English and American Literature and Language

Collection Selector

Steve Smith

Steve Smith

Head, Collection Development

General Purpose of the Collection

The English collection primarily supports the interests of the English Department in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GRS), as well as other library users of English and American literature and language studies. The literature collection includes primary source materials and a large body of supporting critical material. We attempt to acquire the complete works of major authors and critics from all relevant periods and genres, and extensive representative collections of the works of secondary authors. Supporting materials include biographical, bibliographical, and critical works about these major and minor writers, as well as bibliographical and critical studies of the periods and genres in which they wrote. We subscribe to a number of journals that present the current range of literary scholarship, primarily in period and genre studies; a selected group of periodicals in our collection deals with the critical reception accorded to the works of individual authors. We acquire literary works by contemporary authors whose writings have won critical attention or who have made significant cultural contributions. We also maintain a selective collection of literary magazines that offer coverage of significant schools and figures in contemporary writing. In addition, selected research monographs, journals, and reference materials are acquired to support courses in composition and in language and linguistics.

The English Department offers the BA, the MA, and the PhD in English and American Literature; the Creative Writing Program offers MFA degrees in poetry, fiction, and the writing of plays. Courses are offered in language and linguistics, in creative writing, and in literature; the latter encompasses a full range of classes in literary genres and time periods, individual authors, and literary movements, as well as in literary theory and the history of criticism. Graduate students may take courses offered by the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies, a ‘pioneering effort by faculty at MIT, BU, and other institutions in the Boston area to advance scholarship in the fields of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.’ Faculty members are associated with the journal Studies in Romanticism, which is published by the GRS, and with AGNI, which is published at the University. Some faculty also may teach in the interdisciplinary core curriculum in CAS.

The English collection also serves students and faculty in other academic programs. Metropolitan College offers a Bachelor of Liberal Studies in English & American Literature. The School of Theatre, Modern Languages and Comparative Literature, Romance Studies, the University Honors College, the University Professors Program, the Editorial Institute, the CAS Writing Program, the College of Communication, the College of General Studies, and the Center for English Language and Orientation Programs (CELOP) make use of the collection. In addition, the larger University community uses the literature collection for recreational reading.

Scope of Coverage

Languages collected (primary and selective) or excluded
The library’s collection of literature and criticism is primarily of modern English materials. Items in Old and Middle English by major English authors are selectively acquired, in the original and in translation if possible. Materials written in French, German, Italian, or Spanish are acquired on a selective basis, usually by request.
Geographical areas covered by the collections in terms of intellectual content, publication sources, or both, and specific areas excluded, as appropriate
The primary geographical areas covered by acquisitions are the U.S. and Great Britain. Significant works from the Republic of Ireland, English-speaking Canada, Australia and New Zealand, India, and the English-speaking Caribbean also are acquired. Works about British or American literature, but published in English in countries other than those listed above, are very selectively acquired.
Chronological periods covered by the collection in terms of intellectual content, movements or schools, and specific periods excluded, as appropriate
There are no chronological limitations in the selection of English and American language and literature materials.
Chronological periods collected in terms of publication dates, and specific periods excluded, as appropriate
Current publications are of primary importance. Retrospective purchases are made on a selective basis for the circulating and reference collections, depending on the availability of materials and funds.

General Subject Boundaries and Library Locations

The subject scope of the English literature collection is primarily determined by the Library of Congress class PR. The subject scope of the American literature collection is PS.Coverage also includes PE, the Library of Congress class for English philology and language. Within the PN call number range, we acquire selectively in several subject areas, i.e., Literature (General), Poetry, Prose and Prose fiction, Oratory, and Collections of general literature. We also acquire selectively within the Bibliography (Z) class in Fiction, in Literature, and in National and Personal Bibliography. These collections are housed in Mugar Memorial Library.


  • PR : English Literature, with the exception of African literature (PR 9340-9408)
  • PS : American Literature

Collected Selectively:

  • CT 21-31 : Biography as a Literary Form
  • P 301 : Style. Composition. Rhetoric
  • P 311 : Prosody, Metrics, Rhythmics
  • PB 1201-3029 : Celtic Language and Literature
  • PE : English Philology and Language
  • PN 1-995 : Literature (General)
  • PN 1010-1389 : Poetry
  • PN 3311-3448 : Prose and Prose Fiction
  • PN 4001-4355 : Oratory
  • PN 4400 : Literary History and Collections – Letters
  • PN 4500 : Literary History and Collections – Essays
  • PN 6010-6790 : Collections of general literature
  • Z 1201-4980.A-.Z : National Bibliography
  • Z 5916-5918 : Fiction Bibliography
  • Z 6511-6523 : Literature Bibliography
  • Z 8001-8999 : Personal Bibliography

Related subjects and Interdisciplinary Relationships

The selector for English and American literature may consult with selectors in several other subject areas:

African Studies
The African Studies Selector collects works of African writers. The selector for English collects works of writers born outside of Africa whose reputation and oeuvre may cover Africa.
The Anthropology Selector collects folklore.
There may be consultation between the selectors for Communication and English on comparative studies of literature and film.
The Education Selector is responsible for juvenile literature and for materials on the teaching of English.
Materials in Prose and Oratory and in Style, Composition, and Rhetoric are the responsibility of the English Selector, as are materials dealing exclusively with English linguistics. The Linguistics Selector is responsible for comparative materials.
Modern Languages
The selector for Modern Languages is primarily responsible for comparative literature.
The Music Library houses a collection of more than 175,000 items, including spoken-word recordings of poetry and plays.
There may be consultation with the Theatre Selector on early theatre and drama in North America and the U.K.

We select material on Biography (as a literary form) and acquire biographies of English and American authors. Other selectors are responsible for the acquisition of biographies of persons in their subject area(s).

Types of Materials

Books, periodicals, and reference materials, which include encyclopedias and handbooks, annuals, bibliographies, biographical dictionaries and directories, concordances, indexes, and companions. We also acquire dictionaries, thesauri, sourcebooks on grammar and usage, and handbooks for writers of research papers.
Collected Selectively
Microforms, dissertations, conference proceedings, multi-media publications, spoken-word recordings, and electronic resources.
Not Collected
Plot summaries, vanity press publications, juvenile literature (although juvenilia of major authors is acquired), textbooks, pamphlets, periodicals in newsletter format, rare books and manuscripts, and films, videos, or DVDs.

Other On-Campus or Local Resources

The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, located in the Mugar Memorial Library building, is open to those engaged in serious research. Of particular interest are the Robert Frost Collection, the Joseph Conrad Collection, the Walt Whitman Collection, and the Isabel Anderson Collection of Poetry. The Twentieth Century Archives is a major resource for information on contemporary personalities in literature, criticism, drama, journalism, film, and other fields.

The Geddes Language Center, 685 Commonwealth Avenue, provides specially-equipped classrooms, laboratories, studios, theatres, workspaces, and a large library of non-print material.

Krasker Film/Video Services provides instructional media support to University classes. Faculty can browse the online catalog and reserve any of more than 18,500 film and video titles from the Krasker collection for classroom use. Krasker also has an onsite previewing room at Mugar Memorial Library, basement level, 771 Commonwealth Avenue, equipped to screen all formats in the Krasker collection, including 16mm, VHS, Laser Disc, DVD, and Blu-ray.


We frequently receive requests to acquire ‘popular’ fiction. Academic research libraries, however, cannot serve the same function as public libraries, which offer large collections of many types of fiction. We provide a very selective collection of contemporary writing by authors who have achieved considerable positive critical acclaim. We do not usually acquire mystery and detective novels, romances, westerns, and other types of ‘popular’ fiction.