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

For Non-Roman Scripts, Use Transliterations AND Original

Cataloging practices and system capabilities have changed significantly over time - you will need to try multiple search methods. Expect some hiccups in your searching no matter what you do.

  • 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.

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.

On campus:

Beyond Cambridge:

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.