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A-level English Literature


English Literature offers you the opportunity to cultivate an interest in reading across a wide range of literature and builds on and develops the knowledge and skills learned at GCSE. As well as fostering a love of reading it also increases awareness of social, moral and philosophical ideas.

It is a subject which combines effectively with a mix of subjects: it is, for example, a perfect complement to subjects such as History and Psychology, but it also works well with Science A Levels because of the wide range of skills you develop.

The course offers you the chance to broaden your knowledge and understanding of poetry, plays and novels, past and present. You will develop important skills such as critical analysis; it will help you become a well informed and effective communicator, and an independent thinker.

English Literature A Level allows you to progress personally and academically; offering a pathway to Higher Education and a variety of professions.

  1. Course

    A-level English Literature

  2. Exam Board and Specification No.

    AQA Literature B - 7717

What do I need to have studied/have knowledge of?

The study of GCSE English Literature and GCSE English Language will give you a valuable foundation for English Literature studies at A level.

If you enjoy reading, thinking, talking and writing about literature then this is a good choice of course for you.  You must be prepared and motivated to do a lot of reading in your own time and be ready to share your ideas and opinions with the other students in your group.  Useful qualities include an interest in broadening your literary experience and a desire to write both critically and creatively.

What will I learn on this course?

Genre and criticism are at the core of this course.  You will discover that Literature consists of possible groups of texts which can be categorised, their meaning negotiated in many different ways. You will learn to contextualise narratives against social and political issues of the time and explore how different viewpoints attitudes are conveyed in a text.

Three units are examined. Two units will be taught across both years of the A-level with a third, independent task, unit being taught at the beginning of the second year. The emphasis in the first year is on exploring the genre of tragedy through reading a selection of texts from a variety of time periods and starting to focus on exploring texts alongside literary and political criticism of the time. In the second year students will undertake an independent task that stretches their ability to analyse genre, narrative or criticism alongside a text of their choosing.

Unit 1- Aspects of Tragedy.
Tragedy has a long tradition in literature, with its origins in the ancient world and with a special emphasis on drama. For this unit you will explore tragedy through different concepts such as: the tragic hero and their flaws, the presence of fate, the significance of violence and the how the structure of a text can create tragedy. Texts that will be studied in this unit are: The Great Gatsby, Othello, Death of a Salesman and a Selection of Keats’ poetry.

Unit 2 – Elements of Social and Political writing.
Political and social-protest writing offers the reader narratives of dominance, oppression, rebellion and resistance, and has something to say about the way societies are organised. It is concerned with aspects of gender, class and economic status, in both public and domestic settings. As you read your texts, you should begin by considering how power is presented in them, the effect this has on the characters, and what significances arise. Texts that will be studied in this unit are: The Kite Runner, The Handmaid’s Tale and Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience

Unit 3 – Further and Independent Reading.
This will introduce you to the study of a wide range of texts. The focus will be on how to read texts critically with a particular type of critical thinking or criticism attached to them. You will study a number of critical theories and ranging from Post-colonialism, Marxism to feminism. You will select two texts independently and focus on producing a critical reading of each text. The coursework will form two distinct tasks one of which can be a re-creation piece.
Examples include:

  • A Feminist reading of Wuthering Heights.
  • An Aesthetic reading of The Picture of Dorian Gray.
  • A Feminist recreation of Pygmalion.

What key skills will I develop?

The course will enable you to:

  • become an independent and confident reader and thinker
  • develop your understanding of how and why writers write
  • talk and write critically and persuasively about literature of different types and periods
  • make your own informed judgements on plays, novels and poems
  • apply ideas from texts to your own experience
  • gain an understanding of the traditions of English Literature and how it has changed over time
  • experiment with original writing (not assessed)

How will I be assessed?

Unit 1 40%
You will study up to four set texts: one Shakespearean, a second drama text, one text written pre-1900 with an option of a prose text as well.  Assessment of this unit is a, closed book, two and a half hour written paper.

Unit 2 40%
You will study three texts: one post-2000 prose text, one poetry text and one further text, of which one must be pre-1900.  Assessment of this unit is an, open book, 3 hour written paper and includes an unseen passage.

Unit 3 20%
You will independently select two texts to study: one poetry text and one prose text informed by study of the Critical anthology.  You will produce a portfolio of two pieces of written coursework: each must respond to a different text and link to a different aspect of the Critical anthology.  Both essays must be between 1250-1500 words long. One essay can be re-creative but must include an analytical commentary.

What could this course lead to?

English Literature is a very popular, highly regarded A Level subject and is a pathway to a wide variety of degree courses at university.  Studying English Literature develops your written and verbal communication skills, and your ability to think and respond analytically.  Whilst it obviously transfers from A-Level to degree level, these skills would be of benefit to students who wish to study almost any subject including Law, Forensic Science, Psychology, or Business.  In the work place, communication skills developed through a study of English Literature would benefit anyone who aspires to management.

Additional events, trips or enrichment activities

Possible trips and visits include:

  • theatre visits
  • literature festivals
  • conferences
  • museums
  • libraries

Are there any additional costs for this course?

You will want to have your own copies of set texts in order to write your own notes and comments in them; their cost is modest.  You will also have the opportunity to take part in trips and visits, these are optional, but we believe they will enrich your enjoyment of English Literature.  Costs may vary but would normally be around £25 (funding can be found in cases of hardship).

Who do I contact if I have any further questions?

Mrs H McGrath –
Mrs C Riach –
Mr L Barker –

Curriculum Maps