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Drama Criticism Research Guide


This is a guide to selected sources of information related to drama criticism at the Geisel Library. It is meant as a starting point for your research and an aid for searching and locating relevant information sources. 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. A few selected titles are listed below.

Select Indexes and Encyclopedias in the Reference Collection

The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama
     Ref PN1861 .C65

Drama Criticism
     Ref PN1655 .C6, Vol. 2
Volume 2 is a checklist of interpretation since 1940 of classical and continental plays.

Dramatic Criticism Index:  a Bibliography of Commentaries on Playwrights from Ibsen to the Avant-Garde
     Ref PN1707 .B74

European Drama Criticism, 1900–1975
     Ref PN1721 .P37

McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama
     Ref PN1625 .M3

Select General Criticism in the Reference Collection

Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism
     Ref PN94 .T83
Though this only provides excerpts of critical works, it is a good starting point to discover patterns of thought on authors and movements and criticism on selected works. Use the bibliographies to explore relevant criticism in other publications.

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

A Guide to Critical Reviews
     Ref PN2266 .S32

Select Online Reference Resources

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

Oxford Reference Online
This database enables you to search within many of Oxford's highly-regarded reference works in the fields of literature and history. Of particular note is the Concise Oxford Companion to the Theatre which "contains entries on a vast range of theatrical styles, dramatists, performers, and directors, as well as information on theatres, festivals, and such technical topics as lighting, sound, and method acting."

Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature
     Ref PS21 .E537 (print version)
This resource provides essays on major American authors, literary works, literary movements, periods, and themes. This database "includes essays on poets, playwrights, essayists, and novelists, as well as major works and essays on 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."

Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature
This electronic encyclopedia provides comprehensive coverage of literature and especially of playwrights and covers the entire history of literature in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland in the major literary languages (Anglo-Saxon, English, Welsh, Scots, Irish, and Latin). It includes substantial accounts of individual authors and detailed histories of particular themes, movements, genres, and institutions, whose impact upon the writing or the reading of literature was significant.


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Find Journal Articles

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

Print Journals

Below is a listing of print journals that relate to drama. All print journals are arranged alphabetically and can be found in the Periodicals Collection located in the Lower Level of the Geisel Library.

American Theatre (1985–present)
This popular journal provides current articles about productions and other relevant information on the American theatre. Available in both print and electronic versions.

Comparative Drama
This is a "scholarly journal devoted to studies international in spirit and interdisciplinary in scope." Available in both print and electronic versions.

Essays in Theatre (1984–2002)
This peer-reviewed journal provides essays on every aspect of theatre studies and "welcomes essays dealing with Canadian material."

PAJ:  A Journal of Performance and Art
PAJ is a peer-reviewed journal that "offers extended coverage of the visual arts [.], in addition to reviews of new works in theatre, dance, film, and opera. Issues include artists' writings, essays, interviews and dialogues, historical documentation, performance texts and plays, reports on performance abroad, and book reviews." Available in both print and electronic versions.

TDR:  Drama Review
"TDR provides scholarship on performances and their social, economic, and political contexts. With an emphasis on the interdisciplinary, experimental, and avant-garde, the journal covers dance, theater, performance art, popular entertainment, media, sports, and rituals in politics and everyday life." This peer-reviewed journal is available in both print and electronic versions.

Theatre Survey
This peer-reviewed theatre history journal contains "performance-centred and historiographic studies from all points across the historical, cultural, and methodological spectra [.]. Dramatic literature studies not substantively related to actual performances are outside the journal's purview." The library's collection for this journal covers the years 1962 through 2007, but only has a complete run from 1969 to the present.

Theatre Research Databases

When searching through databases, a database may or may not contain full-text copies of the articles you need. 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 is not 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 college email inbox within about a week. To learn how to use WebBridge, please watch our video tutorial (3.5 mins; includes audio).

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. 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 literature, language, linguistics, and folklore. (1963–present)

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 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.    User Guide

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.

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 Theatre, Theatre History Studies, and Theatre Research International.


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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.

  • Greek tragedy
  • Shakespeare
  • Musical theater
  • Theater architecture
  • Theater and state
  • European drama (Tragedy)
  • European drama (Comedy) - History and criticism

Examples of keyword searches to use in the Catalog:

  • moderni* and theater and criticism
  • music* and theater and drama and not videorecording
  • critic* and drama and european drama and not renaissance

Use the * (asterisk) as a truncation symbol to retrieve variant forms of a word root; for example, moderni* will catch books with the words "modernity" or "modernism" 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. Once you submit the request, the book is typically delivered to Geisel Library within 7–8 days.


Ebrary is an online library containing thousands of 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 in a particular book.

Select Titles in the Library's General Collection

The following books are a representative sample of the books available at the Geisel Library for drama and criticism. Use the library catalog and  WorldCat to search for more books on a subjects or playwrights. Many works on drama that will be relevant to theatre research are classified within the PN–PT range of call numbers and are located on the Upper Level of the Geisel Library.


Fraden, Rena. Blueprints for a Black Federal Theatre, 1935–1939.
     PN2270.F43 F73

Limon, Jerzy. The Masque of Stuart Culture.
     PR678.M3 L56

Renaissance Drama.
     PN2171 .R4 new ser 33

Shepherd-Barr, Kirsten. Ibsen and Early Modernist Theatre, 1890–1900.
     PT8900.G7 S54


Rayfield, Donald. Anton Chekhov: A Life.
     PG3458 .R35

Partnow, Elaine. The Female Dramatist: Profiles of Women Playwrights from the Middle Ages to Contemporary Times.
     PN471 .P37


Bottoms, Stephen J. Playing Underground: A Critical History of the 1960s Off-Off-Broadway Movement.
     PN2277.N5 B47

Carlson, Marvin A. Theories of the Theatre:  A Historical and Critical Survey from the Greeks to the Present.
     PN2039 .C26

Szondi, Peter. Theory of the Modern Drama:  A Critical Edition.


Goldman, William. The Season:  A Candid Look at Broadway.

Sampson, Henry T. The Ghost Walks:  A Chronological History of Blacks in Show Business, 1865–1910.

Shakespeare in the Theatre:  An Anthology of Criticism.
     PR3091 .S365


Homan, Sidney. Staging Modern Playwrights:  From Director's Concept to Performance.
     PN2053 .H63

Melzer, Annabelle. Latest Rage the Big Drum:  Dada and Surrealist Performance.

Rozik, Eli. The Roots of Theatre:  Rethinking Ritual and Other Theories of Origin.
     PN2125 .R69

Senelick, Laurence. The Chekhov Theatre:  A Century of the Plays in Performance.
     PG3458.Z9 S877


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Selected Websites

The following websites are a sampling of interesting Internet resources that may be useful in your studies. You may also want to conduct keyword searching on your topics in a search engine such as Google and Google Scholar, but be sure to look for indications that the site's information is authoritative, objective, and reliable.

Useful websites for individual authors and subjects can be found using the online database, Literature Resource Center. Under the tab "Additional Resources" you will find websites selected by editors of the database.

Project Gutenberg
This site provides full-text electronic copies of works whose copyright has expired. Project Gutenberg may be useful for searching word use and/or frequency in plays (by using the search feature in your Internet browser).

Performing Arts Encyclopedia (Library of Congress)
An online resource showcasing the Library of Congress' collections in music, theater, and dance. Note: Some collections provide links to other resources such as artwork, photographs, and scanned manuscripts. Not all of the material is accessible online.

Federal Theatre Project (Library of Congress)
This interesting website contains selections from the Federal Theatre Project (1935–1939). Among other items, it contains scans of production notebooks, costume sketches, conductor's scores, and posters.


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Citing Sources

See the library's Citing Sources guide for resources on how to properly cite research materials. Always confirm the style required by your instructor.


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