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ENGL 410: Writing Renaissance Women: Find books

A guide to resources for students in Wendy Furman-Adams' Writing Renaissance Women

About this page

WRW students who need a refresher about how to use the Wardman Library catalog and/or the LINK+ interlibrary loan system should consider reading these sections in the Find books page of the general English language and literature LibGuide.

This page will describe briefly several strategies to locate books relevant to the themes, contexts, and historical figures that will be discussed in WRW beyond the works indexed by Professor Furman-Adams in her selective bibliography (below).

Researching by subject

Although the Library of Congress (LC) has designated several call numbers to denote specific subjects related to early modern women writers (e.g. PR418.W65 (Women in literature -- English -- Literary history -- Renaissance)), for various arcane reasons, not all works about a given subject will be grouped together.

A more efficient way to find books about a subject is to search around LC subject headings, which a researcher can determine via several avenues.

One way we catalogers figure out how to describe the subjects taken up in a particular book is to consult the LC Authorities, an online database of the authorized vocabulary used in library catalog records. (For help on how to search subject authorities, click here.)  Basically, the idea is to use the database to determine the subject headings that will best describe the books you are seeking, and then use these headings in a directed search within our library catalog.

. . .

If consulting the LC Authorities and compiling a list of potential subjects on which to search seems too daunting, a quicker and dirtier way to find germane subjects, and therefore germane books, is actually to look closely at existing Wardman Library catalog records.

To start this process, first you must find a record for a book whose subject(s) are related, at least in part, to the subject(s) in which you are interested. You can find such a record by doing a simple keyword search in the library catalog, though a better way is to find the record for a book you already have in mind.  Fortunately for the sake of illustration, we have Professor Furman-Adams' selective bilbiography. 

Let us presume I'm interested in representations of women in late Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. After scanning the WRW selective bibliography, I see that Juliet Dusinberre's Shakespeare and the Nature of Women (New York: Barnes & Noble: 1975) looks like it might hit upon my topic.

(Note that, sans selective bibliography, I might still have stumbled upon Dusinberre's book via a simple keyword search, though not if I'd used the terms "Elizabethan," "women," and "drama," for example.  Why?  In part, because some of these terms do not appear in authorized subject headings or their subdivisions.) 

Bringing up the record for Shakespeare and the Nature of Women, I see that although it's not a particularly robust record, still it contains three subject headings with subdivisions that may be of use:


Dusinberre


At this point, I can write down these subject headings to utilize in a subject search later, or I can actually click on any of the subjects that I think might be most useful.  When I click on "Women and literature -- England -- History -- 16th century," the resulting screen looks like this (detail):



I see there are 23 records with the subject heading "Women and literature -- England -- History -- 16th century," and also that a nearby subject is "Women and literature -- England -- History -- 17th century," which is helpful given that I am interested in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama.

Now, I can click on either of these subject headings in order to display all of the records so described. Of course, not all of the 23 "Women and literature -- England -- History -- 16th century" books will be appropriate for my research interests, but I will be able to utilize the select few that are appropriate in order to read them, or to hone my research with additional subject headings.  And indeed, when I examine the record of one of the 23 books that looks paritcularly fitting (Irene Dash's Women's Worlds in Shakepseare's Plays (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1997)), I note several additional subject headings:



Of course, clicking on any of the new subject headings will produce a new list of books, with potentially different subject headings that I might not have even thought of.

So, by continuing to note and/or click on the subject headings in the records of books I think will be most useful, I am able to refine the information I retrieve, and eventually compile a focused personal library that will inform my research.

Finding books using subject headings

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An efficient way to find books about a subject is to search around LC subject headings, which a researcher can determine via several avenues.

One way we catalogers figure out how to describe the subjects taken up in a particular book is to consult the LC Authorities, an online database of the authorized vocabulary used in library catalog records. (For help on how to search subject authorities, click here.)  Basically, the idea is to use the database to determine the subject headings that will best describe the books you are seeking, and then use these headings in a directed search within our library catalog.

. . .

If consulting the LC Authorities and compiling a list of potential subjects on which to search seems too daunting, a quicker and dirtier way to find germane subjects, and therefore germane books, is actually to look closely at existing catalog records.

N.B. Although in the following example I will use Wardman Library's catalog, in fact you can deploy the following research technique in the Wardman Library catalog and/or the LINK+ catalog.

To start this process, first you must find a record for a book whose subject(s) are related, at least in part, to the subject(s) in which you are interested. You can find such a record by doing a simple keyword search in the library catalog, though a better way is to find the record for a book you already have in mind, perhaps based on a citation you saw in a related source.

Let us presume I'm interested in representations of women in late Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and after scanning a relevant article, I see a book that the author cites -- let's say Juliet Dusinberre's Shakespeare and the Nature of Women (New York: Barnes & Noble: 1975) -- looks like it might hit upon my topic.

(Note that, without this citation, I might still have stumbled upon Dusinberre's book via a simple keyword search, though not if I'd used the terms "Elizabethan," "women," and "drama," for example.  Why?  In part, because some of these terms do not appear in authorized subject headings or their subdivisions.) 

Bringing up the record for Shakespeare and the Nature of Women, I see that it contains three subject headings with subdivisions that may be of use:




At this point, I can write down these subject headings to utilize in a subject search later, or I can actually click on any of the subjects that I think might be most useful.  When I click on "Women and literature -- England -- History -- 16th century," the resulting screen looks like this (detail):
 




I see there are 26 records with the subject heading "Women and literature -- England -- History -- 16th century," and also that a nearby subject is "Women and literature -- England -- History -- 17th century," which is helpful given that I am interested in Elizabethan 
and Jacobean drama.

Now, I can click on either of these subject headings in order to display all of the records so described. Of course, not all of the 23 "Women and literature -- England -- History -- 16th century" books will be appropriate for my research interests, but I will be able to utilize the select few that are appropriate in order to read them, or to hone my research with additional subject headings.  And indeed, when I examine the record of one of the 23 books that looks paritcularly fitting (Irene Dash's Women's Worlds in Shakepseare's Plays (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1997)), I note several additional subject headings:




Of course, clicking on any of the new subject headings will produce a new list of books, with potentially different subject headings that I might not have even thought of.

So, by continuing to note and/or click on the subject headings in the records of books I think will be most useful, I am able to refine the information I retrieve, and eventually compile a focused personal library that will inform my research.