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 the 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 regular theatre trips into the West End, lectures with both in-house and invited speakers, the new Sixth Form ‘Close Reading Club’, creative writing and many other possibilities. There are also seminars, led by English staff and pupils, on texts/authors which are not necessarily featured in the examination specification. All Sixth Formers studying English Literature are strongly encouraged to attend.

Entry Requirements

Grade 7 in both GCSE English Language and English Literature.

Course Outline

Each of the principal literary genres is taught discretely (Poetry, Prose, Drama). In Poetry there will be a requirement to write about ‘unseen’ verse. One Shakespeare play will be taught/studied – the chosen text will be one of the major tragedies, usually Othello or Antony and Cleopatra. Pre-1900 and post-1900 texts will be offered – of the latter, one (Modern Poetry) is a post-2000 text.

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

At least one major topic area will be taught. As examples, this might include ‘American Literature’, ‘The Gothic’, ‘Women in Literature’, ‘The Immigrant Experience’. A range of texts (usually three), as well as secondary critical material, will be taught/studied in preparation of these topics.

Course Delivery

Each pupil is taught by two teachers who split the syllabus between them. They will help pu-pils 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 and their authors. The range of texts covered, from the medieval period to the modern day, affords plenty of opportunities for pupils to widen dra-matically 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 discussion. Each teacher will set an essay on alternate weeks, so it is intended that pupils are writing an assign-ment for most weeks of the course; this will enhance very significantly their ability to write de-tailed, 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, Ge-ography, Modern Languages, Law, 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 gradu-ates. These might include Journalism, Law, Business, the Arts and Education/Teaching, but the subject is useful for almost any non-technical choice of career.