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American Literature: Finding Books

A guide to the resources available at the Bobst Library for the study of American Literature

Search BobCat

Search for books, journals, videos, etc. in our local libraries and special collections.

Search other catalogs

Need to find something we don't have here at Bobst?  Need to research editions of a specific work?  Worldcat to the rescue!  Worldcat allows you to search for material beyond what we have available here at Bobst. 

Search for an item in libraries near you: >>

Recommend a title for purchase

Have you heard about a great book, but found that it is not available at Bobst?  You can now recommend that a copy be purchased for the collection. 


Can't make it to the library?  Ebook Central to the rescue!  Ebook Central contains more than 40,000 full-text books in a variety of subject areas.  You will have the ability to search, highlight, annotate books on Ebook Central as well as print or download portions of the texts. 

HathiTrust Digital Library

Haven't heard of Hathi?  Give it a try!  HathiTrust Digital Library is a digital preservation repository and highly functional access platform. It provides long-term preservation and access services for public domain and in copyright content from a variety of sources, including Google, the Internet Archive, Microsoft, and in-house partner institution initiatives. Bibliographic and full text search are available for all volumes in HathiTrust. Public domain volumes are freely accessible to the public and can be downloaded in their entirety with authentication by persons affiliated with partner institutions. NYU Libraries is a HathiTrust partner institution.

Become a better researcher - try using Subject Headings

In addition to keyword searching, or searching by title and author, you may search Bobcat by subject heading, in order to make use of the catalog's controlled vocabulary. Subject headings are assigned to published material by the Library of Congress. They can be very broad, consisting of one word, for example, literature or postmodernism or postcolonialism, but they also tend to link terms together, specifying what a work is about according to theme, period, geographical region, etc. Examples of more specific subject headings related to literary theory might include:

Literature--history and criticism--theory, etc.

Postmodernism(literature)--United States

Gender identity in literature

In general, if you are looking for criticism related to an individual (writer, performer, artist, etc), you can add a hyphen to the person's name and attach criticism and interpretation, then search as a subject heading.  You could also do a keyword search, combining the terms American literature and criticism, both as subject heading terms.  If you are looking for criticism of a theme or literary or artistic movement, you can attach the phrase history and criticism. For example:


Carter, Angela, 1940--Criticism and interpretation

American literature -- History and criticism

If you are looking at a theme in art or literature, the relevant subject heading may consist of the theme plus the phrase in literature or in art, such as:

Postcolonialism in Literature

Mysticism in Art

You may also search for regional/state literature:

West (U.S.) -- In literature

American literature -- New York (State) -- New York

Bobst doesn't have it? Use Interlibrary Loan

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) is a service which helps eligible patrons obtain materials that are unavailable in the New York University or consortium libraries.

Browsing Books in the Stacks

Rediscover one of the greatest technological advances ever invented . . . The book!

Academic libraries that use the Library of Congress Classification Outline (the majority of them) can easily be browsed for serendipitous discovery of wonderful books in your subject area. All you need to know is the call number range to get yourself situated.

Library of Congress Call Number Areas:

PE - English Language 
PE501 - (693) Middle English
PE(814) - 896 Early Modern English
PN - Literature (General)
PN441 - 1009.5 Literary History
PN6010 - 6790 Collections of general literature
PR - English Literature
PR1 - 56 Literary history and criticism
PR3291 - 3785 17th and 18th centuries (1640-1770)
PS - American Literature
PS501 - 689 Collections of American literature
PS3550 - 3576 1961 - 2000
Here is the whole list of the Library of Congress Classification for Class P - Language and Literature:

Need the full-text fast? Try Literature Online (LION)

Literature Online (LION) isn't just for literary criticism - it also contains full-text editions of major works (and some not so major works as well!). There are a number of ways to search for texts, so here are a few:

  • Using the "Texts" link in the top menu and then the "search" option, search for works using title, author, or keywords.
  • Using the "Texts" link in the top menu and the "browse" option, select "All texts" to browse by literary period. You can also see poems from major anthologies and literary works published in journals.

A selection of books from the stacks

A very brief selection of books related to American Literature in the stacks.