Foreign Language Literatures
Start with the MLA International Bibliography
- The MLA International Bibliography is both international and multilingual, making it a great general tool for research in literary scholarship. You can use the drop-down list to specify a Subject Literature by nation or region (Scottish, North African, etc.).
- Since the MLA is based in the U.S., though, there's a natural bias toward anglophone literature and toward works by American scholars. To find databases and bibliographies specific to your subject literature, please ask me (Odile) for recommendations. You're also welcome to explore Harvard's Databases list.
Think in Terms of Language Families and Geographical Regions
- When searching for librarians, databases, or scholarly materials, make sure to use a few different kinds of search terms:
- Regions: e.g. for Korean, try "East Asian" and "Pacific"; for Spanish, "Iberian" and "Latin American"
- Dialects and cultures: e.g. for Korean, Jeolla or Hwanghae; for Spanish, Latino/Chicano
- Language families: Romance, Slavic, etc.
- Adjectival forms: Lusophone for Portuguese, Sinophone for Chinese, etc.
For Non-Roman Scripts, Use Transliterations AND Original
- If you work in a language that uses a non-roman script, expect to experience some hiccups in your searching.
- Search in the original script: current best practice is for items to be cataloged by their original titles, in the original script, and HOLLIS accepts non-roman scripts in the search box.
- Search in transliteration: many older records have only transliterations, so it's important to try your search both in the original and in roman transliteration. Except for alif in Korean transliterations, HOLLIS ignores diacritical marks, but systems differ on this, so try searching both with and without diacritical marks.
- Best practice follows the Transliteration Tables for non-Roman Scripts, from the American Library Association.
Contact an Expert
- There is likely a Harvard librarian who specializes in the language families and geographical regions of interest to you. (Write to Ask a Librarian to find out who!) Our library experts are available via email or by in-person consultations. They can recommend top databases and help you navigate Harvard's collections. Many also maintain online research guides like the one you're reading right now. Please get in touch!
Explore Harvard's Collections
There is foreign-language material throughout Harvard's library collections, but several libraries specialize in a particular cultural tradition or geographic area. Many of the collections below rank among the world's best.
- Harvard-Yenching Library - East Asian
- Slavic Collections (Widener)
- Fung Library - 20th-century social-science collections on Eurasia, Japan, and China
- Middle Eastern Collection (Widener)
- Judaica Collection (Widener)
Explore Beyond Harvard's Collections
- WorldCat aggregates library catalogs from across the country and the world, and is a good place to start.
- Next, look for a national library or other major institution in the country you're interested in, and see if you can find their library catalog. These tend to be freely accessible online (just as HOLLIS is accessible to all).
- If you see material not available at Harvard, you can request it via BorrowDirect or InterLibrary Loan.