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English Literature​​​​​​​

Name of subject: English Literature

Examination board: AQA (Specification A)

Qualification: A-level

Entry requirements: B (preferred) in English Literature

Description of the Course (Overview)

A-level English Literature is a challenging and rewarding course, and the only A-level Arts subject seen as ‘facilitating’ by Russell Group universities. It encourages students to develop a love of reading and the intellectual confidence to deploy well-honed critical skills when confronted with any text. The specification we follow encourages us to take a historicist approach, comparing thematically-linked texts both diachronically (across a broad sweep of time) and synchronically (within a relatively small segment of time).

Topics studied:

Love through the Ages A-level

We study a range of texts to explore how the presentation of love in literature has shifted over time, from Chaucer to the present day, covering ideas such as romantic love, loss, social conventions, deception, and so on. This is a challenging yet accessible approach to the development of English Literature, one which gives students a real sense of texts as a tapestry of interlinked and contradictory strands. As well as reading extracts from different periods and in different genres to develop reading skills, we study three text in detail: one Shakespeare play, one anthology of poetry, and one or two prose texts, of which one must be written pre-1900.

Texts in Shared Contexts, Option B – Modern Times: Literature from 1945 to Present Day A-level only

This is an exciting and current topic, in which we explore some of the key social, political, literary and personal issues of the decades since WW2 as writers have explored them. Again, as well as gaining confidence with a range of extracts, we read in detail three texts – one prose, one poetry and one drama – of which one must be written post-2000. This really is a course that allows students to explore the world that has shaped and continues to shape them.

Independent Critical Study: Texts across Time

The extended essay is a comparative critical study of two texts, of which at least one must be pre-1900. Within this, students are free to follow their own interest, choosing themes as diverse as the struggle for identity, the Gothic, representations of gender, or war and conflict.

Final assessment for the A-level consists of two exams (each 40% of the A-level) and an independent critical study (20% of the A-level).

What skills will they develop in particular?

An A-level in English Literature can lead anywhere; it provides students with the tools to evaluate any text critically. Students develop confidence in presenting their ideas and are pushed to extend their thinking in depth and complexity; the exams encourage the ability to make a strong argument, while coursework encourages both depth of analysis and research around the subject.

The specification we follow covers texts from all periods of English literature, pushing students to discover texts and contexts beyond their own experience; it also encourages independence through wider reading beyond the set texts, allowing students to explore their own tastes and interests.

Enrichment activities might include:

Trips to the theatre and to live screenings of performances at the cinema; visits to related exhibitions or museums to develop contextual knowledge; participation in sixth-form conferences and visits to university