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Feminist Life Writing

This guide was created to support research and writing in the Feminist Life Writing course, taught by Professor Meredith Benjamin, in Summer 2021.

Searching for life writing in CLIO

You can use CLIO (the library catalog and search page for Barnard and Columbia Libraries) to search for sources that you might consider to be life writing. CLIO is particularly useful for finding published sources, but you can also use CLIO to find many unpublished texts within Barnard and Columbia's Archives and Special Collections (see Archives tab for more on this).

The CLIO Catalog contains over 7 million records of items held by the Columbia and Barnard libraries, among them books, ebooks, newspaper and journal titles, video recordings, musical scores, and maps.

The CLIO Articles+ search is different from the catalog search. You can think of it as mostly searching for parts to a whole: articles from journals, newspapers, encyclopedias, and magazines come up in the results. Occasionally, the Articles+ search also includes ebooks and government documents.

As you begin a search in CLIO, you might consider the following approaches:

  • Starting broad, with a keyword search related to themes/topics that interest you can sometimes be a useful entry into considering different possibilities. You can narrow down an overwhelming list of search results by using the filter and search facet boxes on the results page, for example, limiting by publication date.


  • Searching by author. If you're looking for life writing by a particular author, a field-limited Author search can be helpful. You may also consider a broader keyword search with an author's name to find examples of their writing that have been published in collections. 


  • Searching or limiting by form/genre (specific to the Catalog). In the drop-down search menu, you can limit a search to "Form/Genre." You can also limit search results by specific forms and genres using the boxes on the results page. Keep in mind that the catalog uses a controlled vocabulary to describe the form or genre of a source. The words used reflect the Library of Congress classification system, and they quite often fail to reflect how authors and/or their readers think of their work. Nonetheless, knowing form and genre terms used in the catalog can be strategically useful in a search. Some examples:
    • anecdotes
    • autobiographies
    • autobiographical fiction
    • correspondence
    • diaries
    • essays
    • interviews
    • zines


  • Using a term or terms related to life writing in a keyword search.  This can be useful for terms that don't necessarily come up as "form/genre" fields in the catalog, but might be mentioned in the title, contents, or synopsis of a work. For some examples, you might look at:


  • Consider secondary sources about life writing that look at or mention texts that might interest you. In both the catalog and articles+ search pages of CLIO, you may find book reviews, author interviews, literary criticism, and other sources, that could point you in the direction of examples of life writing. Be open to this as a research path!

CLIO Catalog Searching