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English Literature Library Guide: Finding books and study guides

English Language and Literature Students' Library Guide

Where are your books?

Where are your books?

English Literature books are shelved in the 800s range of Dewey numbers, on the Lower Level of the Library, down a spiral staircase near the Information Desk. English Grammar and Linguistics books are shelved on the level above the main entrance, in the 400s range of Dewey numbers.

Dewey divides literature by language (English, French, Shona) and each language is then divided according to the nationality of its authors (American, Canadian, South African).

English translations of works in other languages are shelved with the original language of the work; an English translation of a novel from a country in Francophone Africa would be shelved with the novels of that country – for example The African child, a translation of L'enfant noir by the Guinean author Camara Laye, would be shelved next to the original French version, in the Guinean literature section at 848.9665 LAYE

Some shelf numbers which might be useful are listed below.

800… Literature and rhetoric

801… Philosophy & theory

808.1… Rhetoric [how to create]

809… Literary history & criticism

810… American or Canadian literature in English

820…British literature in English

828.968…South African Literature

896... African Literatures

Reference books (with an R preceding their shelf number) can be found under similar shelf numbers on shelves near the Information Desk. They are always a good way to start an essay since they provide overviews of authors, books or subjects.

Important note about electronic vs. print books

While the Library still maintains strong print collections, it is important to note that many of our newest books are available only in electronic rather than print versions. This is especially so in the Social Sciences but can also be true of some critical or highly-used works in the Arts and Literature subjects.

It is therefore essential to use the library catalogue, Primo, which has hotlinks to the electronic books, since browsing the physical collection alone will cause you to miss the up-to-date, new material added to the Library holdings over the last few years.


How to use Primo to find books

Literature Online - for texts and STUDY GUIDES

Literature Online 

The new platform for Literature Online.

Literature Online is a fully searchable library of more than 350,000 works of English and American poetry, drama and prose, 175 full-text literature journals, and other key criticism and reference resources.

The "KnowledgeNotes" study guides in LION's Reference section are incredibly useful tools for starting any literature essay since they gives you a clear overview of the work, author or topic, and often have a bibliography of the key works on that topic.

You will find Literature Online  (LION) in our A-Z Databases list. Go to the Library Home Page at, mouse over Electronic Resources and Select Databases from the drop down menu. If you are off-campus you will need to sign into the off-campus login on the library home page - use your student number and the password you use on the UCT network.

Search it for KnowledgeNotes as one word:


We have a number of printed literature encyclopedias on our Reference shelves too, of course. Ask for them at the Information Desk in the library.

Heineman African Writers Series

African Writers Series 

The African Writers Series forms part of Literature Online and contains work by all the major African authors of the second half of the 20th century. Over 350 volumes of fiction, poetry, drama, myths, memoirs and reportage.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online

 Eighteenth Century Collections online (ECCO) 

Use Eighteenth Century Collections Online to access the digital images of every page of 150,000 books published during the 18th Century. With full-text searching of approximately 26 million pages, the product allows researchers new methods of access to critical information in the fields of history, literature, religion, law, fine arts, science and more.

Early English Books Online

Early English Books Online (EEBO) 

Early English Books Online (EEBO) contains digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700 - from the first book printed in English by William Caxton, through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare and the tumult of the English Civil War.

Times Digital Archive

Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 

Researchers can search through the complete digital edition of The Times (London), using keyword searching and hit-term highlighting to retrieve full facsimile images of either a specific article or a complete page. The entire newspaper is captured, with all articles, advertisements and illustrations/photos divided into categories to facilitate searching.