Obscure/Recent Topics - Find Scholarship and Criticism

Search Full-Text and/or Fast-Updating Databases

When you're searching for something obscure, you will get very few hits, which makes full-text searching more productive:

  • Find a Database (on the guide for graduate students) lists top picks for searching full-text scholarship
  • Google Books has books before they show up in HOLLIS (if we don't have the book yet, use Borrow Direct or Interlibrary Loan to request a copy)
  • Google Scholar has recent articles and articles released ahead of print. You can filter your results to see only articles published in the last few years.
    • Remember: even if the article focuses on an older example, the author may still mention more recent examples, especially in the introduction.

Expand the Kind of Sources You Use

Especially for more recent topics, the discussions around that topic may not yet have made their way through the very slow publishing timeline for academic books and journals. This is no cause for despair---there is a lot of insightful expert analysis that gets published in other venues, often written by literary scholars. An author's own reflections on their work can also be extremely useful. Important note: it's important to vet these sources carefully---who's the author? Where do they get their expertise from? What's the platform? Is there any kind of editing or fact-checking going on? (A good trick for evaluating a platform is to do a web search for mentions of it that are not on the domain. For example, if you're trying to figure out if Medium.com edits its content, try medium.com -site:medium.com.)

Author interviews

  • Check author webpage for links and references
  • do a general web search for [author name] interview (you'll likely find audio and video as well as text!)
  • some databases, e.g. Academic Search Premier, allow you to limit your search only to interviews


Long-form journalism and highbrow magazines

Via author webpages
  • Check for a "press" section
Library database
Individual magazine websites

Use the magazines' own search function to identify articles and then get access through the library with the Check Harvard Library Bookmark, HOLLIS (search the magazine name), and/or Interlibrary Loan

Lists of top magazines

Odile's picks

Social media

  • Twitter -- many academics use their accounts to share brief thoughts or have conversations with other academics
  • Blog posts -- many academics and literary writers maintain blogs, though the trend is moving toward paid newsletters on platforms like Medium and Substack - try looking up a few individuals by name to see if they have a blog, and then follow links and references to build up your personalized feed

Expand the Scope of Your Topic

Good research involves constantly revisiting and revising your topic. Even if it's true that nothing has been written on the main topic you're working on, it's always a good idea to keep reframing your search topic until you find something you can connect to---another scholar to think with.

Think about how you would describe an obscure author or text in terms of:

  • literary movement
  • associates (what other names co-occur with your topic?)
  • time period
  • region
  • genre

Expand what You Use Sources For

  • Browse journals and monograph series on the general topic
  • Read for methodology and rhetoric as well as content