William Harmon has renewed the Handbook's vitality with 100 new entries, reflecting contemporary trends in women's studies, ethnic studies, and film. The original 1,700 entries, highlighting current fashions in literary criticism, have been updated and expanded so that explanations range from several lines to several pages. The book is easy to use and consists of three main sections:
- There is an alphabetical listing of literary terms regarding definition, explanation, and illustration. The term itself is highlighted in boldface and indicates a cross reference when appearing in small caps.
- The Outline of Literary History gives, in a condensed tabular form, the most important events in the literary history of English-speaking people, along with a few undeniably significant non-English items.
- The Index of Proper Names specifies all those individuals mentioned in this book