What will I learn?
English Literature A Level is split into three components that you will study across the two years of the course. Component 01 focuses on 'Drama and Poetry Pre-1900' and involves the in-depth study of a Shakespeare play (for example, Hamlet or Twelfth Night), as well as the study of an additional pre-1900 drama text (such as Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi or Ibsen’s A Doll’s House) and pre-1900 poetry (for example, a selection of poems by Christina Rossetti or Samuel Taylor Coleridge).
Component 02 is focused on 'Comparative and Contextual Study', which will involve the detailed study of a literary tradition or genre (for example, American Literature 1880-1940 or The Gothic Tradition or Dystopian writing). You will study two set texts (for example, if investigating Gothic, you would study Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter) in addition to completing independent wider reading and research to support your understanding of the genre or literary movement as a whole. Component 03, Literature Post-1900, is a coursework unit and involves the study of three texts (one novel, one drama and one poetry) linked by a theme (for example the theme of Storytelling could involve exploring links between The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy, The History Boys by Alan Bennett and Atonement by Ian McEwan).
The focus of lessons will always be analytical – helping you develop your interpretation of the text you are studying.
However, Sixth Form lessons tend to have a more informal atmosphere, due to smaller class sizes, and the onus is very much on your response. From group work investigations to individual presentations, from theatre trips to role play in class, you will be offered a range of different activities and approaches to enhance your understanding of literature. Obviously, you will need to be prepared to spend time reading and researching your set texts, as well as writing essays about them. You will be set approximately one hour and 30 minutes to two hours homework a week per text and you usually study two texts simultaneously.
Who should choose English Literature A Level?
The study of English Literature at A Level still involves reading, discussing and deconstructing set texts, just as you did at IGCSE or GCSE; however, the range of texts studied is much broader and the level of study is much more in-depth. You will need to consider everything from an author’s creation of plot, theme and characterisation, to their manipulation of genre conventions, language and structural devices to create effects and manipulate reader response, to the influence of social and historical contexts in which the text is written and set, to the ways in which the texts have been interpreted by literary and critics. If you enjoy all of the above, then English Literature A Level is the right choice for you.
What other subjects go well with A Level English Literature?
English Literature is a multi-faceted and multi-skilled subject that is exceptionally diverse. As an essay-based subject, it makes an excellent companion subject for any subject that involves extended writing, and it is most commonly studied alongside subjects such as History, Politics, Drama and Theatre Studies, Modern Foreign Languages and Psychology. Due to its analytical nature, it is not unusual to find scientists and mathematicians in an English class, however, alongside musicians, artists and geographers.
The new English Literature A Level course consists of three modules, two of which are examined and the third of which is coursework. Both examined modules are assessed via a two hour and thirty minute examination at the end of Upper Sixth, each of which is worth 40% of your total A Level. The coursework module is worth 20% of your A Level, and is assessed via completion of a 3,000 word coursework folder consisting of two pieces.
Beyond the classroom
The beauty of studying English Literature is that it can accompany you everywhere, reading as widely as possible is absolutely the best enrichment activity you can undertake. It doesn’t stop there, however; students this year took part in an RSC workshop on 'The Tempest', and have actively participated in the joint King’s High and Warwick School Literary Society events ranging from regular themed literary discussions to a gothic banquet at Byron's ancestral home.
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"The study of English fascinates me because of its reliance on perspective and interpretation. I relish debate and discussion; therefore the challenge provided through literature’s refusal to allow the reader to remain passive is immensely appealing. The study of literature does not comprise of the search for an objective truth: instead, we draw upon our own personal experience in order to craft personal interpretations. I greatly look forward to studying English at university, and am excited by the prospect of being able to contribute my own perspectives and interpretations." Alice, Sixth Former