I spent most of this morning freaking out about the periodicals situation. The coming of day had shed no new light on the problem; I was still getting the same results, or lack thereof. Glen took a whack at it, but had the same problems, which means that whatever is going on, it's probably not my fault. Glen was also gracious enough to stay home with Peach for a while so I could go to the library and plead for help.
You don't actually have to plead very hard to get help at the university library; there are plenty of people whose whole job is to help students figure out how to use the library, and they are without exception lovely people who really want to help. Unfortunately, the first person I approached wasn't able to help all that much. I explained what had happened - "it used to do this, but now it doesn't!" - and she said, no, it doesn't; maybe you should try using the Ulrichs database instead of the English Literature subject search. She showed me the front page of Ulrichsweb, and its search function seemed to have the features I was looking for, so I thanked her and went on my way.
Just to be safe, I thought I'd better take Ulrichsweb for a test drive on one of the library computers before going home. This turned out to be a good idea, because Ulrich, whoever he is, clearly did not design his database with my needs in mind. No matter how I tweaked things, I got zero search results. This time I decided to ask for help at the Humanities reference desk, since they would at least be familiar with the kinds of things I tend to search for.
Indeed, the Humanities folk understood what I needed, what I was used to doing, and why it wasn't working. It turns out that the university, in its (their?) infinite wisdom, has replaced the previous aggregated search system with a newer, simpler system. And by "simpler," I mean "significantly less powerful and less flexible, and also kind of confusing even for the people who work with it." The reason I can't find the advanced search functions in MetaLib is that they don't exist. The reason I was getting so few results is that MetaLib wasn't searching all the databases I had selected. Why not? It just doesn't.
So, long story short: I now need to search each database separately, rather than use the aggregated search function to search several at once. It's not such a terribly big deal; I only really use three or four of them on a regular basis. It is, however, mildly annoying, since it means learning to use the unique search interface at each of the databases, and searching four times in four different places every time I tweak my search terms, and getting a lot of duplicate results. I guess the good news is I'm not crazy.