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Citing Literary Works

MLA Template

MLA citations include 9 elements, but you may not need all elements for every citation:

Element Description Examples
(1) Author. The person/people most responsible for creating a work.
  • Al-Tahrawi, Khalil.
  • Nguyễn, Amy, and Jomo Kenyatta.
  • Diaz, Bianca, et al.
(2) "Title of Source." Title of the literary work you are citing.  Poems, short stories and other short works go in italics.  Longer works (like books and plays) that are not part of a larger collection are in italics.
  • "The Red Wheelbarrow.”
  • The Great Gatsby.
(3) Title of Container, Some sources are contained in larger works (like a poem inside a book or a short story inside a website).  If the literary work you are citing came from your textbook, the container is your textbook.
  • The Norton Anthology of American Literature,
(4) Other contributors,

Editors, translators

*  Only for edited books or translated works.

  • edited by Ronald Gottesman,
  • translated by Jessica Matlesky,
(5) Version,

Edition

*  Only for books

  • 5th ed.,
(6) Number,

Volume/Issue numbers

*  Rarely relevant for citing literature, unless the work was published in a literary magazine.

  • vol. 27, no.3,
(7) Publisher, *  Only for books.
  • Bedford/St. Martin's,
(8) Publication date, Usually just the year.  Provide month and day if given.
  • 2020,
  • 3 Apr. 2018,
(9) Location. Page numbers or URL
  • pp. 21-24.
  • p. 127.
  • www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46446.

Let's try an example, a poem from a website:

(1) Author. Angelou, Maya.
(2) "Title of Source." "Still I Rise."
(3) Title of Container, Poetry Foundation,
(4) Other contributors,
(5) Version,
(6) Number,
(7) Publisher,
(8) Publication date, 2020,
(9) Location. www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46446/still-i-rise.

Putting it all together:

Angelou, Maya. "Still I Rise." Poetry Foundation, 2020, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46446/still-i-rise.

Where Was Your Source Published?

The citation elements that you use will depend on the type of literary work and where it was published.  So, the citation for a poem from your textbook will look different than the citation for the same poem from a website.

Let's try some examples.  This is the same poem published three places:

Poem from a Website Poem from a Book Poem Posted on Canvas
(1) Author. Angelou, Maya. Angelou, Maya. Angelou, Maya.
(2) "Title of Source." "Still I Rise." "Still I Rise." "Still I Rise."
(3) Title of Container, Poetry Foundation, Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readers and Writers, Canvas,
(4) Other contributors, edited by John Schilb and John Clifford, uploaded by LeeAnn Thomas,
(5) Version, 7th ed.,
(6) Number,
(7) Publisher, Bedford/St. Martin's,
(8) Publication date, 2020, 2020, 10 Oct. 2020,
(9) Location. www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46446/still-i-rise. pp. 127-131. learn.vccs.edu.
Citation: Angelou, Maya. "Still I Rise." Poetry Foundation, 2020, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46446/still-i-rise. Angelou, Maya. "Still I Rise." Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readers and Writers, edited by John Schilb and John Clifford, 7th ed., Bedford/St. Martin's, 2020, pp. 127-131. Angelou, Maya. "Still I Rise." Canvas, uploaded by LeeAnn Thomas, 10 Oct. 2020, learn.vccs.edu

Notice how each citation looks different, even though they are for the same poem.  If you follow the MLA template, you can cite any source, no matter where it was published.

Translators & Illustrators

Translators

Translated works can be cited with either the author or the translator first, depending on how you are using the source.  Most students will cite the author first, then cite the translator as "other contributors". 

Author First Translator First
If your focus is on the literary work (most students). If your focus is on the translation itself  (very unusual).
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Translated by Amy Nguyễn, Vintage Books, 2020. Nguyễn, Amy, translator. Crime and Punishment. By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vintage Books, 2020.

Unknown Author with a Translator

What if the author is unknown or anonymous, but a translator's name is given?  Most students will skip the author and list the title first, followed by the translator:

Beowulf. Translated by Sarah Yildiz, Oxford, 2020.

This is because our focus as writers is on the work of literature itself, not on Sarah Yildiz's translation of it. 

Illustrators

Illustrators are treated similarly to translators.  You can list them after the author or first, depending on how you are using the illustrations.

Author First Illustrator First
If your focus is on the literary work (most students).  If you do not use the illustrations at all in your analysis, omit the illustrator's name altogether. If your focus is on the illustrations themselves rather than the work of literature (very unusual).

Carroll, Lewis. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Penguin Books, 2020.

OR

Carroll, Lewis. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Illustrated by Jorge Amando, Penguin Books, 2020.

Amando, Jorge, illustrator. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. By Lewis Carroll, Penguin Books, 2020.

Multiple Translators/Illustrators

If there are multiple translators/illustrators, follow these examples:

Author First (Multiple Translators) Translator First (Multiple Translators)
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Translated by Amy Nguyễn and Leila El Khalidi, Vintage Books, 2020. Nguyễn, Amy, and Leila El Khalidi, translators. Crime and Punishment. By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vintage Books, 2020.