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English language and literature collection policy

Liaison librarian

  • Lonnie [dot] Weatherby [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email) 514-398-5031

2004 Revision


The scope of this policy is English language and literature. The general selection parameters are:

English Literature: Takes as its scope the literary heritage of Great Britain, United States and the Commonwealth nations excluding Canadian literature which is described in the Canadian Literature section of the Library's Canadiana policy.

English Language: Indicative and significant works in English on the history, development, and the state of the English language are acquired. This encompasses lexicography, grammar and the evolution and transformation of the language. The structure, semantics, morphology and other analytical aspects of the language fall under the scope of the Linguistics bibliographer.

History of the Collection

The collection in English literature and language bears the stamp of tradition and the mark of continuity characteristic of the instructional program and the research interests of the Department of English throughout its long history. This tradition and continuity has generated the development of specific strengths in the collections, most notably Medieval Literature, Elizabethan and Renaissance Drama, Shakespeare studies and Nineteenth Century English Literature. These substantial monograph collections are complemented by consequential holdings of series and serials.

The collection in general and its specific strengths are further augmented and reinforced by the Library's expanding full-text digital online monograph and periodical acquisitions, its holdings of primary materials in micro-text format, and by the literary resources of the Rare Books and Special Collections.

Current Collection Development

In recent years the Department has introduced, at the graduate and senior undergraduate levels, courses emphasizing literary theory and has increased its focus on theatrical performance (notably Shakespeare), the history of drama, Modernism and the Modernist movement as well as cultural theory as it applies to literary and cinema studies. Consequently library acquisitions in these areas have augmented and will be sustained.

Academic Programmes and Liaison

The English Department provides a full complement of courses at the undergraduate level. The Masters degree is granted through successful completion of course and research paper or thesis requisites. The Doctorate is accorded as well.

Collection development is the responsibility of the English Literature Bibliographer. Contact with the English Department is effected through the Department's library representative as well as through personal communication with other faculty members where required.

The English bibliographer contributes to and supports all literature programs of the Faculty of Arts by maintaining the traditional strength of the library collections and developing the library’s resources in literary and cultural theory, comparative literature, and English Literature’s many genres and movements. The library also maintains a substantial collection of foreign-language literary works in English translation.

McGill Resources

The Humanities and Social Sciences Library is the major location for the university's English language and literature collections.

The Reference Department has a basic collection of reference works on English literature, as well as a rich array of bibliographies and other reference works required for research.

The Rare Books and Special Collections holds books, prints, and pamphlets many of which are relevant to literary and cultural studies; it houses the William Blake Collection, and has Wyndham Lewis, Kipling, Stevenson and De la Mare holdings.

The Osler Library includes primary and secondary material relating to medicine, the divinatory arts and sciences of the Medieval and Renaissance periods. It also supports a collection on the representation of illness and medicine in literature. Of literary note, Osler has acquired the works of Sir Thomas Browne and Robert Burton in various and variant editions.

The Blackader-Lauterman Library of Art and Architecture and Marvin Duchow Music Library hold collections that accommodate the relationship between the literary imagination and the visual arts and music.

The Education Library acquisitions of primary and secondary material in the area of children's literature as a complement to the McLennan collection.

The Audio-Visual Service of the Humanities and Social Sciences Library holds collections of CD-Roms, DVDs, video and audio tapes, cinematic adaptations of literary works and filmed theatrical performances in support of the pedagogical programs and research interests of the Department of English.

Regional Resources

Concordia University, Vanier Library holds substantial collections in film and communications studies as well as the history of the theatre, scenography, drama therapy or psychodrama, and texts of contemporary plays.

Université de Montréal is especially strong in medieval literature, literary theory and European theatre history.

Université du Québec à Montréal continues to build a collection in paralittérature (popular fiction genres) and cultural studies in general.

National Theatre School has a reciprocal borrowing agreement with McGill University Libraries. It has a growing collection of performing arts monographs and is strong in Quebec publications and in unpublished plays in both English and French.

Cinémathèque Québecoise has a superb monograph and periodical collection in film history and contemporary film studies.

National Film Board maintains a library of specialized materials on film and television and a substantial collection of Canadian film periodicals.

Consortia and Document Delivery

Membership in large research consortia provides access to vast bibliographic databases and to efficient document delivery systems based on the holdings of North America's most eminent research collections.

The Center for Research Libraries in Chicago, a consortium to which McGill belongs, holds a number of important microform sets relevant to English literary studies in addition to extensive holdings of foreign dissertations. Holdings may be viewed on their Web site.

Journal articles and books not owned by McGill libraries are available free of charge to McGill students and faculty via the Document Delivery Service in the McLennan Library Building. 

Languages: Primary materials are acquired in the English language as are critical or annotated modern editions of Anglo Saxon texts. Secondary material is acquired predominantly in English, but also in other languages contingent on the subject importance of the work and/or the reputation of the author.

Editions: The primary works of American and English authors are purchased in the indigenous editions. The secondary material is acquired without preference to place of publication.

Dissertations: The McGill academic community has access to the full-text of North American theses and dissertations through the Proquest Digital Dissertations database. Paper-copy of dissertations are acquired very selectively: when requests are submitted by faculty, when the subject is such that it would contribute to or maintain collection levels or when the subject is not adequately covered by mainstream publishers.

Audio-visuals: Recorded theatrical performance, film adaptations of literary works and historical material complementing literary studies are selectively acquired, DVD being the preferred format.

Digital: Web-access to full-text literary materials is preferred to the CD format and these are purchased subject to available funding.

Date of Publication: Emphasis is on current publications. Whenever possible, retrospective acquisitions are made to upgrade specific areas of the collection and to serve as replacements of books which have deteriorated or disappeared.

Subjects and Levels of Collecting

Definitions of collection levels derived from the American Library Association's Guide for Written Collection Policy Statements, 2nd. Ed., 1996. The subject organization below generally follows that of the New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature and James Harner's Literary Research Guide, MLA, 2002.

Collection Levels Definition of the collection levels employed by McGill University Libraries.

Old English/Anglo-Saxon Literature
   Aelfric, Beowulf, Caedmon, Cynewulf 4  
   Exeter Book, Domesday Book, Hagiographical verse 3b  
Middle English/Medieval Literature
4- 4
   Chaucer, Gawain Poet, John Gower, Margery Kempe 4  
   William Langland, Layamon, Christine de Pisan 3b  
   Sir Thomas Malory, Julian of Norwich 3b  
   The Cycle, Miracle, Morality and Mystery Plays 4  
   Arthuriana, Women in Medieval Culture 4-  
   The Monstrous or Grotesque 3b 4
   Saints/Hagiography 3b  
Sixteenth Century/Renaissance (1500-1660) 4- 4
   Donne, Jonson, Herbert, Marvell 4  
   Marlowe Sidney 4-  
   Milton, Spenser, Shakespeare 4+  
Restoration and Eighteenth Century (1660-1800) 4  
   Blake, Burney, Defoe, Dryden, Fielding, Johnston, Pope 4  
   Sterne, Swift, Richardson, Wollstonecraft 4  
   Dekker, Ford, Jonson, Webster, 4  
   The Gothic, Romanticism 4  
Nineteenth Century/Romantic & Victorian Literature, (1800-1900) 4  
   Austen, Byron, Carroll, Bronte, Dickens 4  
   Hardy, Hopkins, Kipling, Keats, Shaw, 4  
   Shelley, Tennyson, Trollope, Wilde, Wordsworth 4  
   Romanticism, Victorianism 4  
   Pre-Raphelites, Fin de siècle culture, "decadence" 3b  
   Utopias/Dystopias 3b  
Twentieth Century Literature, (1901-1999) 4  
   Auden, Beckett, Conrad, Eliot, Heaney, Hughes, Joyce, Lawrence 4  
   Walcott, Woolf, Wilde 4  
   Ayckbourne, Abse, Amis, Arden, Achebe 4  
   Bond, Betjeman, Bennett, Byatt 4  
   Churchill, Drabble, Durrell 4  
   Ford, Frayn, Friel, Forster, Fowles, Frame 4  
   Golding, Gordimer, Greene, Hampton, Hare, Head 4  
   CLR James, Kenneally, Lamming 4  
   Larkin, Lessing, Murdoch 4  
   Naipaul, Narayan, Ngugi wa Thiong'o 4  
   Orwell, Orton, Pinter, Poliakoff 4  
   Rushdie, Soyinka, Spender, Stoppard 4  
   D.H. Thomas, Dylan Thomas, Waugh, Weldon 4  
Colonial and Revolutionary Period (1600-1800) 4  
   Crevecoeur, Jonathan Edwards, Franklin 4  
   Cotton and Increase Mather, Nathaniel Ward 4  
   Edward Taylor, Anne Bradstreet 4  
Nineteenth Century (1801-1900) 4  
   Chopin, Clemens, Cooper, Crane, Dickinson 4  
   Emerson, Gilman, Harte, Hawthorne, James, Melville 4  
   Poe, Stowe, Thoreau, Whitman, Alcott 4  
   Bellamy, Bierce, Boucicault, Belasco, 4  
   Holmes, Howells, Irving 4  
   Transcendentalism, Utopianism 4  
Twentieth Century (1901-1999 ) 4  
   Ashbury, Albee, Berry, Berryman, Barth, Barthelme 4  
   Bowles, Bellow, Bradbury, Burroughs, Bukowski 4  
   Capote, Coover, Crane, Crelley, Cather, Cummings 4  
   Dickey, H.D., Forché, Frost, Faulkner, Fitzgerald 4  
   Ginsberg, Hall, Hecht, Heller, Hemingway, Hurston 4  
   Jarrell, Jeffers, Kerouac, Kinnell, Kumin 4  
   Laughlin, Leverton, Lowell, Mailer, Mamet, Miller, Moore 4  
   McCullers, McKay, MacLeish, Merwin, Nabokov, O'Connor 4  
   Percy, Plath, Pound, Pynchon, Roth, Rabe, Rich, Roethke, Rukeyser 4  
   Sandberg, Sarton, Sexton, Shapiro, Simpson, Shepard, Simon, 4  
   Stevens, Salinger, Snyder, Strand, Styron 4  
   Vonnegut, W. Carlos Williams, Wasserstein 4  
   Lanford Wilson, August Wilson, Zukofsky 4  

Coordination and Cooperation

McLennan Reference Department: Recommendations for the purchase of reference works are forwarded to the Reference Department.

Rare Books: Collaboration with Rare Books and Special Collections concerning the acqusition of publications relevant to research programmes is an essential component of the collection development programme.

Linguistics: General linguistics including the structure, semantics, morphology, and other analytical aspects of language are the consideration of the Linguistics bibliographer.

Communications: Recommendations for the purchase of publications in the field of Media Studies are forwarded to the Communications bibliographer.

Education: The Education Library acquires primary and secondary material in the area of children's literature. It acquires works written for children selected on the basis of quality and pertinence to the Education Faculty's curriculum. The juvenilia authors whose reputation is not based exclusively on this genre but represents an important or versatile element of the author's oeuvre are purchased for the McLennan-Redpath Collections. Secondary material supporting specific courses and research interests of the Department of English is also acquired.

Blackader-Lauterman: Closely complementing the theatre and cultural studies areas of the McLennan-Redpath collections is Blackader's collection in theatre design and architecture; artistic/cultural movements allied to literary counterparts (e.g. surrealism, Russian formalism, modernism, postmodernism) and material dealing with the aesthetic and philosophical contours of popular culture.

Marvin Duchow Music Library: There is a significant collection of print and audio-visual materials in the Music Library dealing with musical theatre, opera, musicals, rock concerts, etc. and with the aesthetics and cultural impact of popular and classical music.

Plans for Further Development

Work with faculty to identify areas that have growth potential and might attract additional funds from granting agencies or donors.

Identify shifts in the intellectual paradigms of the field and their effect on the areas of study and research at McGill. Because of increased acquisition of full-text online journals, review English literature and language periodical collection with view to recommending possible cancellations.

Descriptions of the Collection

Serials and Standing Order lists available from the Bibliographer.

April 2004

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