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English Literature

Why Study English Literature?

Pupils who opt for English Literature at advanced level should be keen readers and enjoy the challenge of writing detailed critical essays. The course will aim to advance pupils’ literacy and literary awareness to a high level, and they will be expected to read widely beyond the prescribed texts themselves. They will also have the opportunity to join in with events organised by the English Society, such as theatre trips into the West End, lectures with both in-house and invited speakers, the A Level Academic group, creative writing club and Editor’s Desk. A Level pupils are also encouraged to support teaching staff in GCSE and Fourth Form Scholars groups.

Entry Requirements

Grade 7 in both GCSE English Language and English Literature.

Course Outline

Each of the principal literary genres (Poetry, Prose, Drama) is taught, with links identified between the texts studied. In Poetry, there will be the requirement to write about a prescribed pre-1900 anthology, a post-2000 poetry anthology, as well as ‘unseen’ poetry. One Shakespeare play will be taught – the chosen text will likely be one of the major tragedies, usually Othello. Also in Drama, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams is studied. In Prose, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood are studied, and pupils are also expected to write about ‘unseen’ prose.

There will be a mix of final written external examinations and a coursework component (Non-Examined Assessment, or NEA). The examinations will attract 80% of the marks, leaving 20% for the NEA. In the examinations and the coursework, there will be both ‘whole text’ and ‘close reading’ styled assignments. Pupils will also be expected to write comparatively about their chosen texts in coursework and of set texts in the examinations.

Course Delivery

Each pupil is taught usually by two teachers who split the syllabus between them. They will help pupils to develop and hone their skills in critical reading, research and evaluation of the set texts. The contexts in which different literature is written will also feature heavily, ensuring coverage of genres as well as simply individual texts, their authors and the times in which they were written and received. The range of texts covered affords pupils the opportunity to widen dramatically their literary experiences. They will be encouraged to contribute their ideas in class regularly, whether it be in the form of presentations, mini-seminars or general discussions. Regular essay writing will naturally be a feature, so the course will enhance very significantly their ability to write detailed, critical essays. Pupils will be expected and directed to wider reading, both in relation to the set texts and for their own curiosity.

Higher Education and Career Opportunities

A Level English Literature is a highly valued qualification for almost any degree choice. Critical skills in reading complex texts, communication and the ability to write astutely are all highly prized. Common choices of degree, aside from English Literature/Language, are History, Geography, Modern Languages, Law, Media Studies, Economics and Classics, but the subject will fit firmly with almost any discipline. Its academic weight is very respected.

Likewise, there are numerous career possibilities open to English Literature/Language graduates. These include in those journalism, law, business, the arts and education, but the subject is useful for almost any non-technical choice of career.