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Lang&Lit: EH501 -- Introduction to Graduate Study in English: Part I: Subject Headings

This LibGuide is the companion guide to the EH501 course offered by the English Department at Jacksonville State University. It is intended for graduate students and rising professionals in the field, and its content may be used to complement LibGuides f

Subject Classifications and Subject Headings

This page addresses subject classification as practiced by the Library of Congress and also LC subject headings and sub-headings as they pertain to literature. 

Library of Congress Classifications and Subject Headings

Subject headings for literature can be found in the 30th edition (2007) of the Library of Congress Subject Headings, the five-volume set of large red books which should be located on every subject floor (i.e., floors with books) in the library.  These headings are so broad, however, that a shelf-browsing, call number approach imay be more useful.  This approach is based on the highly detailed 2008 edition of the Library of Congress Classification. 

The LC classification for the entire class P of language and literature can be found here:

This list is not nearly as detailed as what can be found in the Library of Congress Classification, which for LC classes PQ - :PZ can be found on the library's seventh floor and for classes P -PN, on the sixth floor.

Books that are entirely, cover-to-cover, by or about an author may be located by performing either an author or subject search in the library's JaxCat catalog, using as search terms the author's name (in last-name first order).

National, regional, and ethnic literatures may "resonate" with another part of Houston Cole Library's collection (especially with the history collection housed on the library's third floor and religion housed on two).  Class PN, General Literature, provides the greatest resonance, not with region or ethnic group ( class PN books often incorporate a multi-national approach) but with period, genre, theme, motif and other categories which cut across geographic boundaries.


Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)  are the foundation for subject searching in library catalogs using the LC classification system and also are used in the Subjects line of records indexed in many electronic databases.  It is a controlled search vocabulary: to gain optimum results one must use LC's words in LC's order. These headings are left-anchored (begin at the left margin of the line) and can take many forms, as per this excerpt taken from the University of Mississippi Libraries (

Types of Subject Headings

In the LCSH, subject heading types are grouped by the number of words that comprise the heading, and also by word order.

Heading type Example
one-word Animals
two-word Domestic animals
two-word, inverted Animals, Fossil
class first; narrowed Animals--Mortality
either by inversion, Adaptation (Biology)T
subdivision, or ( )
three+ words Example
AND express relationship Computers and college students

[Note from Guide owner: this heading type permits a certain amount of creativity on the part of the searcher, since it presents a formula that goes both ways:  Literature and .  .  .       as well as     .  .  .  and  literature.]

AND combine similar headings Educational tests and measurements
Prep. phrases normal word order Education of princes in literature

[Note from Guide owner: this heading type permits even more creativity on the part of the searcher than the and heading type, since placing any noun or noun phrase before the formulaic phrase in literature makes the resulting complete phrase a bona fide controlled vocabulary LC subject heading.  The possibilities are endless.  For examples of these headings peruse volumes of the Humanities Index located on the library's second floor and look for the section on Literature -- Themes, motifs.]

Prep. phrases inverted Plants--Effect of pesticides on

Types of Subdivisions
There are four main types of subdivisions:
Topical Archaeology -- Methodology
Form Archaeology -- Fiction.
Chronological Archaeology -- History -- 18th century
Geographic Archaeology -- Egypt


LC Floating Sub-headings and Topical Sub-headings

While LC subject headings left-anchored, the subdivisions and topical subjects are free-floating and permit quite flexible searching in the Advanced/Keyword setting of Houston Cole Library's JaxCat online catalog.  This is because these headings link behind the main headings and appear in the middle of the subject line, and can even be linked in series, one dashed subheading following another.  The Subjects line of the book records indexed in JaxCat illustrate this.

Examples of floating subheadings (preceded by --):

Atlases                                                          Handbooks, manuals, etc. 

Bibliography                                                   Illustrations

Case studies                                                  Interviews

Chronology                                                    Manuscripts

Correspondence                                             Maps

Criticism and interpretation                        Personal narratives

Diaries                                                            Photograph collections

Dictionaries                                                   Pictorial works

Directories                                                      Statistics


Other useful floating subheadings are moral and ethical aspects, political aspects, psychological aspects, religious aspects, social aspects, study and teaching.