Facts On File: Bloom's Literary Reference Online - Examines great writers, important works, memorable characters, and influential movements and events in world literature. You'll need to enter your name, library card barcode number, and PIN to get started if you're logging on at home.
Ebsco Literary Reference Center - Information on the most studied authors and their works from antiquity to the present day. Full-text from from over 1,000 books and monographs, major literary encyclopedias and reference works, hundreds of literary journals, and unique sources. Now includes Masterplots! You'll need to enter your name, library card barcode number, and PIN to get started if you're logging on at home.
Cambridge History of English and American Literature - 'Considered the most important work of literary history and criticism ever published, the Cambridge History contains over 303 chapters and 11,000 pages, with essay topics ranging from poetry, fiction, drama and essays to history, theology and political writing.' Originally published in 1921. (Bartleby.com; site includes advertisements)
CENSORED: Wielding the Red Pen - An online exhibit which 'hopes not so much to judge censors and censorship but instead to provoke questions' about whether there are any situations where restrictions on materials or ideas might be justified or appropriate. Click on Walk Through the Exhibit to get started (University of Virginia). See also Banned and Challenged Books and Banned Books that Shaped America (American Library Association).
Glossary of Literary Terms - Brief definitions for dozens of commonly-used literary terms, arranged alphabetically (Paul Gutjahr, Department of English, Indiana University). For additional terms, see Literary Terms & Definitions (Dr. L. Kip Wheeler, Carson-Newman College).
History of the Library - A brief history of libraries from ancient Mesopotamia to the 20th century United States. (By Barbara Krasner-Khait; 2001, History Magazine)
ReadWriteThink INTERACTIVE - With this collection of interactive tools, students (K-12) can explore elements of books & stories; develop characters; create poems, comic strips, newspapers, flyers, & booklets; organize & outline essays; generate letters; improve vocabulary; and much more (International Reading Association and National Council of Teachers of English). See also How to Write a Paper and Cite Sources.
African-American Literature (Lit2Go) - Briefly describes key authors and key works from the 19th through early 19th century, with links to online texts (University of South Florida). Black Literature provides an overview of African American literature from the 1920s to the 1980s (Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1989). African American Women Writers of the 19th Century offers E-texts and brief biographies for more than three dozen authors (New York Public Library). Black European Writers explores the lives and works of authors such as Alexander Pushkin, Alexandre Dumas, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and John Archer, who had a mixed European and African ancestry (British Library). See also MULTICULTURAL LITERATURE, below.
American Writers VIDEO - This companion website for C-Span's 2001 'American Writers' TV series takes a look at writers from the founding of the nation through the 20th century. American Passages includes many author biographies, timelines, instructor guides, and other materials (Annenberg Media). American Literature Study Space offers supplementary study materials for The Norton Anthology of American Literature [NOTE: Features that show a padlock require registration for access; to register you must use a code from the printed textbook.] (W.W. Norton & Co.). Perspectives in American Literature covers important American authors from pre-1700 to the late 20th Century & Postmodernism, as well as a variety of themes and movements. Each author entry gives a picture and a bibliography of works by and about the author. Many entries include a biographical essay; some also offer study questions, comments, links, and/or other resources (Paul P. Reuben, Professor Emeritus, Department of English, California State University).
Black Literature - See African-American Literature, above.
Children / YA Author Interviews: Meet the Author (Reading Rockets) VIDEO - Video interviews with dozens of popular authors and illustrators of books for children & young adults; authors include David Adler, Avi, Eve Bunting, Katherine Paterson, Jon Scieszka, R L Stine, Laurence Yep, Jane Yolen and many others. AdLit.org also offers video Interviews with Young Adult Authors and Illustrators VIDEO. 'The writers share stories about their own childhoods, why they were drawn to young adult literature, and how they create some of the most popular books around.' (Both from WETA Public Broadcasting; site includes advertisements)
Dante Worlds AUDIO - 'A multimedia journey—combining textual commentary, artistic images, and audio recordings—through the three realms (Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise) of Dante's Divine Comedy.' Each section gives a summary analysis, brief explication of icons & allusions, illustrations, and study questions. For college and advanced high school students. (By Guy P. Raffa, Associate Professor of Italian, University of Texas)
Dr. Seuss: Who's Who and What's What - An A to Z glossary with brief descriptions of characters, objects, places, and events in the books of Dr. Seuss. Also available as a PDF or online book. (Compiled by Edward Connery Lathem, Dartmouth College)
English Literature Topics Online AUDIO [NOTE: To access content, use the tabs across the top to select a section, then use the left-hand menu to select a sub-topic.] - A web companion to The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Explore background material for different literary periods from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, or use the author index to find excerpts of works by an individual author (in PDF) from The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Includes quizzes, audio readings, and other resources (W.W. Norton & Co.). Contemporary Writers in the UK offers 'up-to-date profiles of many of the UK and Commonwealth's most important living writers' (British Council; non-profit organization).
Literary History - Links to free, high quality articles and essays about English and American authors from the 19th and 20th centuries. Also covers Women Writers, African American Writers, Postcolonial Literature, and other special topics. (Edited by Jan Pridmore)
Literature by Women - A web companion to The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. Choose a topic from the left hand menu for an essay, discussion questions, illustrations, and contexts. College level (W.W. Norton & Co.). Voices from the Gaps [Archived site] offers biographical, critical and bibliographical information about women writers of color (2009 - 2014, University of Minnesota). See also MULTICULTURAL LITERATURE, below.
Milton's Paradise Lost: Darkness Visible - Many helpful study resources for Milton's epic poem, including a plot summary, character descriptions, background essays on Milton's life & times, and a gallery of illustrations, including some interactive images. 'Darkness Visible was put together specifically for those attempting their first or second reading of Paradise Lost... to enable those new to Milton to familiarize themselves with the poet, his work, and his themes, but without patronizing the reader or shying away from more difficult ideas.' High school and up. (By members of Christ's College, Cambridge, UK)
Nobel Prizes in Literature - Information on all winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature from 1901 to the present. Click on the names to get biographies and other resources (Nobel Foundation). Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded in letters, drama, music and journalism since 1917. Books of the Century includes annual bestseller lists and other critically acclaimed and historically significant books, from 1900 to 1999 (Daniel Immerwahr, Department of History, Northwestern University).
Paris Review Interviews - Contemporary authors such as Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, E.M. Forster, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Arthur Miller, and many others are interviewed about their careers, writing styles, and methods of work. Browse by decade (from the 1950s to the present) or alphabetically; no audio. (Site includes advertisements)
Playwrights and Their Plays: Study Guides - Summaries of dozens of plays, plus playwright biographies, character lists, and more. The plays, by American, British, and international playwrights, range from the 16th century to the present era. Includes Shakespeare (Utah Shakespearean Festival). The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey Study Guides provide plot summaries, critical analyses, historical & biographical background, and more. The printable guides cover dozens of plays including many of Shakespeare's works, as well as other classic and more contemporary plays.
Shakespeare - See SHAKESPEARE links, below.
Twain's Mississippi AUDIO VIDEO - Resources for studying Mark Twain's life & works, and the history, economics, politics, and culture of his era. Includes primary source materials as well as essays, images, audio and video. High school and up. (Northern Illinois University Libraries et al.)
World Literature Study Space [NOTE: To access content, use the tabs across the top to select a section, then use the left-hand menu to select a sub-topic.] - This web companion to The Norton Anthology of World Literature is designed to help students 'understand individual works and appreciate the places, sounds, and sights of literature.' Includes descriptive overviews, quizzes, maps, timelines, and definitions of literary terms. See also Western Literature, a web companion to The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. There is also a complete collection of Norton StudySpace Web Companions [NOTE: Some sections require registration for access; to register you must use the code from a printed textbook.] for a variety of literary anthologies published by W.W. Norton & Co. High school and up. Invitation to World Literature VIDEO is 'a multimedia series introducing drama, epic poetry, and novels from many times and cultures. Thirteen half-hour videos form the centerpiece of the project, and feature a mix of writers, scholars, artists, and performers with personal connections to world literature, from Philip Glass to Alan Cumming, Wole Soyinka to Kristin Chenoweth, all brought together by Professor David Damrosch of Harvard University, a world-renowned expert on world literature.' (Annenberg Foundation). See also MULTICULTURAL LITERATURE.
IPL Online Literary Criticism Collection [Archived site] - A large collection of critical and biographical websites about authors and their works. Browse by author, title, nationality, or literary period; expect broken links. (2012, Internet Public Library, Drexel University et al.)
Penguin Classics Reading Guides - Introductions to more than two dozen classic works of literature, placing them in historical and literary context. Includes brief author biographies and discussion questions. (Penguin Group Inc.)
Spark Notes - A large collection of detailed, printable study guides for many classic literary works (Barnes & Noble; site includes advertisements). See also Cliffs Notes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; site includes advertisements).
How to Write a Paper and Cite Sources is now located at
Creative Writing - Helpful advice on writing creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and poetry, with additional tips on character development. (2012, University of Richmond Writing Center)
Cube Creator INTERACTIVE - The interactive Cube Creator helps you develop outlines for writing biographies, mysteries, and other kinds of stories. You can even create customized cubes on topics of your choice. The Cube Creator can also improve your understanding of a book or story you have read by helping you identify and summarize key elements; for Grades 3 - 12. See ReadWriteThink, above, for many additional interactives that can help you with writing & publishing.
Elements of a Story AUDIO INTERACTIVE - This multimedia presentation uses the classic tale of Cinderella to explore the different parts of a story: setting, characters, sequence, exposition, conflict, climax, and resolution. For elementary and middle school students. (Annenberg Media)
Exquisite Prompt [Archived site] - A series of monthly writing challenges inspired by authors and illustrators like Jon Scieszka, Katherine Paterson, Kate DiCamillo, Megan McDonald, and other favorites. Use their distinctive genres, styles, themes, and influences as a starting point to create your own stories or poems. The Exquisite Prompt contest has ended, but you can still use the archived prompts to inspire your writing. See additional prompts under Writing Contests. For grades K-12. (Reading Rockets, WETA Public Broadcasting; site includes advertisements)
Short Stories: 10 Tips for Creative Writers - Explains what a short story is and how it should be structured. Covers topics such as writing a catchy opening, developing characters, creating conflict & tension, and more. High school and up. (Dennis G. Jerz, associate professor of English at Seton Hill University; site includes advertisements)
Storytelling Workshop - Online workshop with storyteller Gerald Fierst. (Scholastic Inc.; site includes advertisements)
Writing with Writers - Well-known authors like Jane Yolen, Virginia Hamilton and Jack Prelutsky offer advice and activities for descriptive writing, biography, mystery, news, myth, poetry, book reviews, and more. See also Write It!. (Scholastic Inc.; site includes advertisements)
African-American Literature - See African-American Literature and related links, above.
Multicultural Literature in the United States Today - Distinguished American writers from various ethnic backgrounds offer tales of their native lands and their experiences as Americans. Stories can be read on the website, or downloaded as a PDF file for printing. (2009; U.S. Department of State)
Recommended Literature Search - Use this site to find recommended books for a specific age group (grades K-12), about a specific culture, in a specific genre (i.e., mystery, humor, fantasy, etc.) and/or in a specific language (California Department of Education). The PBS Children's Bookfinder allows you to search for books on a variety of subjects, including multicultural themes, for younger kids (up to grade 3).
Women's Literature - See Literature by Women and related links, above.
World Literature - See World Literature Study Space and related links, above.
Teen Zone: WRITER'S CORNER
Glossary of Poetry Terms (Poetry Archive) - You can use this glossary to check how to pronounce a word or phrase, find out what it means and learn how to use it in a sentence. You can explore some of the ways in which poets use language, the choices they make and the effects those choices create. Includes examples to read and listen to. See also Glossary Terms (Poetry Foundation).
Poetry VIDEO - Poetry news & events, webcasts, resources for students & teachers, and more. (Library of Congress)
Poetry Archive AUDIO VIDEO - Audio recordings of poems, with background material on the poets to help you understand the context for their work. Includes filmed interviews with some poets, speaking about their writing lives. You can browse poems by title, poet, theme, poetic terms or form. (UK non-profit organization)
Poetry Criticism - See IPL Online Literary Criticism Collection, above.
Poetry Everywhere VIDEO - Videos of more than three dozen contemporary poets reading their own poems (mostly); includes brief profile of each poet (PBS; site includes advertisements). For more readings by contemporary writers, see PENNSound AUDIO VIDEO (University of Pennsylvania).
Poetry Explications - 'A poetry explication is a relatively short analysis which describes the possible meanings and relationships of the words, images, and other small units that make up a poem... This handout reviews some of the important techniques of approaching and writing a poetry explication, and includes parts of two sample explications.' High school and up (University of North Carolina). See also Writing About Poetry (Purdue University).
Poetry Foundation (formerly Poetry Tool) AUDIO - An easily searchable database of poems and poets, which allows you to browse poems by category, occasion, title, or first line, and to search for poets by name, era, or region. Also offers audio/podcasts. The Student Resources UPDATED! page includes a primer on 'How to Read a Poem', plus basic introductions to a variety of well-known poets: William Shakespeare 101, Maya Angelou 101, Walt Whitman 101, Sylvia Plath 101, Emily Dickinson 101, William Butler Yeats 101, and others. (Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine)
Poetry Online - Full text of more than 2500 classic and contemporary poems. You can search by keyword or browse by poet's name, poem title, first line of poem, nationality, period, or other criteria. Also provides a glossary, timeline, and writings on poetry, including some criticism (University of Toronto).
Poets & Poetry AUDIO VIDEO - Use the search box to find biographies for hundreds of poets, or to search for poems by keywords or phrases (put quotes around phrases for best results). Now includes audio and video. (Academy of American Poets; site includes advertisements)
Text etc - Advice on the craft and theory of poetry, for the beginner or more experienced poet; sources used are listed at the end of each article. (By C. John Holcombe)
LISTEN NJ: FREE AUDIOBOOK & eBOOK DOWNLOADS - Listen NJ offers free audiobooks and eBooks to transfer to your PC/Mac or portable device, or burn to a CD! Choose from a great collection of bestsellers, mysteries, classics, biographies, history, and lots more! NOTE: Additional eBooks which are in the public domain (no longer under copyright) may be downloaded without going through the ListenNJ checkout process! These public domain titles may be downloaded without login or checkout, and do NOT count against your regular checkout/lending options. This collection contains over 15,000 titles!
NoveList and NoveList K-8: Online readers' advisory tools that help you find new books based on books you've read or topics in which you are interested. Part of EBSCOHost.
Want to take Novelist with you when you're browsing the stacks? You can! EBSCOhost automatically recognizes that you are a mobile device user and displays the correct version for your smartphone or mobile device!
Classic eBooks from Listen NJ - Are all the copies of The Great Gatsby checked out at the library? E-books which are in the public domain (no longer under copyright) may be downloaded without going through the ListenNJ checkout process! These public domain titles, in EPUB format, may be downloaded without login or checkout, and do NOT count against your regular Listen NJ checkout/lending options. This collection contains over 15,000 titles! PROJECT GUTENBERG has the oldest and largest collection of free electronic books on the Internet. E-texts of more than 30,000 titles, produced by hundreds of volunteers in several formats including plain text, HTML, EPUB & Kindle (non-profit organization; site includes advertisements). See also Free Web Books [CAUTION: This site includes links to biographical articles on Wikipedia, and pre-formed Google searches.] in HTML, EPUB, & Kindle formats (University of Adelaide Library) and Online Books Page in HTML and other formats (Penn State University).
Classic Short Stories - E-texts of classic short stories by dozens of writers including Wharton, Twain, Hawthorne, Poe, Mansfield, de Maupassant, Kipling, Saki, Garcia Marquez, Chekhov and others. HTML format. (By B&L Associates; site includes advertisements)
Feedbooks - A universal e-reading platform compatible with all mobile devices, and free downloads of thousands of public domain e-books. Works with Amazon Kindle, iPod / iPhone, SmartPhones / PDA and more; see main Help page for more information. Some features require free registration. [NOTE: Choose a CATEGORY to browse only FREE books; if you use the search box in the upper right corner, you will retrieve books for sale as well as free books.]
Great Schools Booklists NEW! - Eighteen booklists on topics such as books that celebrate diversity, books made into movies, best series, history, mystery, humor, science, beach reads, read-aloud books, books that build vocabulary, and more. Lists include a short description of each book. Fiction and non-fiction; for grades K-8. (Non-profit organization; site includes advertisements)
Listen to Genius AUDIO - Hundreds of downloadable audio selections from the world of classic literature, read by award-winning professional narrators. Includes short stories and poetry, as well as excerpts from novels, philosophy, drama, history, travel and more. You can browse audios by author name or subject; most audios are 10 - 20 minutes in length (Redwood Audiobooks). Lit2Go AUDIO is 'a free online collection of stories and poems in Mp3 (audiobook) format. You can download the files to your Mp3 player and listen on the go, listen to the Mp3 files on your computer, view the text on a webpage and read along as you listen, or print out the stories and poems to make your own book.' Recordings range from short poems to full-length novels (University of South Florida). For more audiobooks you can download free from eLibraryNJ (Overdrive) and OneClick Digital, check out our Audiobook Downloads page.
No Flying, No Tights - Reviews of graphic novels, with sections for each genre (superheroes, fantasy, sf, historical, mystery, horror, romance, etc.), plus indexes of creators, titles, and publishers, and e-mail updates. Starred titles are particularly recommended for younger teens (by Robin Brenner et al., a group of graphic novel enthusiasts and library staffpeople; site includes advertisements). See also Get Graphic: Graphic Novels A - Z (Buffalo and Erie County Public Library et al.) and South Plainfield Library Graphic Novels Collection.
Rare Book Room - High-resolution digital images of the rare originals of hundreds of the world's great books, including books by Galileo, Newton, Copernicus, Kepler, Einstein, Darwin and others, Shakespeare Quartos and the First Folio from the Folger Shakespeare Library, Poor Richard's Almanac by Benjaman Franklin, Gutenberg's Bible of 1455, the first printing of the Bill of Rights, and the Magna Carta. (From publisher Octavo.com)
Recommended Literature Search - Use this site to find recommended books for a specific age group (grades K-12), about a specific culture, in a specific genre (i.e., mystery, humor, fantasy, etc.) and/or in a specific language (California Department of Education).
Series & Sequels - A database containing thousands of books in series titles, for elementary through high school students. Indexed by series title, series subject, book title, and author. Just lists, no descriptions (Mid-Continent Public Library). See also Juvenile & Young Adult Books in Series and Sequels UPDATED LINK! (Bettendorf Public Library, IA) and Kids' Reads series lists (The Book Report Network; site includes advertisements).
Shakespeare - See Shakespeare, below.
Summer Reading (UC Berkeley) - Annual Summer Reading Lists designed to introduce new students to the intellectual life of a university. Not 'official reading lists' but a wide range of personal recommendations from faculty and staff members at University of California at Berkeley. There is a different theme for each year's list.
Teen Reads - Reviews of books for teens, often including excerpts and/or author interviews (The Book Report Network; site includes advertisements). For more teen reading sites, see our Teen Zone: LIBRARY links.
'We the People' Collection - Through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association, the South Plainfield Public Library has acquired a special collection titled 'We The People: Created Equal', focusing on the idea of equality in American history and culture. The collection features English and Spanish versions of the 18 books and AV materials for children, young adults and adults.
Young Adult Books Central - Targeted towards tween and teen readers, this site offers book reviews, author interviews & bios, press releases, industry news and much more on both children's and YA books. (Site includes advertisements)
Young Adults: Themed Booklists - Dozens of lists of recommended books for teens on a wide variety of themes, including biography, dragons, fantasy, ethnic heritage, everyday life, science & technology, summer reads, TV tie-ins, and many more (WETA Public Broadcasting).
ARTS & MUSIC: Theater
All About Shakespeare - An overview of Shakespeare's work, life, and times, plus brief summaries of six plays. A transcript from Standard Deviants TV. (PBS)
Complete Works of William Shakespeare - Downloadable e-texts of all the plays and poems in a variety of formats including HTML, EPUB, Kindle, Plucker, QiOO Mobile, and Plain Text (Project Gutenberg). Free ebook downloads of Shakespeare are also available through eLibrary NJ (audiobooks too; requires login with your library card barcode) and Feedbooks: William Shakespeare NEW! (works with Kindle, iPod / iPhone, SmartPhones / PDA and more). For advanced searching / navigation of the plays and sonnets, see Open Source Shakespeare, now including Mobile Open Source Shakespeare which you can use on your mobile device (George Mason University)
Discover Shakespeare - Background materials on Shakespeare's life, work, and theater, including brief summaries of each of the Plays, some with supplementary learning resources. Also includes a separate section on Shakespeare for Kids. (Folger Shakespeare Library)
No Fear Shakespeare - Puts Shakespeare's language side-by-side with translation into modern English. Covers 20 of Shakespeare's most frequently-read plays (SparkNotes/Barnes & Noble, ed. by John Crowther; site includes advertisements). SparkNotes Shakespeare Study Guides (SparkNotes/Barnes & Noble; site includes advertisements) and Cliffs Notes Shakespeare Central (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; site includes advertisements) offer scene-by-scene plot summary & analysis, with related materials, for Shakespeare's plays. Cliffs Notes also includes summary & analysis for all of the Sonnets.
Royal Shakespeare Company VIDEO - Plot summaries (synopses) for many of the plays, life & times, video clips, and other resources for exploring Shakespeare. The Royal National Theatre's Discover More: Shakespeare VIDEO offers a collection of videos from and about recent Shakespeare productions, exploring performance, characters, production, and more.
Shakespeare Facts - Scroll down for answers to commonly asked questions about Shakespeare's life. (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, UK)
Shakespeare on Film - A 'filmography' of all the movie adaptations of Shakespeare's plays, with brief plot outlines, links to reviews, credits, and more; many include a clip or trailer. In chronological order. (IMDB.com; site includes advertisements)
Shakespeare Study Guides - See also Playwrights and Their Plays: Study Guides and related links, above.
Shakespeare: Subject to Change AUDIO VIDEO - Multimedia presentation exploring Shakespeare's language, and how the printing, editing, and directing of his plays have altered his original texts. (Cable in the Classroom; non-profit foundation)
Shakespeare Uncovered VIDEO - Companion site to the TV series; you can view full episodes online. 'Each episode reveals the extraordinary world and works of William Shakespeare and the still-potent impact his plays have today. The films combine interviews with actors, directors and scholars, along with visits to key locations, clips from some of the most-celebrated film and television adaptations' and more. Series I examines Macbeth, the Comedies, Richard II, Henry IV & V, Hamlet, and The Tempest. Series II looks at A Midsummer Night' Dream, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and The Taming of the Shrew. (PBS; site includes advertisements)
Shakespeare's Words - This companion site for Shakespeare's Words (2002, Penguin Books) offers full text of the plays and poems with synopses and an extensive Glossary, 'allowing you to search for any word or phrase in Shakespeare's works, and in particular to find all instances of all words that can pose a difficulty to the modern reader.' (By linguist David Crystal and actor Ben Crystal; )
Speak the Speech AUDIO - A non-profit audio theatre company dedicated to providing freely available Shakespearean audio performances online. Twelve plays are currently available on the site: The Tempest, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, The Winter's Tale, Antony and Cleopatra, Cymbeline, Merry Wives of Windsor, King John, and King Richard II. Free, professionally-performed audio productions of Shakespeare are also available for download through eLibrary NJ (requires login with your library card barcode).