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ENG 202: Writing and Research in English

Exploration of research materials for literary text analysis and completion of Dr. Kumbier's Literary Quest Assignment

Author Correspondence

Letters may or may not mention the work, but reading an author’s correspondence is one way literary researchers find out more about the author and the conditions under which the work was created. 

Literary Quest Assignment Sheet,
Dr. Kumbier, Spring 2012

Collection of Letters

If letters were published when the author was writing the literary text or soon after publication they might provide interesting information about the planning or writing process, as well as reception of the text.

Resources Analysis Assignment
Dr. Pat Murphy/Spring 2011

Spiva Library Catalog Search

To determine if Spiva Library has materials containing copies of author correspondenc conduct an subject search with the name of your author then look for correspondence, friends and Associates, or Family subheadings.

Clicking on the above subject heading link will lead you to the title listed below.

In the search box below, change 'Keyword' to 'LC Subject' and type the name (last name, first name) of your author in the 'Search for:' field.

Library: Search by:
Search for:

Or do a keyword search combining your author's name with correspondence or letters or diaries, etc.

EXAMPLE: Poe and (correspondence or letters)


Many authors are almost as well known for the letters they wrote to their contemporaries as they are for their literary works. We look to an author’s letters often because they may shed light on what was transpiring in the author’s life while he or she was creating a particular literary work. Sometimes we find that authors wrote in great detail about novels they were busy writing, as, for example, in the letters of Gustave Flaubert to his mistress, Louise Colet, during the period Flaubert was writing Madame Bovary.

Some writers, such as Franz Kafka or Virginia Woolf, also regularly wrote in journals or diaries; these, too, can be a source of insights into the author’s literary preoccupations as well as his or her personal life. When you are seriously studying an author, it’s always worthwhile to check whether correspondence or journals by that author exist and have been published.

In addition, there are also some authors who kept notebooks related to the novels, plays or poems they were creating. These notebooks can contain anything from brief notes or outlines to full drafts of passages that later appeared in the author’s work. An intriguing example of this would be Dostoevsky’s notebooks for novels like Crime and Punishment or The Possessed, or Dickens’ sketchy but revealing plans for his novels (which show, incidentally, that he planned them more than some people think he did).

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