Online Literary Criticism: Our Collection Policy
Literaryhistory.com focuses on signed articles by recognized scholars, articles published in reviewed sources, and web sites that adhere to the Modern Language Association Guidelines for Authors of Web Pages. It seeks to collect critical or explanatory web writings about American and British literature that will be of value for graduate students, scholars, teachers, college students, advanced high school students, and other intrepid readers of literature. We specialize in critical articles and we index only free articles.
Since our focus is on explanatory articles, we do not extensively index photos, web sites, hypertext projects, or creative materials. We do not usually link to etext versions of works of the authors we cover. Many free sites provide unreliable text, or do not include information about the edition their text is taken from. We do link to web sites that publish carefully edited editions, such as editions of Willa Cather's works published at the Willa Cather Archive. We also link to some first editions that are available through Google Books. These can be a gold mine for readers who want to trace variants in published editions, since they provide page images of the complete book, including pages with the publication information. Google Books includes a hodgepodge, but the kind of material that can be found by the careful editor is demonstrated on our pages for Tennyson's First Editions, Matthew Arnold's First Editions, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's First Editions, and William Wordsworth's First Editions.
The selection policy at literaryhistory.com has evolved since 1998, as better material has gradually come to appear on the internet. In the early days we sometimes linked to student-authored papers, when there was little other information online. There is enough good criticism now that we can be more selective. To find substantial articles we may begin with a good print bibliography, which enables the editor to identify the leading scholarly authorities on a writer and search for them by name. This can often force to the top of a search list an otherwise out-of-the-way essay. Another way we identify valuable criticism is by reviewing the MLA bibliography and ABELL, then searching for specific article titles online. Often the articles appear in preview form at the Muse or JSTOR, or sometimes full-text at subscription-based sites, or at open-access web sites that contain many ads. We cannot begin to thoroughly cover the material listed in the major bibliographies, since there are so many scholarly articles published annually, this web site includes pages for nearly 250 canonical writers, and we have a staff of one person. This site provides only a sampler of literary criticism for a limited collection of literary figures. We try to select articles on authors and topics most often searched for by our readers, such as an author's biography, themes, style, or historical context.
Specific categories of material included at literaryhistory.com are signed articles from peer-reviewed journals, previously published articles posted by their authors or with the permission of their authors, academic conference papers, signed articles from reputable literary magazines, professor-created bibliographies, reviews of scholarly books and biographies, writings on literary figures by recognized novelists and poets, Ph.D. dissertations, unsigned writings published under the aegis of a reputable educational or institutional publisher, material published by respected media like the Public Broadcasting Service, museum and library-created web sites, along with the occasional thought-provoking English-class syllabus or poet reading her own poetry. For more specific information on the open-access material we use, and the continuous evolution of commercial sources of literary criticism on the internet, see our regular updates on our What's New at LiteraryHistory.com page.
Thank you for your interest in the literaryhistory.com venture. We appreciate your comments. Please send email to jpridmore at literaryhistory.com