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Epistolary Explorations

Research guide for FYS 183

FYS 183

Epistolary Explorations: The History, Psychology & Art of Letter Writing

When was the last time you sat down and wrote - not typed but "pen and paper" wrote - a letter to someone? Received a letter? This course will examine the importance of letter writing in our culture. We will explore the extent to which, as some cultural critics claim, letter writing is dying and what implications that might have for our culture. But we will also consider alternative possibilities -that, rather than dying, letter writing is assuming new and vital forms. We will look at letter writing as a cultural practice, examining famous letters in a historical context, learning about who writes letters and why, and analyzing the impact of digital technology on letter writing. And yes, there will be some actual letter writing! We will also be writing analyses that engage what scholars in various disciplines wish to teach us about the subject.


Course Site (Muhlenberg One-Login Required)

Possible Topics

Articles & Databases

  • Academic Search Complete: A database of both scholarly and popular publications in a wide variety of disciplines and subject areas, including psychology. Most full text is linked directly in the database; otherwise use the Check for Full Text buttons to check for full text online or in the library.
  • Adam Matthew Digital Archive: Topical collections of primary sources across the 15th – 21st centuries. Content types include printed text, handwritten documents, and oral and video histories. Topics span the social sciences and humanities, including Area and Cultural Studies; Empire and Globalism; Gender and Sexuality; History; Politics; Literature; Theatre; War and Conflict. Search within a single collection or across collections.

  • America: History & Life with Full Text: The definitive database of literature covering the history and culture of the United States and Canada, from prehistory to the present. With selective indexing for 1,700 journals from 1964 to present, this database is without question the most important bibliographic reference tool for students and scholars of U.S. and Canadian history. Full text journals include American Historical Review, American 19th Century History, American Studies, Early American Studies, Journal of American Culture, Journal of American History, Journal of Early American History, and Journal of Military History.

  • Archives of Sexuality and Gender: Features a robust and significant collection of primary sources for the historical study of sex, sexuality, and gender. Trexler Library has access to two parts of the archives. One is "LGBTQ History and Culture since 1940, Part 1" which draws from major international and local activist groups plus historical records of political and social organizations founded by LGBTQ individuals, publications by and for lesbians and gays, and extensive coverage of governmental responses to the AIDS crisis. The collection also contains personal correspondence and interviews with numerous LGBTQ individuals, gay and lesbian newspapers from more than 35 countries, reports, policy statements, and other documents related to gay rights and health, including the worldwide impact of AIDS.

  • Credo Reference: Hundreds of authoritative dictionaries, encyclopedias, fact books, guides, companions and more from respected publishers across dozens of major subject areas.

  • North American Women's Letters and Diaries: Colonial to 1950. Includes the immediate experiences of 1,325 women and 150,000 pages of diaries and letters.

  • Social and Cultural History: Letters and Diaries Online: The resource is a unique forum that brings together the voices of ordinary men and women from all walks of life with the personal accounts of well-known historical figures. In their own words, people from diverse ethnic and social groups bring vividly to life hundreds of years of history through their perspectives on life, love, faith, politics, business, and countless personal events.


Getting Started

To get started with the research and writing process, refer to Get Started with Library Research. If you're interested in using a particular citation guide, refer to this Citation Style Guide page. 

Credo Reference is also a good place to generate ideas on letter-writing topics. 

Wikipedia can also be used to get ideas, background, or potential sources.