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 Region
Use multiple kinds of search terms
Nouns and adjectives:
- Chinese OR China, Latin America OR Latin American
- Pro tip: also add adjectival forms for languages: Lusophone, Sinophone
- East Asian, Pacific, Iberian, Latin America
Dialects and cultures
- Hwanghae, Latino, Chicano
- Romance, Slavic, Nilo-Saharan.
Find the Language Filter
- Language: most search interfaces allow you to filter by language, and/or have a "language" option on the Advanced Search page
- Place of publication: it is also often possible to filter or search by place of publication
For Non-Roman Scripts, Search Multiple Variations
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.
- Get expert advice: if you're doing extensive searching in a vernacular script, a cataloging expert can alert you to tiny variations that make a big difference in your results.
- Search in the original script: many systems can now accept non-Latin character sets, and current best practice is for items to be cataloged by their original titles, in the original script. HOLLIS does accept non-Latin scripts.
- Search in romanization: many older catalog records have only romanization, with no original script. It's important to try your search both in the original and in multiple romanizations. Romanization practices have varied over time, so you will find different results with different variations in your romanization.
- Transliteration Tables for non-Roman Scripts (American Library Association) - these tables define current best practice in the U.S.
- Tips for romanizing Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew (Harvard guide for Middle East and Islamic Studies Library Resources)
- Tips for romanizing Cyrillic script (Slavic and Eurasian Studies at Harvard: Library and Archival Resources Slavic Studies Research Guide)
- Try your search with and without diacritics: every search system is different. Some ignore diacritical marks, some require them. Remember that the same accented letters can be represented with different unicode blocks. HOLLIS generally ignores diacritics.
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 non-Anglophone 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
Pro Tip: use InterLibrary Loan to request material from outside of Harvard's Collections
- WorldCat - a global union catalog that aggregates library catalogs from across the country and the world
- Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog - a union catalog for European libraries that includes many records not found in WorldCat
- National library catalogs are usually open to search, no log-in required
- If you don't find a national library, try to find what other institutions might have the biggest libraries in the country, such as a prominent university, museum, cultural heritage center, or branch of government