Goucher College Writing Program

Online Resources for Writing Literary Analysis

On-Line Aids to the Study of Literary Theory and Critical Methods

   Many “book lists” are available on line, and a good resources for finding such electronic bibliographies is the Voice of the Shuttle “Literary Theory Page.”  The following resources were selected because they offer true on-line discussions of what they describe, rather than bibliographic information about where to find a printed text version of such a discussion.  Most of these sites concentrate on modern theory, taking for granted the student’s solid background in all major schools and theorists up to 1900.

Typical Stages in Critical Argument or What your academic audience is asking from the other side of the page:  a tip sheet presenting typical questions academic readers bring to their reading of scholarship, and offering ways writers’ papers can answer those questions to prevent misunderstandings or omissions.

A Glossary of Literary Terms and A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices:  this site has some weak links, but overall it’s a very useful way to teach yourself the basic terms used by literary analysts.  It also includes an excellent searchable guid to terms from   Greek Classical rhetoric which still are in use when describing unusual ways of using words.  You probably already know “metaphor” and “simile,” but there are dozens more.  The examples draw from both ancient and modern literature.  It includes an Introduction and a Self Test for the Retorical Devices section.  The site was designed and implemented by Robert Harris, Professor of English at Vanguard University of Southern California in Costa Mesa, California

Glossary of Literary Theory by Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown: a wide-ranging set of short (one screen) definitions of terms with brief examples, maintained by University of Toronto.  Though there are entries for pre-Modern terms like “allegory,” the site is mainly concerned with the Modern/Post-Modern transition.

The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism: available only to students using Goucher College computer accounts and others who subscribe to the JHU Muse system, this is an extensive and thoroughly developed study of major critical schools, their primary contributors, and terminology used.  The Guide is written for the advanced undergraduate or graduate student.

Mary Klages’ Lecture Notes on Post-Modern Lit. Theory (English 2010: Modern Critical Thought): a lucid summary of major thinkers who challenged the status quo of literary theory, including Saussure, Levi-Strauss, Derrida, Freud, Lacan,  Cixous, Althusser, Bakhtin, Foucault, Yamato and Lugones, Christian, Trinh Minh-ha, and Butler.  Issue-centered discussions on Structuralism/Poststructuralism, Psychoanalysis, Feminism, Queer Theory, Marxism and Ideology, and Postmodernism.  Maintained by University of Colorado, Boulder.

SWIRL–Who’s Who in Theory: a chirpy but basically sound description of the “star” theorists of the past fifty years, with links to notes on major concepts drawn from their works.   This site’s summaries of critical theory should be used only as an introduction to the authors described, not as a substitute for reading the real thing.  Maintained by Southern Oregon University.

The Yale University Law School’s Avalon Project: not really a theory site at all, but an online source for the “foundation” documents (Stanley Fish) of Anglo-American legal practice.  Once you understand what Fish is arguing, you will see how analysis of various literary texts may benefit from thinking about the sources for the authors’, implied readers’, and characters’ “normal expectations.”  What constitutes a transgressive idea or act?  Tell me what the law is and I will tell you what transgresses it.

Search Engines vs. Databases: a prose explanation of the difference between these two online entities and the way they work together to enable, and to frustrate, the researcher.