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English Literature

'That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong'. - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Entering into an A Level course in English Literature is opening a Pandora’s box of knowledge, ideas and experiences which will broaden your horizons and lead you in challenging, thought-provoking and surprising new directions. However, the journey is not for the faint-of-heart; there will be great challenges along the way as you grapple with topics as diverse as the position of women in medieval society and the corruption at the heart of the American dream. You will meet unforgettable characters – faded Southern belles; rich, heart-broken bachelors; corrupt, ruthless kings - who may make you reconsider everything you thought you knew. You will find greed, heartache, fear and violence, but also love, bravery, friendship and redemption. 

Think carefully before choosing English Literature – it might just change your life.
What Do We Study

In English Literature, students encounter and study the triumvirate of English Literature – prose, poetry and drama. In Year 12 we study the play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen; the long poem, The Merchant’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer; and two American novels, The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald and The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. In Year 13, we study Richard III by William Shakespeare and extracts from other American texts written between 1880-1940. By the end of the course students submit a portfolio of coursework including a close reading of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams and a comparative essay focused on Small Island by Andrea Levy and Look We Have Coming to Dover! by Daljit Nagra.

The exams require you to write analytical essays which engage with and analyse the writers’ crafting of form, structure and language, contemporary and historical contexts and various critical and theoretical interpretations. Above all, the most successful students demonstrate a proactive approach to reading, writing and talking about literature, including being confident in formulating their own ideas and opinions and not being afraid to articulate these in discussion or writing.

Beyond The Classroom

Plays are written to be seen, not merely read, and we are very passionate about visiting London’s theatres to experience live drama. In recent years we have enjoyed running a residential trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, as well as attending the English and Media Centre’s student conference. Other fantastic opportunities to enhance your A Level English Literature experience include exhibitions at the British Library and the Poetry Library in the South bank Centre.

Where It Might Lead

Through studying A Level English Literature you will gain vital transferable skills in reading closely and attentively, as well as becoming a more concise, rigorous and well-structured writer and communicator. Moreover, you will develop your ability to think critically, to analyse language and to understand the importance of contexts. Finally, you will develop the ability to work independently, as well as set and manage your progressing deadlines. 

English Literature is a highly-regarded traditional A Level and degree subject which has been long respected by universities and employers alike. Most often students continue on to an English Literature degree which covers literature in English from across the British Isles from medieval to the present day, but some students choose to apply to a specific American Literature course or the more interdisciplinary English Studies which also involves linguistic study of language.  Many universities offer courses in joint-honours degrees and English is an incredibly popular choice for combining with History, Philosophy, Drama, Classics, Journalism, Film, Languages, Creative Writing and more.