English Literature

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Very Short Introductions

English Literature

This author considers such diverse topics as the birth of the novel, the brilliance of English comedy, the deep Englishness of landscape poetry, and the ethnic diversity of Britain's Nobel literature laureates. English literature is known for its major literary movements and influential authors including Chaucer, Donne, Johnson, Wordsworth, Austen, Dickens, and Woolf.


Investigate the varied theoretical contributions of Roland Barthes, whose lifelong fascination was with the way people make their world intelligible.

The Beats

Offers an overview of the Beat Generation. Writers who revolutionized American literature with their iconoclastic approach to language and their angry assault on the conformity and conservatism of postwar society.


This publication lifts the lid on the bestseller industry, examines what makes a book into a bestseller, and asks what separates bestsellers from canonical fiction. Exploring the relationship between bestsellers and the fashions, ideologies, and cultural concerns of the day.

C. S. Lewis

Beloved by children and adults worldwide, the writings of C. S. Lewis have a broad and enduring appeal. Although best known for the iconic Chronicles of Narnia series, C. S. Lewis was a man of many literary parts. Already well known as a scholar in the 1930s, he became a famous broadcaster during World War II and wrote in many genres.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens is credited with creating some of the world’s best-known fictional characters, and is widely regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian age. This book explores the key themes running through his corpus of works, and considers how they reflect his attitudes towards the harsh realities of 19th-century society and its institutions.

Children's Literature

This overview of the history of children's literature as it has developed in English, introduces key debates, developments, and figures in the field, and raises questions about what shape the future of literature for children should take.

Colonial Latin American Literature

This vivid account of the literary culture of the Spanish-speaking Americas from the time of Columbus to Latin American Independence explores the origins of Latin American literature in Spanish and tells the story of how Spanish literary language developed and flourished in the New World.

Comparative Literature

Comparative literature is both the past and the future of literary studies. Its history is intimately linked to the political upheavals of modernity: from colonial empire-building in the 19th century to the postcolonial culture wars of the 21st century.

Contemporary Fiction

This exploration of a wide and diverse field -- now global in dimension, with an enormous range of novels and writers that continues to grow at a fantastic speed -- provides an exploration of the major themes, patterns, and debates of contemporary fiction.

Crime Fiction

This book explores the history of ‘crime fiction’ and the various definitions of the genre and considers how it has developed over time. Discussing the popularity of crime fiction worldwide and its various styles; the role that gender plays within the genre; spy fiction, legal dramas, and thrillers; it explores how the crime novel was shaped by the work of British and American authors in the 18th and 19th centuries.


This examination of the main themes and issues that run through all of Dante’s work ranges from autobiography, to understanding God, and the order of the universe. In doing so, it highlights what has made Dante a vital point of reference for modern writers and readers.


This overview of the culture of decadence—the artistic expression of a conflicted sense of modernity—traces its origin in ancient Rome, development in nineteenth-century Paris and London, manifestation in early-twentieth-century Vienna and Weimar Berlin, and current resonance in contemporary life.

Dictionaries: A Very Short Introduction

Dictionaries: A Very Short Introduction demonstrates that dictionaries are not merely works which list the words and meanings of a language. They are human products, reflecting the dominant social and cultural assumptions of the time in which they were written. All are partial and all are selective. This VSI explores common beliefs about dictionaries, providing glimpses of dictionary makers at work, and confronting the problems of how a word is to be defined. Concluding with a look at the range of modern dictionaries, including online dictionaries, it reveals the controversial nature of the debates about communication and language.

Fairy Tale

The characters and images of fairy tales have cast a spell over adults and children for centuries. This book draws on both classics and modern-day realizations in order to define a genre and evaluate a literary form that keeps shifting through time and history.

The Gothic

This author argues that the concept of ‘Gothic’ is wildly diverse. It can refer to ecclesiastical architecture, supernatural fiction, cult horror films, and a distinctive style of rock music. It has influenced political theorists and social reformers, as well as Victorian home décor and contemporary fashion. Time after time, the Gothic has been invoked in order to reveal what lies behind conventional history. While contexts change, the Gothic perpetually regards the past with fascination, with both yearning and horror.

Literary Theory

This publication addresses the questions: What is literary theory? Is there a relationship between literature and culture? In fact, what is literature, and does it matter? Often a controversial subject, said to have transformed the study of culture and society in the past two decades, literary theory is accused of undermining respect for tradition and truth and encouraging suspicion about the political and psychological implications of cultural projects rather than admiration for great literature.

Medieval Literature

This book provides a compelling account of the emergence of the earliest literature in Britain and Ireland, including English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Anglo-Latin, and Anglo-Norman. Introducing the reader to some of the greatest poetry, prose, and drama ever written, it discusses the historical and intellectual background to these works, and considers the physical production of the manuscripts and the earliest beginnings of print culture.

Modern Latin American Literature

This overview of Latin American literature, from the late eighteenth century to the present, covers a wide range of topics, large and small, highlighting how Latin American literature became conscious of its continental scope and international reach in moments of political crisis, such as independence from Spain, the Spanish–American War, and the Mexican and Cuban revolutions.


This book examines how and why modernism began, what it is, how it has gradually informed all aspects of 20th and 21st century life. Modernism expressed a new way of thinking of the self, subjectivity, irrationalism, people and machines, and politics. Whether we recognise it or not, virtually every aspect of our life today has been influenced in part by the aesthetic legacy of modernism.

Reference Books

Reference books offer great starting points and background reading on a topic.  Listed here are some of the more important reference books available at the Trent Library.  Call numbers are provided for print books; links for online.

Search the Library Catalogue for Books

When you want to find books in the Trent Library, search Omni.


The Library uses Library of Congress Call Numbers to classify books.

  • PN 1-6790 is General Literature, but literature is also organized by country.
  • PR 1-9680 is English Literature.
  • PS 1-3626 is American Literature.
  • PS 8000-8599 is Canadian Literature.


Terminology Notes:

The Library Catalogue uses LCSH (subject headings) in most records, to help us identify items of interest.

  • The term "imagery" is used as a psychological term, and not literary.
  • The term "symbolism" is rarely used for literature.

To find books by an author, browse for the author's name.
Authors are listed last name first.  If the name is unique, a last name may be enough; if not, add a first inial.  Remember to change the browse button from to "author" (from the default - "title").

  • ondaatje gets you to the right place on the list, where you can select:
    Ondaatje, Michael, 1943-
  • wells h gets you to the right place on the list, where you can select:
    Wells, H. G. (Herbert George), 1866-1946.

This gets a list of all the books written by the author.

To find books about an author, look for the author as a subject.
Books about an author are most often listed with a subject of the author's name and "criticism and interpretation".  Change the browse button to "subject".

  • Munro, Alice, 1931- --Criticism and interpretation.
  • Pinter, Harold, 1930- -- Criticism and interpretation.

The quickest way to find books about an author is with a keyword search including the author's last name and "criticism"

To find books about a particular work, use a keyword search with the author's last name and a word from the title. 
The subject often appears like this:

  • Atwood, Margaret, 1939- Edible woman.

Some subject heading are more general or more specific, so be creative about how you search. Other sample subject headings:

Literature and science
Literature and medicine
Literature and the war
Literature and the revolution
Literature, Comparative
Literature, Modern
Discourse analysis, Literary
Postmodernism (Literature)
Women and literature
Gothic literature


The majority of our e-books are included in Omni and can be found with any search. The record includes a link to the e-book.

  • To limit a search to e-books, use the filters in Omni to limit Availability to 'Available Online"

The following resources contain collections of e-books. Most offer the option to create an account for yourself and save books, as well as adding notations and highlighting.