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English and American Literature Collection

Brendan A. Rapple

Collection Overview
The primary purpose of the English and American literature budget is to support the teaching and research of literature.  The diverse clientele served include English Department faculty and students, other Boston College faculty, students, staff, others from the BC community, visiting scholars and students, and other members of the general public.  It is a major goal of the collections to serve the courses taught by the English Department and the research needs of the faculty and students.

The predominant emphasis of the collection is on the literature in English of the U.S. and England.  However, there is substantial collecting in literature in the English language of other nations.  To support the study of literature, primary focus is on acquiring appropriate editions of the actual literary works of major and selected minor authors.  Collecting stress is also placed on critical studies and on materials pertaining to such areas as contemporary and past literary theories, on cultural studies and literature, on religion and literature, on race and literature, on music and literature, on psychoanalysis and literature, on feminism and literature, on gender theory and literature, on bibliography, on comparative literature, on the history of the English language, on creative writing, on the cinema and literature, on folktales, on methods of research, on the history of ideas and literature, on the pedagogy of literature, on rhetoric, on composition theory and the teaching of writing, etc.

The nature of the subject determines that most materials will be monographs. Most of the latter are in print format. However, the Library has made a strong commitment to purchase as many full-text databases as possible. In recent years the Library has acquired Eighteenth Century Collections Online, a database containing the full-text of every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in Great Britain between 1701 and 1800, along with thousands of important works from the Americas. This important database complements well two other BC Libraries' databases: Early English Books Online (EEBO), which provides full-text access to nearly every English language book published from the invention of printing to 1700, and Evans Digital Edition, the full-text digital collection of books, pamphlets, and broadsides printed in America from 1639-1800. These databases are composed of hundreds of thousands of monographs in digital format. It is highly probable that the Library will continue to purchase such databases which will result in the acquisition of more older monographs in digital format.

Clearly a large number of journal subscriptions is also essential. Several years ago O'Neill Library greatly increased its subscriptions to English journals. Though it is anticipated that the number of journals added in the near future will not be as great, new journal subscriptions will continue to be made as appropriate. Journals collected are primarily those of literary criticism and major literary reviews. Some journals of creative writing are collected, though it is not the policy to acquire a comprehensive collection of literary magazines. The increasing focus on collecting in electronic format is dealt with in Formats and Types of Materials below. | View selected resources »

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Interdisciplinary Elements of Subject Area
The English Department has connections with a number of other disciplines including American studies, black studies, theatre, Irish studies, women's studies, medieval studies, education, linguistics, and others.  Much of the material purchased from the English budget support the literary elements in these disciplines.  As there is sometimes an overlap between the needs of the English Department programs and the needs of the programs of other schools and departments, it is important that there is no duplication of major purchases.  A significant interdisciplinary element of the collection development of English concerns the selective purchase of translations into English of major literary works of other languages.  Primary texts, as well as critical treatments, of classic works in children's literature are collected to support research and courses offered by the English Department and the School of Education.  However, the great majority of the primary and critical works of contemporary children's literature are purchased by and housed in the Educational Resource Center.  (View the ERC's collection statement).

Formats and Types of Materials
Most of the monographs, serials, and reference works of the American and English literature collection continue to be in print on paper format. Collecting decisions regarding edition, imprint, and whether hardback or paperback depend on intellectual appropriateness, availability, durability and affordability. Libraries are naturally inextricably linked with the world of publishing. While much of the latter is still vitally concerned with the traditional world of print, its electronic nature is growing at a tremendous rate. Publishing's utilization of technology’s continually evolving capabilities is contributing to an inexorable change in research, especially due to the thriving improvements in data manipulation, not just of text but of images, sound, and videos. Complementing innovative production types of electronic research activity are new models of digital scholarly publishing that are ensuring that the dissemination of research findings electronically will increasingly be the norm. Accordingly, as O'Neill becomes increasingly a digital library, particular focus is being placed on collecting and providing access to electronic materials. Appropriate full-text electronic databases of primary and secondary works relating to American and English literature as well as literature related electronic periodicals continue to be acquired.  Relevant electronic bibliographic citation databases are also obtained. The Library is also purchasing a growing number of important multidisciplinary full-text databases that are valuable for much literary research.Dissertations and theses completed at other institutions are selectively purchased depending on the particular research needs of English Department faculty and graduate students. However, the Library also provides the ability to download the full text of most dissertations completed at Boston College and elsewhere since 1997 through the database ProQuest Dissertations and Theses - Full Text.

Most of the material collected is in the English language.  However, important critical works on English and American literature and language in German, French, Italian, Spanish and other European languages are also added to the collection.  Preference is given to English translations, when available, of these foreign language works.   Important works on literary critical theory as well as interdisciplinary aspects of English and American literature in major foreign languages are also acquired.  Translations into English of major literary works of other languages are selectively purchased to support research, curricular, and general interest needs.

Geographic Area Coverage
The literature of the United States and England constitutes the primary focus of the collection.  (A major focus is also on the literature of Ireland.  This area is covered in the Irish Studies Collection Statement).  Literature in English of Scotland, Wales, and Canada are next in importance. Other areas of the English speaking world (Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, etc.) are represented by their major authors.  There is also increasing emphasis on collecting the major authors and major critical works of the Caribbean area.  Representative important authors of Anglophone Black Africa are also collected.

Time Periods
All time periods of English and American literature are collected.  There are no limitations.

Dates of Publication
Materials published in the United States since 1860 and published elsewhere since 1800 are eligible for collection.  Earlier materials are judged for appropriateness for Burns Library.  When collecting retrospective materials or replacing missing or deteriorated materials, formats with a long expected life, such as reprints on acid-free paper or microforms, are sought.  Increasingly, appropriate retrospective materials are in electronic format.