American Landscape and American Identity

Countless authors have created works that embody much of what would later become synonymous with the American spirit. Through these works, themes about American identity, its landscape, and constructs paint a picture of the country's history. Do you want to research nationalism and writing or the idea that literature can shape a political, social, or intellectual era? Perhaps you want to examine several authors who have highlighted our country's ideals through their writing--or challenged some of its notions.

Here are some possible subjects:

literature as an embodiment of national ideals
the American spirit through writing
llterature that challenges societal norms and beliefs
literature as a representation of a political, intellectual, or social movement

We can't fit every resource about American identity and literature on this list! A topic guide is just the beginning of building your bibliography.

Reference materials

This is the place to start any research project. Reference books offer short, authoritative information on every topic. These books must be used in the library. Most contain bibliographies of important books on your topic. A good first stop would be any of the standard encyclopedias in the Beaver collection: Encyclopedia Americana, World Book or Britannica.

Parini, Jay. (2003). American writers : classics. 388 pages. REF 810.9 Am3 2003 v.1

Unger, Leonard. (1981). American writers : a collection of literary biographies. 4 Volumes. REF 810.9 Am3 A 4-volume collection (with 3 supplements) featuring biographies on various American writers, from Jack Kerouac to John Steinbeck.


Books by American authors, about American Literature, its themes, eras, and literary forms can be found in various sections of the library. Many of the books listed below are found in the 800 section, particularly 810, 813, and 814. You may find you need materials that deal with U.S. history and politics to supplement any arguments you may make in your research papers, some of which are found in the 970 section. You may also want to examine social issues in the United States, which can often be found in 305s and 306s. Be sure to examine the catalog to uncover materials under other subject areas to ensure full support of any thesis statement.

Eberhart, Richard. (1945). War and the poet : an anthology of poetry expressing man's attitudes to war from ancient times to the present. 240 pages. 808.81 Eb1
Ruland, Richard. (1968). Twentieth century interpretations of Walden : a collection of critical essays. 119 pages. 813.3 T91
Whipple, Laura. (1994). Celebrating America : a collection of poems and images of the American spirit. 79 pages. 811.008 C3


Log into any of these databases by clicking on the link. If you are away from campus, please read the instructions on remote access, located here

Biography Resource Center A database of complete biographies on notable people around the world.
Contemporary Literary Criticism A complete database offering full-text articles on literature.
Gale Student Edition Full-text articles and other multimedia geared toward high school students. Go here before Google! Search for subject "American and Literature" to find full-text articles; multimedia, newspapers, and other popular resources. Author searches and subject area searches are also possible. Play with different combination of search terms; for questions, consult the BCDS library for searching help.
Readers Guide Full Text Select Good source of articles and criticisms. Check box for Readers Guide Full Text select. Basic or advanced search: "American and Literature".
Internet Sites
American Collection A vast set of links and resources on American literature and writers
Electronic Texts in American Studies Comprehensive open-access to documents, primary sources, and literature on American life at the University of Nebraska Libraries.
Literary Resources on the Net Completely searchable, annotated, and maintained at Rutgers University.
Outline of American Literature A narrative, broken down by period.
Perspectives in American Literature An extensive online portal housed at California State University.

BPL: electronic resources

JSTOR: More than 600 core scholarly journals focusing on literature and the humanities. Collection spans the last 150 years but does not includes most current 3 to 5 years.
Literary Resource Center: Full-text database that combines more than 1,000 books, major literary encyclopedias, and reference works from antiquity to the present. It also houses more than 100 literary journals and unique sources not available elsewhere.
Student Resource Center: Designed for grades 6-12, this database offers easy keyword searching across journals, images, books, and reference materials.

Updated 10-09.