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Literary Research in Special Collections

This guide provides an introduction to conducting literary research using materials in Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Maryland Libraries.

Using Literary Manuscripts in Literary Research

Original manuscripts of an author's work, correspondence, notes, and other materials commonly found in an archival collection can help researchers gain insight into the author and their work. Highlights of the literary manuscript collections in Special Collections and University Archives include the personal papers of American authors Katherine Anne Porter and Djuna Barnes, as well as additional American and British authors/poets/literary organizations. 

Below are some tips to starting your literary research:

  • Search our literary archival collections to discover what type of materials are available on a particular author/genre.
    • A finding aid is a guide to what kind of materials are available in a collection. It will also provide historical/background information about an author, helping to identify important dates, publications, or individuals in an author's life.
    • Archival collections can contain both primary and secondary sources related to an author. Be sure to evaluate each document to determine the source and type of information it provides.
    • Need help finding materials? Contact us with any questions.


  • Among the types of materials you will find in a literary archival collections are early drafts and manuscripts of an author's work, notebooks, letters written to and/or from an author, photographs, and more. Here are some suggestions for how to use these materials in your research:
    • Examining different drafts of a literary work may reveal the author's intentions and creative process. Observe who is making the changes, and what type of changes are being made throughout the journey from manuscript to published book.
    • Original correspondence, diaries, and photographs can reveal the author's personality and thoughts in a way that secondary information cannot match. These primary sources provide information about an author's life and experience directly from the author and those close to them. Authors often write about their creative process with friends, colleagues, literary agents, and publishers. 


Search Archival Collections at University of Maryland Libraries