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EH501 -- Introduction to Graduate Study in English: LoC Subject Headings and Classification

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 other EH cou

Page Overview

This page covers the Library of Congress Subject Headings and Classification and also discusses information disbursement as it relates to studies in literature.

Library of Congress Subject Headings and Classification

What are the Library of Congress Subject Headings?

What is the Library of Congress Classification?

In contrast to the Library of Congress Subject Headings, which arranges its content alphabetically, the Library of Congress Classification lists its content by alpha-numeric call number order within the main subject classifications.  Comprising 41 print-ready PDF volumes, the Classification is far more detailed than LCSH and is almost like shelf-browsing an entire library, only without the shelves.  The link below provides access to those PDF volumes.  Students in literature programs will want to focus on Class P, which in Houston Cole Library is housed on floors six and seven.

Complementary Collections

Because literature aligns well with other academic subjects, the collections of HCL floors six and seven are complemented/supplemented by the collections on other floors: folklore, history, mythology (third), general literature and religion (sixth).

Familiarity with reference materials on these floors is recommended.

Information Scatter: Books

What is information scatter?

Information scatter describes the situation of sources nominally about literature being housed on floors in Houston Cole Library other than six or seven.  When seeking information sources for research, the subject is important, but the angle of approach (like the 360 degrees on a compass) is equally important.  Literary studies of Emily Dickinson as a poet mostly would be found on HCL seven.  Studies of her from a feminist perspective would  bring in materials from sociology/women's studies (4th floor).  A psychological approach might include materials from HCL nine.  Exactly where useful materials for a given research task may be located cannot be predicted, and it is better to take a broad view rather than one which is too narrow.

Intuitive approaches to JaxCat searches on literary topics

Identifying and locating materials to support scholarly research usually involves searches moving from the unknown to the known: locating a category of "unknown" materials (using JaxCat subject or advanced/keyword searches) and from these harvesting a group of "known" items (specific authors or titles).  When looking for materials on literature these are the four most intuitive catalog searches.  Additionally, more-or-less intuitive terms like terms like bibliography, biography, or criticism are usable subdivisions in JaxCat.

Non-intuitive approaches to JaxCat searches on literary topics

These are approaches that are not intuitive in searching JaxCat  and have more to do with collection arrangement on the shelves, as they mostly deal with collectives rather than individual authors and works and are found toward the beginning of the collections for each national literature. 

Among them: 

  • Period: in the national literatures, done by centuries -- eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth -- with the earlier periods having the lower call numbers toward the front of the collection  
  • Region: the national literatures of French, Spanish, British, American, German, etc.,  but also within national literatures; for example, American literature can be subdivided as western literature, or southern literature, or even by state
  •  Genre (and sub-genre): the broad categories of drama, fiction, poetry, but also subgenres like epic, Gothic, romance, etc.; the lowest call number ranges in a national literature will be comprised of these types of books 
  • Race/Ethnicity: BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color); American literature call number range PS153 on the library's seventh floor houses these books     
  •  Topic (focus: theme, subject, motif, etc.): analyzes various literary works from a common approach or perspective such as regionalism, coming of age, naturalism, working women, science fiction,etc.

NOTE: These are not mutually exclusive categories; they can be mixed and matched, as this list of titles in the Dictionary of Literary Biography attests.

  • Critical approach/school: a continuously evolving category, as new ways are found to look at old things 

NOTE: For the major approaches, see Purdue OWL Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism, especially the links in the left pane.


Materials not on sixth or seventh floors

Based on the approach taken by the researcher, some materials may be located on floors other than the "literature floors" of six and seven, often falling under the academic disciplines of psychology or sociology.

Among them:

  • Gender: feminist studies, womens' studies, male studies, mens' studies
  • Sexual orientation/gender identity:  LGBTQ+ studies 
  • Religion: Buddhist, Catholic, Christian, Hindu, Judaic, Muslim, etc.
  • Occupation/Profession: Who is the author/subject?  What is it s/he does?  Is the person a minister, a soldier, a farmer, a governor? (mostly affects colonial American literature)
  • Academic field:  Who is the primary audience?  What is the approach?  Even if the subject is literary, the approach may target the book to sociologists or psychologists or members of other professions