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Remember that background information, such as biographies of authors, definitions of literary terms, historical background, etc., does not qualify as scholarly secondary source material in the field of literary criticism. They may, however, give you a better understanding of the context in which the author was writing.
Key definitions for writing in the field of English/Literature:
Primary source/material - In literature this refers to the novel, short story, play/drama, poem, or other literary piece(s) being studied. These should always be cited in the bibliography, but do not count as "secondary sources."
Secondary source/material - As described above, this primarily refers to literary criticism in the field of literature. Most English professors will be looking for literary criticism in the required sources section.
Literary criticism - This is not, as the name implies, merely individuals criticizing works of literature. Rather, literary criticism is articles, books, and book chapters in which scholars in the field argue their own analyses/theses about a primary source or sources.
The Oxford English Dictionary is the ultimate authority on the usage and meaning of English words and phrases, and a fascinating guide to the evolution of our language. It traces the usage, meaning and history of words from 1150 AD to the present day. No dictionary of any language approaches the OED in thoroughness, authority, and wealth of linguistic information. The OED defines over half a million words, and includes almost 2.4 million illustrative quotations, providing an invaluable record of English throughout the centuries. The 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary is the accepted authority on the evolution of the English language over the last millennium. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of over half a million words, both present and past. The OED has a unique historical focus. Accompanying each definition is a chronologically arranged group of quotations that trace the usage of words, and show the contexts in which they can be used. The quotations are drawn from a huge variety of international sources - literary, scholarly, technical, popular - and represent authors as disparate as Geoffrey Chaucer and Erica Jong, William Shakespeare and Raymond Chandler, Charles Darwin and John Le Carré. In all, nearly 2.5 million quotations can be found in the OED . Other features distinguishing the entries in the Dictionary are authoritative definitions of over 500,000 words; detailed information on pronunciation using the International Phonetic Alphabet; listings of variant spellings used throughout each word's history; extensive treatment of etymology; and details of area of usage and of any regional characteristics (including geographical origins).
The best-selling Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (formerly the Concise dictionary) provides clear and concise, and often witty definitions of the most troublesome literary terms from abjection to zeugma. It is an essential reference tool for students of literature in any language. It is now available in a new and expanded edition and includes increased coverage of new terms from modern critical and theoretical movements, such as feminism, and schools of American poetry, Spanish verseforms, life writing, and crime fiction. It also includes extensive coverage of traditional drama, versification, rhetoric, and literary history, as well as updated and extended advice on recommended further reading and entry-level web links. There is also a pronunciation guide to more than 200 terms.
Call Number: EBL eBook (not owned, but accessible)
Publication Date: 2005-11-10
A twenty-first century version of Roger Fowler's 1973 Dictionary of Modern Critical Terms, this latest edition of The Routledge Dictionary of Literary Terms is the most up-to-date guide to critical and theoretical concepts available to students of literature at all levels. With over forty newly commissioned entries, this essential reference book includes: an exhaustive range of entries, covering such topics as genre, form, cultural theory and literary technique new definitions of contemporary critical issues such as Cybercriticism and Globalization complete coverage of traditional and radical approaches to the study and production of literature thorough accounts of critical terminology and analyses of key academic debates full cross-referencing throughout and suggestions for further reading. Covering both long-established terminology as well as the specialist vocabulary of modern theoretical schools, The Routledge Dictionary of Literary Terms is an indispensable guide to the principal terms and concepts encountered in debates over literary studies in the twenty-first century.
Sources for Basic and Background Information in Literature and Related Fields
Many of our best sources of background information on literature are available in full text online.