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Humanities Research: Sources and Strategies: Critical reception
The term "critical reception," or "reception history," refers to:
How a creative work (book, film, music, etc.) has been "received" -- that is, how audiences have reacted to it over time.
How a historical figure or event has been viewed over time.
This kind of research is done on:
Literary figures, artists
Historical figures and events
It's done in order to:
Trace various views of, and critical approaches to, the person or event over time
When editing an early document: need to research critical views of it
Graduate programs often specialize in a specific critical approach
Tips for Critcal Reception research
CURRENT SCHOLARLY REVIEWS:
Places the work (book, film, dance performance) into a context
How it fits with previous scholarship
How it is different, what does it contribute
What it is lacking, gets wrong
Articles that review multiple works
Give an overview of recent scholarship on a topic
HISTORICAL / EARLY REVIEWS:
May or may not be scholarly
Can help trace how an idea/book/film was understood or received over time: something that today is considered an important work might not have been when it first appeared. Can also help a researcher trace the arc of an artist's or scholar's work, compare early works with later ones
Or the opposite, can help you understand the critics who examined the work
COMPILATIONS OF CURRENT AND HISTORICAL REVIEWS / CRITICISM:
Gale Literature Criticism series, now part of the Literature Resource Center database (see "Resources" below): include excerpts or entire early reviews
The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism
Encyclopedias devoted to individual critical approaches, e.g. Encyclopedia of Feminist Criticism, Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Thought, etc
Bibliographies on an individual person or critical biographies (part biography, part critical study)
Search library catalogs for collections of reviews (an example: The Romantics Reviewed: Contemporary Reviews of British Romantic Writers). Add to your search terms "Reviews" or "Book reviews."
Use search terms to convey a critical approach, e.g. Whitman AND masculinities
Bibliographies may include reviews. Add to your search terms "Bibliography."
Some library catalogs link to reviews, or allow you to limit your search to reviews.
Databases and reviews:
JSTOR (journals included are retrospective to first volumes published)
ProQuest Historical Newspapers
Many databases let you limit your search to reviews
Web of Science to track responses to seminal articles, books via "Cited Reference" searching
Subject-specific databases for art, music, dance, theater include reviews of performances, exhibitions
Web of Science (database) to track repsonses to seminal articles, books
The following may make useful search terms:
Gender and masculinities
New criticism (work viewed in isolation)
New historicism (work viewed within historical context)
Lexicon of Musical Invective: critical assaults on composers since Beethoven's time
Critical Reception: Should I do a Broad or Narrow Search?
Much critical literature focuses on a single work (for example, a book review) or on the works of a specific person (for example, their early or late works, or a theme in their works). You'll want to narrow your search accordingly.
Compilations of critical literature tend to be organized around a particular critical approach (feminist, etc.), genre (plays, etc.) or subject area, often limited to a geographical region or time period (twentieth-century English literature). Use keywords of this type in your search.