English Literature

Exam board: AQA

For how long will I study?

This is a full A level course which is taken over two years.

Are there any specific entry requirements?

As well as the usual entry requirements you need to include a grade 5 in both English language and English literature.

You will also be expected to complete an “Induction Task” designed to test your attitude towards literature, showing that you are suitable for studying the subject at this level.

What is this course about?

The course is designed to offer opportunities to explore English Literature through time, across cultures, genres and genders and to encourage the development of wide and close reading skills and independent judgements. This course’s approach to the study of literature rests upon reading texts within a shared context. Working from the belief that no text exists in isolation but is the product of the time in which it was produced, our course encourages students to explore the relationships that exist between texts and the contexts within which they are written, received and understood. Studying texts within a shared context enables students to investigate and connect them, drawing out patterns of similarity and difference using a variety of reading strategies and perspectives. The course encourages students to debate and challenge the interpretations of other readers as they develop their own informed personal responses.

What topics will I study?

The course focuses on studying texts within their contexts. The topics available are ‘Love through the Ages’ and ‘Modern Times: Literature from 1945 to the present day’, where students will study a mixture of poetry, prose and drama, including at least one Shakespeare play, with one of the texts being post-2000. Students will also work towards an independent critical study of two texts of their choosing, on which they will write a comparative coursework essay.

There will be a focus on different ways texts can be read, connected and written about with a strong element of independent reading and thinking. Responses to literary texts will take the form of analytical essays.

Set Texts:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • A Streetcar Names Desire by Tennessee Williams
  • Feminine Gospels by Carol Ann Duffy
  • The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  • Othello by William Shakespeare
  • A collection of Love Poetry

How will my work be assessed?

There are two exams, the first of which is a closed book exam.

Paper 1 (Love through the Ages): Students will be given an extract from their studied Shakespeare play, where they will focus on analysing the presentation of character / theme, before exploring this same focus throughout the whole text. Secondly you will be asked to compare two unseen poems. Thirdly, you will compare two texts you have studied in advance, focusing on how an element of love is presented.

Paper 2 (Modern Times): Students will begin by comparing their set poetry text in light of a given critical view. Secondly they will explore how a key theme of literature of modern times is presented in an unseen extract before finally comparing two texts in light of a given critical view.

There is also a non-exam assessment which focuses on comparing two texts, one of which must be pre-1900. Students can choose their own texts and their own thematic focus, under which they compare the presentation in both texts, applying different critical readings and their understanding of the significance of context.

Am I right for this course?

This is one of the most challenging subjects you can study for A level but it is also incredibly rewarding, should you choose to undertake and commit to this course.

You need to have a real passion for literature, enjoy reading widely and voraciously. You need to be somebody who enjoys reading material that challenges you and you need to be able to work well independently, as so much of your study in this A-Level subject will be independent work – a great preparation for university life but likely to result in poor grades if you cannot manage this!

You need to be willing to discuss your ideas and listen to those of others – we want to hear your own interpretations!

You need to enjoy researching and reading widely around your chosen texts as you will be expected to find your own critical material. You also need to be able to read and write accurately so that you can explore your ideas and interpretations of the texts you have read.

What skills will I develop during the course?

You will develop your understanding and ability to analyse literary texts clearly and accurately. You will develop perceptive and sophisticated interpretations of literature that will take you far beyond those you have developed at GCSE. You will develop the ability to write clearly and succinctly, evaluating how far critical viewpoints can be applied to texts and using textual evidence precisely to support your own arguments / interpretations of the texts.

What are the lessons like?

A wide range of teaching and learning styles is used during the course. Formal lessons are combined with discussion, group work, task-based learning and research activities. It is expected that you will read around your set texts independently, seeking to develop your own interpretations and understanding. Once a fortnight you will be expected to have prepared an independent activity that you will use to shape your class’ discussion in an allocated lesson. You will also be set regular practice essay tasks to help you build your understanding of the texts.

1:1 support is available to all students.

What have I got to do in order to do well?

  • Complete all assignments and homework tasks on time.
  • Display good communication skills in speaking and writing.
  • Be motivated to work independently to increase your knowledge / practise your skills.
  • Learn and be able to apply necessary terminology and ideas about literature.

What do people do with A-Level English Literature?

This is an A-Level subject that opens many doors to you as it shows any future employer / university that you can think independently, critically analyse and evaluate – skills that will be useful in many future professions.

Go on to study it at a higher level at university.

Use it as a widely recognised entry qualification for a wide range of degree courses.

Use it as a helpful qualification in careers such as teaching, journalism, publishing and the media.

Who do I talk to if I’m interested in more information about English Literature A-Level?

Mrs le Hair – A-Level Literature Coordinator (Slehair@sharnbrook.beds.sch.uk)

Ms Idziaszczyk / Ms Horne