Reference books are a good starting place for background information. Books can also give a comprehensive look at a theme, whether the works of one author or a selection of works from a particular time period. When looking for books related to your topic, look through the table of contents; often one chapter will be relevant to your research.
Ref books are located on the main floor of Buswell in the Reading Room. They cannot be checked out. Online books can be viewed right now; if you are off campus, you may need to log in to view online books.
Critical approaches to American literature are often based on time period, geographical location, genre, ethnicity/gender, or critical theory. Think about your topic and which approach may best in finding related critical texts. Once you click on the links, you can further limit your results by publication dates, subject, author, etc. The following are some examples of searches on the catalog that may be useful to you as you do you research:
Search by time period:
Search by ethnicity/gender:
Anthologies are collections of writing based on a theme, such as time period, geography, or ethnicity. Anthologies can help you understand the breadth of writing. Helpful articles may discuss author biographies and/or contextual information.