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Resources for English Literature Students – University of Reading

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Resources for English Literature Students

Resources We Provide for You

When choosing your degree programme you should not only consider the contact hours and formal teaching you will receive through lectures, seminars and tutorials. You need to be aware of the resources which the University and Department provide to support your self-study.

At the University of Reading English Literature Department we are proud to provide students with an excellent standard of material to assist their academic studies. This includes general resources available to all students, such as the library, email, and e-facilities, as well as subject-specific materials. For instance, our department provides its students with access to unique original manuscript collections, journals, the Museum of English Rural Life and its archives, a Royal Literary Fund Fellow, rare collections of books, and much more besides.

General Resources

The Library

Reading's library is an invaluable resource for English Literature students. It contains extensive primary and secondary texts on a huge variety of subjects. It holds multiple copies of core texts which minimize long waiting times and the need to buy an excessive number of secondary books. The English Literature section covers a large chunk of the third floor, and there are plenty of useful materials in other parts of the library too.

All texts are catalogued in an easy-to-use online site. Through the library webpage you can browse which books are available, their location, and place a reserve on them if they are checked out. A lecture on how to use the library effectively is given at the beginning of your degree, and staff are always willing to help when you get stuck!

In addition to the physical texts, the library contains and manages many other resources. There is a vast collection of e-material including online books, journals, articles, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, seminars, maps and films, all of which can be accessed on and off campus. The university subscribes to these online resources, making them free for all enrolled students. The Library staff also offer support programmes for Maths, English, and other skills.

The Library provides a quiet place to study. There are dedicated silent study areas for individuals, and sound-proof rooms which can be booked for groups of students. The first floor is an open access computer room, which has print, photocopy, and scan facilities. In addition, the library café makes an excellent place of retreat for a coffee and to meet up with friends.

For more information about Reading's library go to

Blackboard - Virtual Learning Environment

Blackboard is a virtual learning environment run by the University of Reading. You will be given your own account and personalised page when you arrive in fresher's week. Blackboard is a useful place to collate information and to facilitate communication between you and your lecturers. Reading material, lecture slides and handouts for your modules are regularly uploaded, which is a great help when the time comes for revising.

All of the modules on which you are enrolled will be displayed on your Blackboard profile. These contain links to specific course information, alongside departmental and general university news. Basically Blackboard helps you to organise your academic life!

Student Email

You will be provided with a student email account when you arrive at Reading. You will be sent messages regarding general information or processes within the department, in addition to the extra-curricular events which English Literature supports. As lecturers are meticulous about checking their inboxes, email generally provides the best channel of communication for a quick reply.

Specific Resources for English Literature

Print Resources

In addition to the library at Whiteknights campus, English Literature students are given access to the Special Collections archive of rare books at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL). Here we house rare book collections which include the Donald Gordon collection of books by and about W. B. Yeats, and the Matthews-Shelley collection of books by and about P. B. Shelley amongst many others. Perhaps our most extensive archive is the Children's collection, which comprises over 6,000 books and journals written for children. The collection is complemented by several other specific archives including, the Crusoe Collection, the Wizard of Oz Collection and the Brock Collection.


The Department has access to original and unique manuscripts, housed in Special Collections. Students at all levels are given access to the manuscript collections, but in the Final Year you are given the opportunity to handle and study the manuscripts through 'The Writer's Workshop: Studying Manuscripts', 'Samuel Beckett' and 'Editing the Renaissance' modules. Furthermore, students can chose to base their Final Year Dissertations on an individual manuscript or group of manuscripts.

Special Collections holds many unique documents including an original manuscript of Thomas Hardy's verse 'We Field-Women', and manuscripts of several modern poets, including Peter Porter, Edwin Morgan and Bernard Spencer. There is also a substantial collection of archives of publishing firms, including Chatto & Windus, Mills & Boon, and the Hogarth Press. Here there are original letters and editorial correspondence of Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley and Iris Murdoch among many others. Our most famous manuscript archive is undoubtedly the Samuel Beckett collection. Reading houses the world's largest collection of resources relating to Beckett. Along with the publishers' archives, these materials have been recognised as being of national and international importance by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. The archive's contents include typescripts, drafts, notebooks, correspondence, stage files, biographical work, dissertations, journals and art-work to name but a few. Interestingly much of the material was donated specifically to Reading University by Samuel Beckett himself. The collection also supports the work of the Beckett International Foundation.

For more information about Special Collections:

Electronic Resources

We provide students with an array of online resources which are of particular relevance to the English Literature programme. This grants you free access to material which you would otherwise have to pay for over the internet. Access to online resources is available all over campus and off campus too. Online material comprises the Oxford English Dictionary, The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, literature-based journal subscriptions and archives, e-books and specialist databases such as Early English Books Online (EEBO).

Royal Literary Fund Fellow

Each year the Department has a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. This post is filled by a professional writer who is external to the University. The role of the Fellow is to advise students purely on their writing techniques. This can be in relation to essays and coursework, or for personal pieces. Students have often found this service very helpful as it provides another opportunity to discuss and gain feedback on the construction of their work.

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