Tips for Keeping Current in English Studies

At the New Members Discussion Group/General Membership Meeting this June, LES members gathered for a discussion session titled, “Do They Still Teach Edith Wharton?: Keeping Current with the Field of English.” Participants shared a variety of strategies to help busy librarians stay abreast of developments in English studies. Here are some of our favorites.

1.    Learn your English department.
As the field of English is so broad, participants suggested focusing on the current research interests of your students and faculty.

One of the simpler ways to find out what’s being taught at your institution is to consult the schedule of classes on your campus or to contact the office of institutional research. Want to know what’s covered in those survey classes? Stop by the university bookstore to see what books are required reading.

The English faculty are themselves a valuable resource. Take a few hours to check out institutional repositories of faculty publications. Request copies of syllabi. Target specific faculty in areas of interest and ask them to coffee. You can use the visit to find out what they’re using in their curriculum and their research.

Finally, investigate the interlibrary loan requests in your discipline, if possible.

2.    Take a cue from publishers.
Interested in where the field of English is going? Publishers have a pulse on the future. Review approval plan slips to see what’s being published or subscribe to the RSS and Twitter feeds of publishers. (Click here for a directory of publishers on Twitter.)

More than one member has noticed a trend towards Caribbean Studies. What else is around the corner?

3.    Find the right organizations and tools online.

Recommended Organizations

Recommended in Poetry & Popular Culture

 Recommended Subscription Databases & Journals

  • MLA International Bibliography, limit your search to the last year
  • Year’s Work in English Studies
  • Studies in English Literature
  • Studies in American Literature
  • Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory

And what about the Modern Language Association Conference? Veteran LES members prefer regional literature conferences to the MLA, which can be daunting by virtue of its size. However, the Literary Research Methods Discussion at the MLA is helpful.

4.    Turn to peers.
When in doubt, post a question to the LES list-serv. You can be sure of a good response.

What other ideas do you have for keeping current in English studies? Please share them in the comments.

One Response to “Tips for Keeping Current in English Studies”

  1. aline soules says:

    This is a great blog post. What I’d say is around the corner is studies of Middle Eastern materials, either in translation or written in English–Iran, Afghanistan, and Iraq in particular. Many immigrants to this country are now writing about their experiences, either in the Middle East or as immigrants.

    Another source for me is the link I have to so many writing groups. As a creative writer, as well as a librarian, I am out and about the Bay area poetry groups. What they read comes into focus later and, of course, some of them emerge themselves as writers of the future.

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