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ENGL 237: Beyond Borders: Afrofuturism: Finding Criticism

Finding Criticism

Use this guide to get started with your research for ENGL 237: Afrofuturism!

For your research assignment in this class, you'll need to identify, read, analyze, and respond to 3-4 scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles or book chapters that demonstrate a critical approach to your primary text.

Not sure where to start?  Here are three broad strategies that you can try:

  • Browse key journals for scholarship related to science fiction, African American literature, and Afrofuturist works
  • Search a subject database, such as the MLA International Bibliography or Literature Criticism Online
  • Search Primo for print and ebooks related to your text and topic

Featured Books

A sampling of potentially relevant books is listed below. Search Collins Library Primo Search for more titles. 

Featured Journals

These journals contain articles related to many areas of science fiction and fantasy studies, including theory, history, and criticism.

Subject Databases for English

Like most other disciplines, English has several subject-specific databases. The MLA International Bibliography and Literature Criticism Online are two examples. Subject databases index scholarly materials (books, chapters in books, scholarly articles, dissertations) that will be of interest to researchers within that discipline. MLAIB is the key database for literature, linguistics, and related areas.

Search Tips for the MLA International Bibliography

MLA International Bibliography Advanced Subject Search

This brief video explains the differences between keyword and subject searches.

Additional Subject Databases

Depending on your primary text and your angle, you may wish to search these additional databases. 

Search Primo

Primo Search Tips

When you find an item that seems relevant, look at its subject terms to find similar items. To do this, check the "Item Details" and simply click on one of the subject headings listed in the record for the book; the next screen will list all the books that share this subject term.

To find the library location of a book's call number, check the location chart.


Try these subject search terms in Primo:


Afrocentrism -- History -- 21st century

American fiction -- 20th century -- History and criticism

American fiction -- 21st century -- History and criticism

American fiction -- African American authors -- History and criticism

Science fiction -- History and criticism

Science fiction -- Social aspects

Fantasy fiction, American -- History and criticism

African American women authors

Butler, Octavia E -- Criticism and interpretation

Humanities Librarian

Katy Curtis's picture
Katy Curtis
Office: Collins Library 140

Related Subject Guides

Reading Criticism

Texts that interpret literary works are usually persuasive texts. Literary critics may conduct a close reading of a work, critique a literary work from the stance of a particular literary theory, or debate the soundness of other critics' interpretations. 

During the preview phase, you'll want to concentrate on these key elements:

  • Abstract (if available)
  • First paragraph (sometimes the second paragraph, too):  What is the writer’s central claim? What research question is the author asking?
  • Evidence:  What kind of evidence does the writer use to support their claim? Are there quotations from the text(s)? From other critics/scholars? From theorists?
  • Scholarly conversation:  What are the other scholarly works (secondary sources) the author uses? Does the author acknowledge counter-arguments? How does their interpretation connect to your own close reading of the text?
  • Conclusion (typically the last paragraph):  How does the author tie the evidence together to answer the research question? What is the significance of this research?

Once you've selected the article, you can actively read for content, argument, analysis and evaluation. 

Tip: Read the article more than once!  It may help to print out a copy so that you can make notes.

Tipasa: Interlibrary Loan

Tipasa logo

If your article is not available at Collins Library, you've got another option for getting it. Use Tipasa, our interlibrary loan service.

Tipasa is linked to your library account so you'll need to log in to use it.

Once you are logged in, either go directly to Tipasa and manually enter the information, or, if you're using a database, look for a shortcut link to automatically fill out the form, like this:

Interlibrary Loan Link

Allow at least a week for the article to come. If your article is delivered in electronic format, you'll receive an email with a link to follow as soon as it's arrived.