalog. This method often finds a higher percentage of books that are directly relevant to a particular topic. If you are researching a particular author or work, try searching the author's name as a Subject to locate biographies and literary criticism.

  • Odets, Clifford
  • Glaspell Susan 1876 1948 Criticism And Interpretation
  • Theater - United States - History - 19th century
  • American drama - 19th century - History and criticism

Examples of keyword searches to use in the Catalog:

  • america* drama
  • drama AND criticism AND america* AND 19th century
  • (baraka, amiri) AND theat*

Use the * (asterisk) as a truncation symbol to retrieve variant forms of a word root; for example, text* will catch books with the words "text" or "textual" in the catalog record. Use the Boolean AND to combine together multiple concepts, and use the Boolean OR to expand your search with synonyms and related terms. Use AND NOT to eliminate any instances of a term or phrase. AND NOT is particularly useful if you notice in search results multiple instances of terms appearing in titles or entries that are not relevant to your topic.


If you are unable to locate enough materials in the Geisel Library catalog, search the collections of libraries worldwide using WorldCat. This 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 searching on the same keywords and subject headings that you used in the library catalog. If you find a relevant book, click on the title and look for the Request ILL link.

Selected Titles:

The following books are a representative sample of the books at the Geisel Library for each playwright. Use the library catalog and  WorldCat to search for more books on each playwright. Most works on theatre that will be relevant to this course are classified within the PN2000-2200s and PS332-352 ranges of call numbers and are located on the Upper Level of the Geisel Library.

Select Books on American Drama in the Library's General Collection

American Playwrights, 1880-1945:  A Research and Production Sourcebook.
     PS351 .A52

Best Plays of the Early American Theatre:  From the Beginning to 1916.
     PS625 .B3

The Cambridge Companion to American Women Playwrights.
     PS338 .W6 C36

The Cambridge History of American Theatre.
     PN2221 .C37 (3 volumes)
There are three volumes for this title covering the early American theatre through the 1990s.

Theatre, Society, and the Nation:  Staging American Identities.
     Access via Ebrary


Return to top


Selected Websites

These websites were picked for their potential relevance to your course topic. You may also want to conduct keyword searching on your topics in a search engine such as Google, but be sure to look for indications that the site's information is authoritative, objective, and reliable.

Theatre History on the Web
Numerous indexes and online resources have been compiled by Jack Wolcott, University of Washington School of Drama. This is a great place to find online sites that may be relevant to your search needs. Check under the "Indexes and Resource Sites" section.

AmericanTheaterWeb Top News
An up-to-date blog highlighting theatrical performances across the country. This aggregator is a good choice for exploring recent productions.

Internet Broadway database
Official archival database for Broadway theater information. Features information on current and past productions in the Broadway theaters of New York City, including production statistics, dates, cast, crew and creative staff credits, roles, and related facts.

American Theatre Wing
The links provided by this theatre service organization (founder of the Tony awards) are grouped by categories:  News & Conversation; Service & Umbrella Org.; Research; Training & Jobs; and Theatre Awards.


Return to top


Citing Sources

Geisel Library has both print and electronic resources on how to properly cite research materials. Always confirm the style required by your instructor.


Return to top