Core English Resources

This page contains the following sections:

  1. General (literary encyclopedias, biographies and dictionaries);
  2. Histories of literatures in English.

1. General

Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Thomson. Available in various editions. Reliable entries on traditional elements of literary analysis (e.g. figures of speech).

Baldick, Chris. The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. 3rd ed. Oxford University Press, 2008. Available through Oxford Reference.

Coyle, Martin, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Literature and Criticism. Routledge, 2003.  Includes chapters on major periods of literature and the principal schools of critical theory.

Furniss, Tom, and Michael Bath. Reading Poetry: An Introduction. Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1996. Ignore the section on meter. Otherwise this is an excellent introduction to poetry.

France, Peter. The Oxford Guide to Literature in Translation. Oxford University Press, 2000. A good place to begin if you want to find the best editions of works translated into English.

Kastan, Davis Scott, ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. 5 vols. Oxford University Press, 2006.  Overview of major authors and works. A good starting point.

Gutenberg Bible (36 line)
Gutenberg Bible (36 line)

Preminger, Alex, and T. V. F. Brogan, eds. The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. 3rd ed. Princeton University Press, 1993. Access via Literature Online (LION). Detailed coverage of everything to do with poetry. An advanced reference work. The 4th edition is available in paper form in the library: Roland Greene, and Stephen Cushman, eds. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. 4th ed. Princeton University Press, 2012.


American National Biography. Biographies of all major US writers.

Gale Literature Resource Centre. Encyclopedia with entries for authors and specific works. Includes sources for recently published works.

Literature Online (LION): A broad spectrum of primary texts, reference works and secondary texts. Contains a lot of twentieth-century poetry that is still in copyright and not available elsewhere. The RUG subscription is to the Core Collection.

The Literary Encyclopedia. Brief information about literatures in English and other languages. Includes entries on authors and works that have only recently received any critical attention.

Oxford Bibliographies. Annotated research guides for British, Irish and American literature.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB). Biographies of all the major British writers and historical figures.

Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The comprehensive dictionary of the English language. It should always be used for literature essays as it tells you what words meant in previous centuries.

Oxford Handbooks Online: Includes handbooks on writers and genres from Wordsworth to Science Fiction.

Oxford Reference. The literature section includes the Oxford Companions to American, Australian, Classical, Canadian, English and Irish literature, as well as companions to Shakespeare, Dickens, The Brontës, Hardy and Conrad.  It also has:

  • The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms
  • Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance
  • The Oxford Companion to American Theatre
  • The Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Plays

Other sections include useful reference works:

  • A Dictionary of British History
  • Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages
  • The Kings and Queens of Britain
  • The Oxford Companion to United States History
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations


2. History of Literature

Carter, Ronald, and John McRae. The Routledge History of Literature in English: Britain and Ireland. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2001. An overview of the history of English literature useful for getting a sense of the different literary periods.

Cox, Micheal. The Oxford Chronology of English Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Lists the major works of literature on a year by year basis. CD-ROM through the library catalogue.

Poplawski, Paul. English Literature in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.  An overview of the history of English literature useful for getting a sense of the different literary periods.


Cambridge Histories Online via Cambridge Core includes, for example:

  • The Cambridge History of African-American Literature
  • The Cambridge History of American Literature (6 vols)
  • The Cambridge History of British Theatre (3 vols)
  • The Cambridge History of English Poetry
  • The Cambridge History of Irish Literature (2 vols)
  • The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Centiury English Literature
  • volumes on specific English literary periods (e.g. Victorian Literature)
Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp
Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp