English Literature is a subject that develops students’ enjoyment and understanding of literary texts and their contexts. It cultivates important skills such as analysing and evaluating, developing and considering arguments and communicating effectively. It is a good base for any university course and is well regarded by employers.
Reigate College students have progressed to a wide range of courses and careers with this qualification, including English at Oxford, Cambridge and Russell Group universities. It is a subject particularly well-suited to those who like to explore both big ideas and the smaller details that are so important in literary writing. Above all, it suits students who enjoy reading, both independently and as part of a group.
This course will involve the detailed analysis of a range of prose, poetry and drama texts; students will be studying the texts in more detail than at GCSE and will look specifically at the craft of the writer and the various contexts of the work. Students will be given many opportunities to express their own views, and consider those of others in both discussion and writing.
In the first year students can expect to study a play by Shakespeare alongside an anthology of literary criticism. Students will also study two novels – one a literary “classic”, the other written more closely to their own lifetime – and a selection of contemporary poetry. In the second year students will build upon this learning further by completing a piece of coursework based on two texts, that will allow them to follow a theme, movement, author or period in detail. Students will also study a second play in detail. They will also study in depth, a range of poetry from a particular poet or period.
English Literature complements a broad range of subjects.
Many English A Level students choose to continue their studies at university. Those who choose to follow other disciplines benefit from the essay writing and analytical training, as well as the cultural insights that come from literary study. They will build strong communication skills as they learn to articulate a clear, well-informed point of view.
The Course is divided into four Components:
- 1. Drama: Students will study a play by Shakespeare in Year One. This will be re-visited in Year Two. They will then study a tragedy or a comedy by another playwright in year two. Their studies in Shakespeare will be supported by a “Critical Anthology” that will include some of the best literary criticism about that text
- 2. Prose: Students will study two prose texts from a chosen theme; one a well-known literary “classic” written before 1900, the other a well-regarded modern novel written closer to their own lifetime. Both will be studied in Year One and re-visited, with a sharper critical eye in Year Two
- 3. Poetry: In Year One, students will study a range of poetry from an anthology, “Poems of the Decade” exploring poetic form, meaning, language, style and conventions. This will be revisited in Year Two, when these poems will be compared to an unseen contemporary poem. They will also undertake the detailed study of a range of poetry from a particular poet or period before 1900
- 4. Coursework: Students will study two texts that will allow them to follow a theme, movement, author or period. The final essay comparing two texts will be between 2,500 and 3000 words in length.
Course Specific Trips, Visits & Experiences
English Literature students have the opportunity to take part in a variety of course related trips and talks. In recent years, these have included visits to:
- the Richmond Theatre to see “The Picture of Dorian Gray“
- the Vaudeville Theatre to see “The Importance of Being Earnest“
- Reigate Everyman Cinema to see a live broadcast of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and trips to The Globe, National Theatre and Young Vic.
- Stratford-Upon-Avon to see the RSC perform Shakespeare’s romantic comedy “The Taming of the Shrew”
- The Old Vic to see “King Lear”
- Workshops led by Neil Brown, Artistic Director of the Lost in Space Theatre Company
In addition to course specific experiences, students also have the opportunity to get involved in the College’s Activities Programme.
All students need to gain an experience of the work place during their time at College and for students studying vocational courses it should ideally be linked to one of their subject areas.
The five assessment objectives for English Literature can be summarised as testing students’ ability to:
- AO1: Articulate informed, personal and creative responses to literary texts, using associated concepts and terminology, and coherent, accurate written expression
- AO2: Analyse ways in which meanings are shaped in literary texts
- AO3: Demonstrate understanding of the significance and influence of the contexts in which literary texts are written and received
- AO4: Explore connections across literary texts
- AO5: Explore literary texts informed by different interpretations
The second year begins with coursework that represents 20% of the final grade. The course will culminate in three final examinations based upon the texts studied and the analytical skills developed during the course. All the examinations are ‘open book’, allowing students to take a clean copy of the texts into the examination.
The exam board for this A Level is Pearson Edexcel.
All students need to have at least five GCSEs at Grade 4 or above (and a satisfactory school reference) in order to be accepted on an A Level/BTEC Level 3 Programme.
In addition, students should meet the following minimum GCSE requirement:
- Grade 5 in English Language and English Literature
Technical accuracy in spelling, punctuation and grammar is essential for achieving a good grade at A Level.
Students will enjoy this course if they:
- Like reading, analysing and discussing novels, short stories, plays, poetry and works of criticism
- Are prepared to express their own views clearly and accurately in response to questions and tasks set
- Enjoy writing essays
What is the difference between A Level English Literature and A Level English Language and Literature?
The two courses have a lot in common: reading, exploring, discussing and writing about a range of literary texts. However, on the English Language and Literature course, you will explore, in much more linguistic detail, the ways in which writers use words, clauses and sentences. The texts studied vary as well: on the English Language and Literature course, you will look at non-fiction texts (such as memoirs and articles) and spoken texts (such as speeches and interviews). A Level English Language and Literature also has a creative writing unit.
Which course is better if I want to study English at University?
Both English A Levels provide a good foundation for studying not just English but a range of other degrees at university. Most universities accept either English A Level as a basis for taking a degree in English.
Which texts will I study?
In your first year, you will study an anthology of modern poetry, Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and you will compare Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” with Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”. In your second year, you will study Tennessee Williams’ play “A Streetcar Named Desire” and a selection of John Donne’s poetry. You will also compare two further texts for your coursework.
Do I have to enjoy reading to study this course?
Yes. Successful students enjoy reading and reflecting on a variety of different texts and genres.
Are there any opportunities to do my own creative writing?
No. Creative writing is taught only on the A Level English Language and Literature course.
Is there any coursework or is it all exams?
You will sit three exams, worth a total of 80%. The coursework unit is worth 20%.