A Level

English Literature


Entry Requirements

5 GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including Mathematics and English.

A Level English Literature is an inspiring and rewarding subject, which enables you to study a range of novels, plays and poetry, from the 14th to the 21st century. As well as reading with a forensic eye to understand how writers create meanings, you will consider the contexts in which our texts were written, and look at various critical approaches to understand how they can be interpreted in different ways. You will read widely around the texts, discussing and writing about the ideas and concepts they raise.

During the course, we aim to provide a wide variety of extension activities, including theatre trips, lecture and study days, visiting speakers, museum visits and theatre workshops.

Course Content

Year 1

Post-1900 Poetry – we learn the skills of close analysis by studying a range of 20th and 21stC poetry. This leads to our first piece of coursework: a close analysis or a piece of re-creative writing, based on a poem from the collection of a 21stC poet.

Prose – we study two novels and a range of texts within a genre of prose fiction. Genres you might study include Dystopian Writing, Women in Literature, the Gothic, or American Literature, 1880-1940. Our prose study continues across the two years, developing skills of comparative analysis, as well as an understanding of literary theory and the contexts in which your genre has developed.

Pre-1900 drama and poetry – we study the work of a pre-1900 poet in comparison with a pre-1900 drama. Poetry might be Chaucer’s The Merchant’s Tale, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Tennyson’s Maud or selected works of Christina Rossetti. The plays include A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster and An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. In this component we also compare the contexts in which the two texts were written.

Where Could It Take Me?

English Literature develops a high degree of literacy, strong analytical skills and emotional intelligence. All of these complement any career or programme of study, including non-arts industries such as Engineering and Medicine. Indeed, English Literature students go on to study for all kinds of degrees, including the Sciences, Law, Business and Journalism. Moreover, the subject is highly regarded by admissions tutors, and our students leave us for a wide range of universities, including Oxbridge and the Russell Group. At degree level, English Literature - by itself, or in combination with a subject such as History, a Social Science or Language - provides a useful entry qualification for careers in advertising, writing, the media, journalism, drama, education, social and administrative services, librarianship, business management, and any number of professions. English Literature A Level can take you anywhere.

Year 2

Shakespeare – we study a Shakespeare play, such as Measure for Measure, Hamlet or The Tempest. We look in detail at Shakespeare’s text, and consider how the play has been interpreted in performance, as well as the different critical approaches over time.

Coursework – this second piece of coursework is a 2000-word comparison between a post-1900 play and novel. This provides an opportunity for independent work and is an invaluable preparation for degree-level study.

Methods of Teaching

Lessons are varied and use a range of media. There are always opportunities to share and discuss ideas, as well as to develop your own thinking through independent writing tasks. As well as exploring our texts in detail, we focus on refining your writing skills and critical faculties.  We value independent reading around the subject, and have excellent resources, including an extensive intranet site.

Methods & Patterns of Assessment

80% of the mark will be assessed through final exams. 

20% of the mark will be assessed through internal coursework.

Financial Implications

Students will need to purchase their texts, so there is an annual cost of around £70.  We ask for students to buy their texts early in the academic year so there is no delay in obtaining books later in the course. The college has a Student Support Fund for those students who have difficulty meeting these costs.