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What is literary criticism?

What is "Literary Criticism" and how is it different from a book review?

The Dictionary of Shakespeare defines "literary criticism" as:

"Literary criticism tries to make an objective, reasoned assessment of a piece of writing or drama; literary theory is concerned with what lies behind this judgment. Literary theory includes such questions as 'what is the use of literature?' 'Does it describe the world around us?' 'How does it affect the reader or audience, or it is perhaps only written to entertain us?' Through the centuries, critics have wrestled with such questions."

This type of academic literary criticism tries to answer the question "Why does this work of literature matter?" instead of "Is this work of literature good or not?" as a book review might do. To complete this type of study, literary criticism may look at themes in the literature, use of language or structure, the historical setting of the work or the author's time, and/or use another area of study to look at meaning within the work (such as "feminist criticism" or "postcolonial criticism.")

Works Cited

"Literary criticism and theory." Dictionary of Shakespeare, Peter Collin Publishing. London: Peter Collin Publishing, 2000. Credo Reference. Web. 23 April 2013.

Finding Literary Criticism and Research

In order to locate literary criticism at UCC you may find information related to your chosen author, short story, poem, or novel in multiple resources. Literary criticism at the UCC Library can be located:

  • In print or online books and reference books
  • In the online library database Literary Reference Center 
  • As part of the novel / collection in which you located the story-- these books often include introductions or essays after the main content that include information about the author and/or criticism of the work.
  • Peer-reviewed research articles related to your author or piece of literature.

Find Literary Criticism at the UCC Library

Searching the Web for Criticism

Google Scholar Search

Keep in mind: web results do not always include a free full-text link! We can request items for you from other libraries by Interlibrary Loan-- this is a free service for current UCC students and staff.

To cite this LibGuide using APA: Umpqua Community College Library. (Date updated). Title of page. Title of LibGuide. URL

To cite this LibGuide using MLA: Umpqua Community College Library. "Title of Page." Title of LibGuide, Date updated, URL

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