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English Literature

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Why study English Literature?

“Occasionally we see that beautiful creature the flying fish, which rises out of the water altogether into the air and the sunlight.  English literature is a flying fish.  It is a sample of the life that goes on day after day beneath the surface; it is a proof that beauty and emotion exist in the salt, inhospitable sea.” E M Forster

If, like E M Forster, you have ever been amazed, intrigued and excited by a novel, a play or a poem, then English literature is the subject for you. You should also have an interest in reading a wide variety of literature from both the past and present, enjoy expressing your own ideas and have a sound command of written English. You do not need to know very much about flying fish, but you should enjoy the challenge of analysing highly imaginative metaphors!

In 2017, a third of all Collingham A Level English Literature students achieved A* and two thirds achieved A*A.


English Literature A Level Course Content At A Glance

Paper 1. Drama and Poetry pre-1900
Section 1.
Students analyse a Shakespeare text (Coriolanus) in close detail and consider issues raised in a specific extract in relation to their understanding of the play as a whole.  They also focus on the way in which the play has been interpreted by different audiences over time.
Students compare and contrast two texts: John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi and Chaucer’s The Merchant’s Tale, demonstrating an understanding of literary tradition and cultural context.

Paper 2. Comparative and Contextual Study
Students study either American Literature 1880-1940 or The Gothic.  They must analyse an unseen passage demonstrating an understanding of genre, literary movement within their specific topic area.
Key texts: F. Schott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby or Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Paper 3. Literature Post 1900 (Coursework)
Students cover three texts, writing two short essays – one a commentary of a chosen passage from a novel, extract from a play or poem from a collection; the other a comparative piece.  The two essays together must be a maximum of 3000 words in length.
Texts previously studied include Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Philip Larkin’s Whitsun Weddings.

Paper 1: Drama and Poetry pre-1900 (2 hours 30 minutes).  Two essays.  40% of total A level
Paper 2: Comparative and Contextual Study (2 hours 30 minutes) 40% of total A level
Paper 3: Literature Post 1900 (Coursework) 20% of total A level

Academic Skills
Do not think that close analysis of texts will kill your enjoyment of them. Very often the opposite is true: learning to read more attentively and perceptively adds a whole new dimension to books that are read for pleasure. And in addition to being a highly enjoyable subject, the skills that you acquire during an English A level course (the ability to form independent judgements, to express yourself lucidly and to write clear and well organised essays) will be useful to you whatever you go on to do. English combines well with a wide variety of other subjects and is always popular with university admissions tutors in a range of disciplines.

Although it often takes students a while to get used to the jump from GCSE to A Level, high grades are quite easily reached by those who work steadily through the course, particularly when this is combined with a genuine enthusiasm for literature. We encourage you to read as widely as possible and to develop your own particular interests.

Course Text Books
All primary texts are provided.

English Literature is a key facilitating subject and remains highly desired by Russell Group universities.  
Students who study English Literature at university typically go on to careers in law, media, journalism, publishing, marketing, advertising and PR.



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