A work of literature always has more to its story than its basic narrative. How was the work conceived, written, edited, published, and marketed? How did readers respond? Did subsequent generations repackage or reinterpret it, and if so, what does that tell us about the author's legacy?
To study these "stories behind the stories," scholars rely on primary sources. An author's original manuscripts, later drafts, and correspondence with editors, publishers, illustrators, etc., are commonly used sources. Historical editions of books, magazines, or other places of publication also shed light on how a story originally appeared and/or has evolved over time. All of these resources are essential to interpreting a work of literature and fully understanding its place in history.
This guide introduces students to a few basic steps in the process of doing literary research with primary sources. For further assistance or to set up a research consultation, please contact Glenn Koelling, Learning Services Librarian and English Librarian, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Manuscript and printed editions of Edward Abbey, Fire on the Mountain
(UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections)