Where can you find a detailed critique of As I lay dying by WIlliam Faulkner, analysis of Emily Dickinson’s poem Because I could not stop for death, or collected reviews of Anthony Doerr’s All the light we cannot see? Through the Gale literature online database of course.

State Library Victoria members can access hundreds of databases from home (if your home is in Victoria). That’s millions of articles, magazines, archives, ebooks, videos, songs, audiobooks and more, available through the catalogue anytime.

Not a member yet? Sign up online first and reward your curiosity. 

We have a fabulous variety, breadth and depth of databases available through our online collections. In this blog we are focussing on Gale literature

What makes the Gale literature database so great? 

The Gale literature database draws together full text reviews and analysis of literature from around the world. It is exceptionally useful for students, bibliophiles, book clubbers or the casual reader.

The focus is on internationally notable and well-known authors. There is limited content on Australian authors.

I can search for works, authors or names of characters. I can also do a general keyword search.

Using advanced search I can match a text with specific themes.

This ‘How-to’ video takes you step by step through some searches on the Gale literature database

Some highlights

The great strength of this database is the extent and substance of the content. It is particularly useful to students, containing as it does, quite extensive articles and critiques.

  • Results can also be narrowed to peer reviewed items.
    • ‘Peer review’ means that several experts have assessed the quality and accuracy of the content and recommended it for publication. On this database I usually don’t restrict to ‘peer-reviewed’ because, in my view, all the content is of a high standard.
  • I can choose the type of content. Literature criticism and Topic & work overviews will be the most substantial.
  • The word count indicates how extensive an article is.
  • More recent authors will have more contemporary reviews. These can be very useful for a brief introduction and assessment of the work.
  • Specific poems can be searched. However I find that searching for a poet by name and then choosing Name of work to see what articles are available for specific poems, works best.
  • Full text articles can be downloaded and saved as pdfs. You can save and copy the citation.
  • Many more reviews are available for recent works but they tend to be quite brief.
  • The help pages give plenty of tips for searching, such as using an * for multiple word endings. For example feminis* will find feminist and feminism.

Other literature resources

When looking for reviews of Australian literature, the Auslit database is recommended. This has some full text. Items without full text will have citations indicating where an article was published. The article or publication can then be searched on our catalogue. We will have quite a few (but not all) of the publications cited.

Auslit is a great database for full text and citations relating to Australian literature. Note also the relevant research guides.

Another option when researching literature is to use the ‘Articles’ search option from the Library catalogue. The Refine search options can then be used to narrow to reviews. When using this option it is best to be quite specific.

If you enter the book title in quotations, the search will read the title as a phrase rather than separate words. You can also add other words to find specific types of criticism. For example you might want to focus on articles that analyse language and word use in the novel As I lay dying by William Faulkner.

An article search for reviews of Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s “The Erratics”

Our Library has many online research guides which provide guidance for locating resources for a wide range of topics. These include guides relevant to literature and to VCE English and Literature units 3 and 4.

We hope you enjoy exploring Gale literature.  It certainly is a fabulous database.

We always welcome your recommendations for database trials  – let us know what you’d like to see.  Have a research query or questions on how to use our online collections? Ask a librarian

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