Purpose: To support student and faculty research in the WCC’s English Department.

BasicsResearching LitInterpreting LitBrowse and ListenFor Educators

Basics: The Value of Studying Literature

  • Stories have power. Reading and understanding literature is the study—at once communal and intensely personal—of  the human condition.
  • We see through the eyes of people who transcend space, time, and country to create a world that resonates somehow with our own.
  • Effectively, reading (and writing) becomes the gateway to a deeper level of thought.

How does this fit into my life?

Better understand our reality.

 The inspiring truth in fiction.

In-Person Writing Support

Whatcom Community College Writing Center

Writing Center “readers” and student-writers talk—about an assignment, possible topics, the writer’s views and experiences, writing for college, how to cite sources, any subject related to writing. Bring up your challenges and problems. The writer’s goals and interests determine the direction a session will take.

Researching Literature

Start by Exploring Your Topic

Tutorial: Choosing a Topic

  • The best topics are ones that emerge as you read the piece of literature. Here are some ways to approach your choice of topic:
      • Explore gender roles.
      • Compare genres.
      • Compare/contrast characters, events, or between two novels.
      • Analyze specific recurring metaphor, allusion, or symbolism.
      • A particular political or philosophical framework
      • Historical background: study the social, political or economical context in which a work was written. How does context influence the work?

Find Scholarly Sources

wcc students only logo Literature (Gale): Literary criticism. Includes biographies of authors, composers, and artists.

wcc students only logo MLA “International Bibliography”: An index of books, articles and websites covering modern languages, literatures, folklore, and linguistics. Abstract-only: useful for vetting ILL possibilities. From the Modern Language Association.

wcc students only logo ProQuest “Literature & Language”: This resource includes publications on literature and language covering topics such as English, American Literature, World Literatures, and Linguistics.

Search Tips

Use Keywords!

  • For books *about* an author—advanced search, author name in subject field.
  • For books *by* an author—advanced search, author name in author field; or book title in quotes. If not finding—keyword (anthology, chapter).
  • For an overview, use “reference entry” limiter—via OneSearch or DBs like Britannica Academic.
  • If you are not finding sources, give full play to your use of synonyms.

From Fictionphile, a literary word cloud.

Oxford English Dictionary (20 volumes)

Pic of the OED

(print Ref PE 1625 .O87 1989) 

Sign up for OED Word of the Day



Literary Reference Books

Devices, Terms, Symbols



  • The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (print Ref PN 81 .J554 2005)
  • Literature and Its Times: profiles of 300 literary works and the historical events that influenced them (print Ref PN 50 .L574 1997)

Interpreting Literature

JDHS AP English Literature & Composition: Literary Terms“Elements of a Novel” (Britannica Academic)

Booker, Christopher, The Seven Basic Plots: why we tell stories (print Stacks PN 3378 .B65 2004)

Frederick Ruffner, Jr, Laurence Urdang, Ruffner’s Allusions  (print Ref  PN 43 .A4 2010)

Reading With Purpose

Also described as critical reading, active reading, close reading.

Harvard College Writing CenterPatricia Kain, How To Do a Close Reading.  Harvard Coll. Writing Center  1998 A direct, three-step process to develop a close reading strategy.

Book cover, showing "page" ends of several books. Adler, Mortimer J., How to Read a Book: the classic guide to intelligent reading. (print Stacks PN 83 .A43  1940a) Transform your reading from passive to active: puzzle out the important words, remember, explain, and discover meaning as you read. Re-read. And take notes.

Writing in Specialized Genres

InfoGraphic: Topic, focus, gather info, interpret, conclude.
image Edutopia (adapted). Rebecca Zuñiga.

Additional Web Resources

  • Writing for Success Provides instruction in steps, builds writing, reading, and critical thinking skills, and combines comprehensive grammar review with an introduction to paragraph writing and composition. University of Minnesota.
  • Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence A friendly, down-to-earth introduction to academic professors’ goals and expectations, demystifying academic norms, and how to shape college writing assignments. State Univ of New York.
  • Writing Commons Open resource for students and faculty: entries on topics like citations, quoting, literary analysis, point of view, rhetoric, formatting, conclusions, and so on. Joe Moxley, Univ. S Florida, founder.
  • About Writing (Revised Edition) Condenses and covers everything a beginning writing student needs to successfully compose college-level work, including the basics of composition, grammar, and research. OpenOregon.
  • EmpoWord: A Student-Centered Anthology & Handbook for College Writers Shane Abrams, Portland State University.

Browse and Listen

Browsing the Stacks

staircase: stacks are upstairs!

PN 1-200—General

PN 400-500 Authors, Writers

PN 1010-1525—Poetry

PN 1600-3307—Drama, incl. theatre and film

PQ—French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese lit (romance lang)



PT—German, Germanic

Why Browse?

Myslewski, Lee Anne, ed., The Lost Art of Browsing (blog: Indirect Routes, 2015)

Browse print journals!

Literary magazines include The Atlantic, Film Comment, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and The Drama Review.

Screen shot of Atlantic, Film Comment, France Amerique, Harper's, New Yorker, The Drama Review.


wcc students only logo EBSCO Audiobooks: Listen to books right in your browser.

Librivox: Volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain, (pre 1925). 

For Educators

Introductory Topics

Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence A friendly, down-to-earth introduction to academic professors’ goals and expectations, demystifying the norms of the academy, and shaping college writing assignments. (PDF, ebook, 2016) [Amy Guptill, SUNY OER]

Teaching Literary Analysis

OpenLearn Free learning from the Open University. Search Approaching prose fiction, How to be a critical reader, and other topics.

Purdue Online Writing Lab Search Writing in literature, Writing about fiction, Literary terms, Close reading a text, Common assignments, and Avoiding pitfalls.

Course Resources

WCC’s English Department offers a wide range of literature courses, from introductory surveys to in-depth analysis of special topics. Many other areas of study, such as film studies, drama, history, languages, communications, philosophy, global studies, diversity, and sustainability, also draw on aspects of literature.

These resources are listed by Genre, Region, and Group. To expand a list, click  . To collapse it, click – .



Autobiographical Narrative


Baker, Russell, and William Knowlton Zinsser, Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir  (print Stacks CT 25 .I58 1987)

Karr, Mary—The Art of Memoir, (print Stacks PS 3561 .A6929 Z46 2015)

Larson, Thomas, The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reading and Writing a Personal Narrative

Children's Literature

Reference Sources

Cullinan, Bernice E., contributor, Diane Goetz Person, The Continuum Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature (print Ref PN 1008.5 .C66 2003  and online 2005)


Cover image for Modern Children's Literature: an instroduction

Denman-West, Margaret, Children’s Literature: A guide to information sources (online 1998)

Reynolds, Kimberley, Modern Children’s Literature: an Introduction (print Stacks PN 1009 .A1 M63 2005)



Classic Children’s Book Collection
Classic works that are still read by children today, and lesser-known treasures drawn from the Library’s extensive collection of historically significant children’s books. The books in this collection were published in the United States and England before 1924, are no longer under copyright, and free to read, share, and reuse however you’d like.  [Library of Congress]

International Children’s Digital Library
Promotes respect for diverse cultures, languages, and ideas by making outstanding children’s world literature available online, free. Children not in their native country can find books from their country online. Register for free.  [U of Maryland, Internet Archive]

Literature and the Environment


Cover image: gates, paths, trees Buell, Lawrence, Writing for an Endangered World: literature, culture, and environment in the U.S. and beyond (online and print Stacks  PS 169 .E25B84 2001)

Kerridge, Richard, Writing the Environment: ecocriticism and literature (print Stacks PN 81 .W75 1998)

Rosendale, Steven, The Greening Of Literary Scholarship: literature, theory, and the environment (online 2005)

Vakoch, Douglas, et al., Feminist Ecocriticism: Environment, Women, and Literature (online 2012)


Reference Sources

Encyclopedia of Novels Into Film  (print Ref  PN 1998 .85 .T54 2005)

Magill’s Cinema Annual 1988–present  (print Ref  PN 1998 .M3 2017)

World Film Directors (print Ref  PN 1998.2 .W67 1987 2 vols.)


wcc students only logo Films On Demand: Streaming educational videos.

Internet Archive. Classic and early films that have passed beyond copyright. Also websites, books, movies, audio, TV, software, images, concerts, and collections. Contents of archive: software, books, movies, audio, TV, data, images, concerts, collections.  Quantity of each ranges from 188 k to 15 million.


Drama Review (print Periodicals)

Film Comment (online and print Periodicals)

Film Quarterly (via ProQuest)


Hornaday, Ann, Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies (print Stacks PN 1995 .H66 2017)

Films Themselves

Films may be in these places:

  • For required course reading (DVD): Reserves Desk (Circulation Desk)
  • For feature films (DVD): Film Collection (second floor of the Learning Commons)
  • For literature made into film (DVD): Stacks – by LC call number
  • For early films whose copyright has expired: Internet Archive

Reference Sources

Critical Survey of Mythology and Folklore: Heroes & Heroines (Salem Press: 2013 online and print Stacks GR 515 .C75 2013) Forty essays on historical context plus discussion of the myths’ appearance in later times. Birth and Prophecy, Trial and Quest, The Host of Heroines, Myth and Monstrosity, The Culture Hero, Survey of Myth and Folklore. Maps, lists of different cultures’ major heroes and heroines.

Critical Survey of Mythology and Folklore: World Mythology (Salem Press: 2013 online and print Stacks BL 312 .C75 2013 ) A broad range of traditional literature from world regions, drawing from the Western tradition as well as underrepresented cultures. More than 200 tales.

Encyclopedia of Urban Legends (print Stacks GR 105.34 .B78 2001)

American Folklore: An Encyclopedia (online and print Stacks GR 101 .A54 1996)

Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music, and Art (print Stacks GR 35 .F63 1997)

Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (print Ref PN 43 .O94 2000)




Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth (film BL 304 .C36J674 2010  2-DVD set)


  • Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts. Links to many different translations of popular myths/folktales.
  • Myth, Ritual, and Symbolism. Anthro perspective. How myths and symbols are structured; how they give meaning to the human world; how they are woven into politics, family life, and the life cycle; and how we interpret them. [MIT OpenCourseWare]
  • Mythology & Folklore UnTextbook. Full of greatness.
  • Shared Mythology. Basic intro plus Greek and Roman, Norse, Egyptian, Japanese, British, Native American, contemporary, and comparative mythology. Essay topics, quizzes, reviews, interactive exercises, and more. [Georgia Virtual Learning]
Graphic Novel


Baetens, Jan; Hugo Frey, The Graphic Novel: An Introduction (2015) (print Stacks PN 6710 .B235 2015)

Weiner, Stephen and Danny Fingeroth. 101 Outstanding Graphic Novels (online 2015)


Cooke, Rachel, The Art of Words and Pictures (New Statesman, online, 2006)


Reference Sources

The Oxford Companion to English Literature (print Ref PR 19 .D73 1985)

The Oxford Companion to American Literature (print Ref PS 21 .H3 1995)

The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English (online, 1996)


E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel (print Stacks PN 3353 .F6 1985)

Smiley, Jane, Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel (print Stacks PS 3569 .M39Z476 20050)


Reference Sources

The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English (print Ref PR 601 .O9 1994)

<blank/> The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (online, 2012)

Preminger, Alex, and T.V.F. Brogan, The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (print Stacks PN 1021 .P75 1993)


Poetry Archive Audio collection of poets reading their own work.

Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry Online Poems, biographies, commentaries. 250,000 poems in full text, 450,000 poem citations. Includes all poems indexed since 1985. Wide range of tools to enhance understanding and enjoyment of poetry.  Includes audio poems, primary sources. Updated weekly. Columbia University.

Poetry Foundation Poems, readings, poetry news, and archives, from 1912, of Poetry Magazine.

Audio Archive Search by poet or poem title. Part of Internet Archive.


Poetry (online journal). Use ProQuest to search within or browse specific issues, 1989-present.

Short Story

Reference Sources

Edwd Hopper illustration of American short story scene

Erin Fallon et al., eds., Reader’s Companion to the Short Story in English  (online, 2001)

Martin Scofield, The Cambridge Introduction to the American Short Story  (online, 2006)

Web Resources

The Short Story Project “Stories that cross the line.”  Curated, multi-lingual, audible. A new approach to reading short stories, from Israel.

201 Stories by Chekhov Chekhov stories translated by Russian translation pioneer Constance Garnett, in order of publication, available to read online, from ibiblio. [U of. of N Carolina Chapel Hill]

Speculative Fiction

Includes science fiction, dystopian fiction, and fantasy.


Sci-Fi & Fantasy Anthology (course textbook)

Adam Roberts, Don Brine, The History of Science Fiction (print Stacks PN 3433 .8 .R55 2007)

Detail of Drill (Frantisek Kupka), 1926 Bould, Mark, et al., The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction (print Stacks PN 3433 .5 .R69 2009)

Rabkin, et al., No Place Else: Explorations in Utopian and Dystopian Fiction (online, 1983)

Web Resources

Clute, John, Peter Nichols, et al., The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (online)

Internet Speculative Fiction Database University of Kansas


Reference Sources

Oxford Companion to American Theatre (online 2004)

The Oxford Companion to the Theatre (print Ref PN 2035 .O9 1983)


Modern Drama (online)

none Comparative Drama (online)

American Drama  (online journal (—proquest res)


Reference Source

The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century British and American War Literature (online 2012)


Media, war, and conflict (online)

War, Literature, & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities (online)


Book cover: shows the feet of a soldier, encased in combat boots, standing on a pile of books.

Hanley, Lynne, Writing war: fiction, gender, and memory (online 1991)

Samet, Elizabeth, Soldier’s Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War (2007 print Stacks PS 49 .U65S36 2007)



Reference Sources

photo of banyan tree Student Encyclopedia of African Literature (online 2007)

The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (print Ref PS 153 .N5096 1997)

World Literature and Its Times: African Literature  (print Ref PN 50 .W67 2000)


Research in African Literatures (online)


Reference Sources

American Writers Series (print Ref, 4 vols 8 supps, PS 129 .A55 to 1996)

The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (online, print Ref, and Stacks PS 153 .N5096 1997)

The Oxford Companion to American Literature (print Ref PS 21 .H3 1995)

The Oxford Companion to Women’s Writing in the United States (print Stacks PS 147 .O94 1995)


none American Literature (online)

Early American Literature (online)



Book cover from Biblioteca Apostola VaticanaStarkey, Paul, Modern Arabic Literature (online, 2006)

 ʻAkash, Munīr, and Khaled Mattawa, Post-Gibran Anthology of New Arab American Writing (print Stacks PS 508 .A65P67 1999)

Allen, Roger, An Introduction to Arabic Literature (online and print Stacks  PJ 7510 .A43 2000



Journal of Arabic Literature (online) Islam’s sacred text, the Qur’an, and a wealth of poetry, narrative prose, drama and criticism. Thirty-six month delay.


Reference Sources

Woven tapestry of ocean waves, blue, green, red. Seiwoong, Oh, Encyclopedia of Asian-American Literature (print Ref PS 153 .A84O37 2007)

Miller, J. Scott, Historical Dictionary of Modern Japanese Literature and Theater (online)

Keene, Donald, A History of Japanese Literature (print Stacks, 4 vols, PL 726 .55.K39 1998)


Journal of South Asian Literature (online)

New Voices in Japanese Studies (online)


Reference Sources

Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography (print Ref, 8 vols, PR 19 .C64 1992)

The Oxford Companion to English Literature (print Ref PR 19 .D73 1985)


Studies in English Literature (online)

The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Literature (online, 2003)


Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature Full text of Medieval, Renaissance, 17th century, and Restoration era works from poets, dramatists, religious writers, and more. [isn’t loading]

Page from Alice In Wonderland, hand-written and illustrated by Lewis Carroll. The Middle English Compendium (1) HyperBibliography of Middle English prose and verse, based on the MED bibliographies. (2) An electronic version of the Middle English Dictionary. (3) A Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse, and links to an associated network of electronic resources. U. Mich.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare The original electronic source for this server was the Complete Moby(tm) Shakespeare. Now in the public domain. MIT.

Turning the Pages from the British Library Leaf through old books and magnify the details. Bibles, works of Jane Austen, William Blake, Lewis Carroll, Mozart, and more.


Reference Source

Arnold, Matthew Nutt, Alfred Trubner, The Study of Celtic Literature (online, 1912)


Cover image: old books and writing instruments Bolahnd, Eavan, Irish Writers on Writing (print Stacks PR 8718 I75 2007)

Carruthers, Gerard, Scottish Literature (online, 2009)

Ronsley, Joseph, Myth and Reality in Irish Literature (online, 2006)


E-Keltoi  Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies (The Center for Celtic Studies at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)


Reference Sources

The Oxford Companion to French Literature (print Ref PQ 41 .H3 1969 )

Lyons, John D., French Literature: a Very Short Introduction (online, 2010)

Martin, Eva, Feminist Encyclopedia of French Literature (online, 1999)


Cover image: a sphere surfaced with letters Damlé, Amaleena, Gill Rye, Women’s Writing in Twenty-First Century France: Life as Literature (online and print Stacks PQ 149 .W646 2013)

plus a number of French-language books; search by title, in French.


French Politics, Culture, and Society (online, 1999)

Web Resource

Studies of French Literature in Kansai

Select page in English; but journal is in French.


Reference Source

The Oxford Companion to German Literature (online and print Ref PT 41 .G3 1997)


Cover image: stylized medieval sun and moon Daemmrich, Horst, The Challenge of German Literature (print Ref PT 105 .D3 1971)


Andererseits: Yearbook of Transatlantic German Studies (online)

Latin American

Reference Sources

Latin American Literature, Britannica Academic reference entry (online)

Encyclopedia of Latin American and Caribbean Literature, 1900-2003


logo: stylized caracol (snail) Caracol: Translation, linguistics, Latin American literature, Spanish literature, Spanish language. For English, click American flag.

World Lit

Reference Sources

none World Literature and Its Times (print Ref, 6 vols PN 50 .W67 1999–2002)

Cyclopedia of World Authors (print Ref, 5 vols PN 451 .M36 1997)


Domenique, Julien, Foundational Texts of World Literature (online, 2012)


World Literature Today (online)

Indian Review of World Literature in English (online)

Colorful banner of books

 International Children’s Digital Library

Promotes respect for diverse cultures, languages, and ideas by making outstanding contemporary children’s literature available online, free. Children not in their native country can find books from their country online. Award winners; browsable. U of Maryland, Internet Archive.



Reference Source

The Oxford Companion to African-American Literature (online, print Ref, and Stacks PS 153 .N5 O96 1997)


Collage--details of African-American faces Rankine, Patrice D., Ulysses in Black : Ralph Ellison, classicism, and African American literature (online and print Stacks PS 153 .N5R34 2006)


African-American Review (online)

Black American Literature Forum (online)


Reference Source

Biblical tree Harper-Collins Bible Commentary (print Ref BS 491 .2.H37 2000)

Oxford Bible Commentary (online 2007)


Logos 7 Basic: Bible reference tool; from local Bellingham company Logos. Free download.


Journal of Biblical Literature (online) ASP (1973- ) and JSTOR (earlier)


Reference Source

Encyclopedia of Jewish Folklore and Traditions (online, 2013)


Baskin, Judith, Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinical Literature (print Stacks BM 504 .C36 2007)

Jewish prisoners entering a death camp Roskies, David G., Naomi Diamant, Holocaust Literature: a history and guide  2012 (online, 2012)


Journal of Modern Jewish Studies (online)


Reference Sources

Nelson, Emmanuel S., Encyclopedia of Contemporary LGBTQ Literature of the United States (online, 2009)  [on request]

Davidson, Cathy N., Linda Wagner-Martin, Oxford Companion to Women’s Writing in the United States (print Ref and Stacks PS 147 .O94 1995

Four early lesbian writers Historical Dictionary of Lesbian Literature (print Ref PN 491 .3 .M55 2006)


Gove, Ben, Cruising Culture: Promiscuity, Desire, and American Gay Literature (online, 2000)

Bram, Christopher, Eminent Outlaws: the Gay Writers who Changed America (print Stacks PS 153 .G38B73 2012)


Gender, Place, and Culture (online)


none GLBTQ Archives Archives of the world’s largest encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer culture and history. Includes literature, arts, social sciences, essays, interviews. (Wik Wikholm, 2000)

Native American

Reference Sources

Wiget, Andrew, Dictionary of Native American Literature (online, 1994)

Native North American Literature: biographical and critical information on Native writers and orators from the US and Canada from historical times to the present (print Ref PS 508 .I5N38 1994)


black feather, split in two. [Veer] Treuer, David, Native American fiction: a user’s manual (print Stacks PS 153 .I52 T74 2006)


Studies in American Indian Literatures (2004–2011)


Reference Sources

Bomarito, Jessica, Feminism in Literature: a Gale critical companion (online 2005)  [segments only]

Magill, Frank N., Great Women Writers: the lives and works of 135 of the world’s most important women writers, from antiquity to the present (print Ref PN 471 .G74 1994)

Showalter, Elaine, A Jury of her Peers: American women writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx (print Stacks PS 147 .S46 2009)


Ballamy, Maria Rice, Bridges to Memory : postmemory in contemporary ethnic American women’s fiction (online, 2015)

Gilbert, Sarah M., and Susan Gubar, Feminist literary theory and criticism: a Norton Reader (print Stacks PR 1110 .W6 F46 2007)

A circle with two pie-shaped pieces cut out of it. Greene, Gayle, Changing the Story: feminist fiction and the tradition (online, 1991)

Hearne, Betsy Gould, and Roberta Seelinger Trites, A Narrative Compass: stories that guide women’s lives (print Stacks PS 147 .N37 2009)

Sceats, Sarah, Food, consumption, and the body in contemporary women’s fiction (online, 2000)