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Victorian Literature


To narrow your search for works about the Victorian era in the CUNY Catalog it helps to do an advanced, rather than a basic, search. (If you do a basic search for “victorian” you will retrieve 1320 results.) In an advanced search you can enter Boolean terms to expand, exclude, or narrow your search.

You can also define your search by format, if you're interested in e-books or films, or by location in the library, which is relevant if you want to limit your search to authoritative reference works. The reference works at Rosenthal include dictionaries, handbooks, encyclopedias, bibliographies and original works of literature by and about Victorian era writers (though original works are mostly located in the stacks, not in reference).

However, much of the material about Victorian literature is in circulation or in e-books rather than in reference; try searching the collection for particular themes or a particular author you are researching. For instance: Green Man Hopkins: Poetry and the Victorian Ecological Imagination is an e-book that you would find by searching for “Hopkins” as a subject and combining 'Victorian poetry' as keywords.

Subject verses author searches

Remember that when searching for books BY an author you will enter the author's name (last name, first name) in the Author entry field in your search. If you are searching for works ABOUT an author you enter the author's name (last, first) under the Subject entry field in your search.

Note that “Victorian” is not the official authorized subject heading for works written in, or written about, the time period we've come to refer to as the Victorian Era (the reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837–1901). Items in the CUNY Catalog are catalogued under aspects of 19th Century Literature. Examples of subject headings you might search are below.

Some subject headings:

  • Criticism—Great Britain—History—19th Century
  • England—Social life and customs—19th century—Fiction
  • English fiction—19th Century—History and Criticism
  • English fiction—19th Century—Dictionaries
  • English literature—19th Century
  • English poetry—19th Century
  • English poetry—19th Century—History and Criticism
  • Feminism and literature—Great Britain—History—19th Century
  • Poets, English—19th Century

Call Numbers:

  • DA550-565: History of Great Britain—The Victorian Era
  • PR451-469: History of English Literature: 19th Century
  • PR767-818: English Literature—Prose by Period
  • PR821-890: English Literature—Prose Fiction—The Novel
  • PR1170-1228: Collections of English Literature—Poetry
  • PR1281-1309: Collections of English Literature—Prose
  • PR3991-5990: 19th Century English Literature
  • Z2000-2959: Books—National Bibliographies—Europe

Guides/Companions: (PR461-)

Companions are ready reference resources designed to help readers understand complex concepts within the work; entries tend to be alphabetic by entry but cross-referenced by subject. Depending on the specificity of the resource, one can look up a particular work, an author, a common theme, a historical landmark, and more, and discover its significance in the context of Victorian literature. They tend to cover a wide range of material, as opposed to a detailed analysis of an individual work. As mentioned above, you might need to search for a particular author or theme to get more in-depth analysis of a particular facet of Victorian literature.

Here are some examples:

A Companion to the Victorian Novel / Brantlinger, Thesing
A Blackwell Companion. Provides contextual and critical background to novels of the period, including religion, class structure, race, gender, psychology, and in-depth information about genres.
A Companion to the Victorian Novel / Baker, Womack E-Book
An excellent grounding resource describing the cultural and literary contexts of the Victorian era; details Victorian genres, major writers, and critical approaches to Victorian works.
The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction Reference Level 3: PR871 .S87 1989
An encyclopedia of novelists, publishers, illustrators, and novels, and covers both well-known and lesser-known Victorian novelists. Includes synopses of major works.
A Companion to Victorian Poetry Circulating, Main Stacks: PR591 .C66 2002
A series of critical essays discussing Victorian Poetry through its themes, genres, critical reception, and culture.
Victorian Britain : An Encyclopedia Reference Level 3 - DA550 .V53 1988
If you'd like to better understand the cultural backdrop of Victorian literature, this encyclopedia covers individuals, events, groups, topics, places, and types of publications associated with the social, political, cultural, literary, and religious aspects of the Victorian era. Entries range from 100 to 3600 words and are cross-referenced. Includes a thorough index of subjects, people, and places.

Bibliographies: (Z8812-)

Bibliographies compile citations of critical works discussing texts, which can be organized by topic, theme, work, or lines of text within works. Note that more recently published critical essays will be found in our electronic databases, which are frequently updated. However, the following work covers material you may not find in databases:

The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, 1824-1900 Reference Level 3 - Z2005 .H6
This is an index of the prose contents of 43 major periodicals from the Victorian era. Also includes information about the publishing history and practice of the journals included, as well as an index of the content of each journal. This could be a useful resource if you wish to analyze the content of magazines of the period.




MLA International Bibliography:
The most scholarly and comprehensive database for articles and books on the modern languages, literatures, folklore, and linguistics and literary aspects of film. More than 66,000 citations are added annually.
Covers over 500 journals in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Full text is available for all articles as recently as about 5 years ago.
Project Muse:
Full-text access to over 200 journals from university presses and scholarly societies, focusing on the humanities and social sciences. A smaller database than JSTOR, but they index an excellent list of journals and their full-text content is more recent.
Nineteenth Century Literature Criticism—part of Literature Criticism Online:
To access this database you'll need to go through Literature Criticism Online, or search for it through the Gale databases. One can search through the entire literature criticism series, or specifically on an area of interest, in this case the nineteenth century. Database includes critical essays on nineteenth century works. Queens also carries 81 volumes in print (Reference Level 3, PN 761.N5).
Dictionary of Literary Biography:
This is a multi-volume set of dictionaries whose entries detail the lives and works of authors from a wide variety of literary eras, including seven volumes on the Victorians. Queens also carries this in print (see NEW BOOK AREA of Reference Level 3 stacks).

Journals and E-Journals

These journals specialize in Victorian literature and Victorian studies generally. You can browse them to get an idea of what people are talking about in the field. If you need to find articles on a particular topic, however, you are probably better off using a database.


These websites are recommended because they are sponsored by authoritative institutions, are frequently updated, and are for the most part intended for a scholarly audience. Please consider these factors when you are thinking about using resources on the Web.


MLA Style

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed.

  • Stacks (Call # A-L Level 4; Call # P-Z Level 5) - LB2369 .G53 2010
  • Desk Reference Level 3 - LB2369 .G53 2003
  • Online MLA Formatting and Style Guide from the OWL at Purdue


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