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SHB ENG276: Resources for literary analysis and criticism: Keywords

Can I have a keyword please?

A keyword is a word that you commonly use to describe your subject.   When you search a catalog or database, your search results are a list of books or articles that match the keywords you used.  Finding the right words is the "key" to successful research!

Ways to brainstorm keywords:

  • Ask yourself questions about your topic and write down words that you use. 
  • Do some background reading on your topic--from encyclopedias, news articles, text books, etc. Add words you find to your list.
  • Consult a thesaurus or dictionary for synonyms for your terms, such as Bartleby Reference.
  • Use broader terms that encompass your topic and carefully scan the results for information relating to your topic.

Remember, the library staff is very happy to help brainstorm search terms if you get stuck!

Constructing a search from your question

How does corporate America use schools to market to young  children?

Concept 1


Concept 2


Concept 3























"girls and boys"



Now you try it...

What keywords might have been used to retrieve the following articles?

Trying It On: Narration and Masking in "The Age of Innocence."  The innocent, fair May Welland and the experienced, dark Ellen Olenska appear to be direct opposites of each other, representing the familiar virgin/whore binary. This essay examines Wharton's text as it consistently questions this binary through formal and thematic interrogations of various distinctions. In addition to the opposition between May and Ellen, there is the problematic distinction between narrator and character, which the novel's use of free indirect discourse brings to the fore. Further, the text uses multiple figures of masking or "trying on" of disguises, questioning the distinction between masks and the people who wear those masks and between the actual and the mimetic. The thematic oscillation between woman as traditionally conforming, innocent virgin on the one hand and threatening, corrupting temptress on the other takes place on the formal level as the narration calls into question the reality of any meaningful distinction between apparently oppositional binaries.

Mirror, Mirror: Narcissism and Edith Wharton's Heroines. This study of women in Edith Wharton's major novels is cross-disciplinary in scope, as it uses myth and psychology to inform literary analysis. Ovid's myth, Freud's definition of narcissism, and Lacan's theory of the mirror stage shed light on the psychology of May Welland (The Age of Innocence), Undine Spragg (The Custom of the Country), and Lily Bart (The House of Mirth), women in overlapping rather than distinct stages of development. For all three heroines, regressive states externalized in family dynamics define the scope of moral insight and knowledge.

Re-cognition of Women’s Power: Newland’s Misreading of May and Ellen in "The Age of Innocence."  An essay is presented on the novel "The Age of Innocence," by Edith Wharton. It offers criticisms on Newland Archer, the protagonist in the novel. The author relates Wharton's perceptual experience of the New York society in 1870 revealed in her use of anthropologic language in depicting the characters. She also demonstrates the societal flaws during that era. Moreover, it notes Newland's misperceptions of his relationship with his wife May and his mistress Ellen.