About the LE

1. Brief Description

The Literary Encyclopedia is a constantly evolving and updating repository of authoritative reference work about literary and cultural history. All our articles are solicited by invitation from specialist scholars in higher education institutions all over the world, refereed and approved by subject editors in our Editorial Board. The LE is thus uniquely selective, reliable and authoritative. Its online format allows for rapid publication and frequent updating of articles; its integrated digital resources (author life-chronologies, customisable timelines, thematic or course-oriented bookshelves, related article clusters, critical bibliographies) respond dynamically to teaching and learning demands.

2. The LE Publishing Model

The Literary Encyclopedia was founded in 1998 with the aim of providing a reliable scholarly online reference work for English-language readers, primarily in the higher education humanities. It was developed as a not-for-profit project aimed to ensure that those who contribute to it are properly rewarded for the time and knowledge they invest.

The Literary Encyclopedia is owned by The Literary Dictionary Company Ltd, with contributing members of the Encyclopedia (editors and authors) sharing ownership of the publication, receiving shares and royalties commensurate with their personal investment in the development of the publication.

The publication is overseen by an Editor-in-Chief (currently Dr. Robert Clark, one of the Founding Editors) who focuses on editorial and commercial strategy, and a Managing Editor (currently Dr. Cristina Sandru) who deals with all day-to-day matters. They are advised by an elected Policy Committee. They also report annually to shareholders on financial matters, and regularly consult with them via email circulars and personal correspondence.

Editorial decisions concerning the Encyclopedia, including decisions concerning its content, format and distribution, are made by the Editor-in-Chief in consultation with the Managing Editor and the Policy Committee, and the members of the Editorial Board.

All editors and authors can see their contribution and shareholder status displayed in their personal account pages [MyLE Account], accessible after logging in. Shareholders receive annual statements of the Company accounts and are always consulted about any decisions which might affect their proprietorial rights.

Our content is solicited by invitation from specialist scholars by our subject Editors; we also accept unsolicited proposals from qualified researchers, with a proven track-record in the topic of the proposed entry. All articles, whether solicited or offered, will be reviewed by one or more of the subject editors on our Editorial Board, or by one or more external referees (where we do not currently have specialist editorial supervision).

3. Content

The Literary Encyclopedia publishes biographies of major and minor writers; scholarly descriptions of all interesting texts written by these authors, including those often neglected; and a variety of descriptive and critical essays on literary, cultural and historical matters, which provide a finer understanding of the social contexts in which this writing was produced. 

We seek to cover all of world literature and endeavor to commission and publish articles on the widest variety of quality writing that has been produced around the world. We offer excellent coverage of English, American, German, Russian, Italian, French and Classical literatures, as well as substantial and increasing coverage of Hispanic, Japanese, Canadian, East European and various postcolonial literatures. (Other major literatures to be added as resources permit.) So far we have published about 7491 completed articles, with a total of about 15.59 million words. We are currently adding around 20-40 articles to the Encyclopedia every month.

The Literary Encyclopedia currently publishes the following kinds of content:

  • About People
  • About Works
    • Profiles – descriptive-critical analyses
    • Primary bibliography of all major works by all writers listed (List of works)
  • About Literary Context
    • Essays on genres, concepts, movements, theories; comparative and reception essays
    • Short notes on genres, concepts, issues
  • About Political and Cultural Context
    • Essays on important historical events, movements and issues
    • Short notes on important events, movements and issues
  • Secondary Bibliography
    • Annotated or unannotated recommended critical reading for any of the above (recommended readings)

4. Structure and Organisation

Content-wise, The Literary Encyclopedia is divided into Parts, Volumes and Chapters. Parts are usually defined by country and may be subdivided into Volumes devoted to historical periods. All Encyclopedia records are assigned to a specific volume, whose number, title and editorial supervision is displayed immediately under the title. All volumes can be browsed by clicking on the volume number.

Main articles in The Literary Encyclopedia are divided into three databases, People, Works and Context.

  • People – includes basic data on over 7251 people (3144 with full profiles), mainly writers, but also philosophers, scientists, artists, historical figures and others of note. You can browse a list of completed profiles.
  • Works – includes over 31699 works (3642 completed), mainly literary, but also philosophical and scientific, which are indexed by date, genre and country. A large part of these are listed for bibliographical purposes, while others will be profiled as the Encyclopedia expands and develops. You can browse a list of completed profiles.
  • Context – includes four types of records: short notes of 50 to 500 words - historical context notes (comprising major acts of parliament, wars, battles, epidemic diseases scientific and technological inventions, etc.) and literary/ cultural context notes; and major essays of up to 6000 words - historical context essays and literary/ cultural context essays. You can browse a list of these HERE, choosing the appropriate type of entry you wish to see listed.

All Encyclopedia records are accompanied by an information panel to the left, which stores the relevant metadata of the article (dates, domains, activities, genres, places, cultural identities) and offers cross-linking, bibliographic and contextual options. For all Features and Functions available, see section below.

The left panel also contains a section entitled ‘Reader Actions’, which allows users logged in with a personal account to report errors, save articles to their private bookshelves or print the article. All articles can be downloaded as pdf versions; they can be stored in and retrieved from the user’s own personal account pages (MyLE Account).

5. Features and Functions

For best use of the Encyclopedia, please consult the demo videos under the Help section on the homepage. These explain and illustrate succinctly all the content and functions available to the users of the LE, which are described in detail below.

Since The Literary Encyclopedia was digitally conceived, much thought has been devoted to maximising the scholarly and pedagogic benefits of electronic delivery.

Article Information Panel

In the left panel of any article there are a number of contextual, bibliographic and cross-linking facilities. Users can

  • View a list of an author’s works (if such a list if available; we have more than 32,000 works listed, but occasionally there may be an author for whom we are missing a list of works altogether, or the list is incomplete or outdated. If this is the case, please contact us to let us know and we will do our best to remedy the problem as soon as possible)
  • View all major contemporary authors
  • View any recommended critical readings for the topic provided by our contributors (if available)
  • View any recommended web resources (if available)
  • View a detailed author life-chronology where such a chronology exists
  • Add the viewed article to a private “bookshelf”. A user's bookshelves can be viewed in one's personal account, after logging in
  • View cross-linking options added by editors or contributors (related articles; related/ thematic groups)

Please note that some of the features above are in constant development and are not yet complete for all articles.

Research Features

In addition to its teaching use and learner-oriented facilities, The Literary Encyclopedia is also a research project, notably in its work describing long-neglected and marginalised texts, in establishing day-by-day calendars of writers’ lives, and in correlating life events and literary events to detailed calendars of political and cultural history. It includes the following resources:

  • highly sophisticated Advanced Searches, which can be saved and subsequently retrieved. They can also be customized by removing or adding articles. A video demo of how to use this search facility efficiently can be found here: How to use Advanced Searches
  • visual horizontal Timelines that can be generated in a few minutes for any set of criteria (authors, works, historical events) and then forwarded to groups of students to enhance teaching and learning (see, for instance, this timeline of English Renaissance Theatre or of Defoe, Swift and Pope and British Politics 1670-1750). A video demo of how to use this search facility efficiently can be found here: How to create and display Timelines.
  • detailed Author Chronologies for selected writers which reveal the cultural milieu of each author and allow one writer's life to be compared with up to two others. Each chronology comprises 200-400 biographical events, day-by-day, month-by-month. These are shown within the context of historical events happening in the same period of time as that of the author's life. A video demo of how to use this facility can be found here: How to use Author Chronologies.
  • guidance on the most important Secondary Reading. We currently list over 20402 titles of recommended critical bibliography, which can be found (where available) at the foot of the article as well as in the left information panel.
  • Reference Groups and Related Articles, which provide wiki-style clusters useful for particular courses (for instance, “African American Drama”; “Children's Literature”; “Dystopian and Apocalyptic Fiction”), or simply join together articles which are related in theme, content and subject-matter. A video demo of how to use this facility can be found here: Related articles and reference groups.

Other Resources

  • a much-consulted Stylebook which offers guidance on how to write well-argued, well-referenced, correctly-formatted and stylistically sound academic essays. It also tackles grammatical and other errors often found in student writing
  • direct linking from journal articles listed under recommended readings to JSTOR and Project Muse (access to the articles will depend on a separate institutional subscription to these databases)

6. What Our Users Say