English Literature

A Level

Readers! This A Level is all about books: reading books, analysing books, investigating and considering the contexts of books, comparing books, interpreting books . . . so a love of literature and a willingness to read beyond your usual preferences is essential.

You will study novels, plays and poetry from a range of genres and historical periods, and learn how to write essays about these texts in a sophisticated academic style.

A Level English Literature works well with other essay writing subjects such as History and Law, and also other creative subjects such as Drama and Theatre Studies.

80% Examination
20% Coursework

a prospectus


Course content

Exam Board


How is the course delivered?

Lessons involve a great deal of reading and discussion. Debating different interpretations of texts is a crucial part of the course.

You will also be expected to learn a vocabulary of literary terminology that you can employ when writing about and analysing texts.

There are two examined units:

Component 1:

Shakespeare (Measure for Measure / Drama and poetry pre-1900 (A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen and poetry by Christina Rossetti)

This is a two and a half hour exam. For Shakespeare, you will be doing a close analysis of Shakespeare’s use of language and dramatic effects, and exploring different interpretations of the play across time.  For Ibsen and Rossetti, you will be comparing the texts, with a close focus on the significance and influence of the late 19th century context.

Component 2:

Close reading in chosen topic area (American Literature 1880-1940) / Comparative and contextual study from chosen topic area (The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton)

This is also a two and a half hour exam. You will analyse an unseen extract of American Literature, written between 1880 and 1940, and then compare the two set novels, focusing on the significance and influence of various contextual factors including the American Dream, the New Woman and white supremacy.

There is also one coursework unit:

Component 3: 

Literature post-1900 (Students choose 3 texts from a choice of 50, provided by us.)

You will write a 1000 word essay analysing a poem of your choice from a given collection, or write a poem of your own in the style of that poet, plus an analytical commentary.

You will also write a 2000 word essay comparing a novel and play of your choice from a given list, with a connecting theme or concern.

Departmental Enrichment

Enrichment activities run within the department include Creative Writing Club and the Tolkien/Fantasy Literature Society.

Recent trips we have run include a visit to the Bronte Parsonage Museum at Haworth and the Annual Shakespeare Lecture at Hull University.

We have also hosted visiting speakers from Hull University, including Dr Kevin Corstorphine, an expert in the field of American Literature, and Professor Janet Clare, a leading Shakespeare scholar.

What does this course lead to?

English Literature A Level is an excellent qualification from which to progress to a wide variety of HE courses and careers, as it enhances spoken and written communication skills as well as developing other generic skills such as analytical reading and informed evaluation.

What can I do to help me prepare for this course?

  • As this is a course for people who love reading and want to read much more widely, you can begin on this path by reading as much good quality literature as you can. Aim to familiarise yourself with a range of writing from all three genres: prose (novels, short stories, memoirs etc.), poetry and drama, from a variety of historical periods.
  • Reading other works by the authors of the set texts (or other authors like them) is very useful, so why not read some other American novels, or some work by modern poets? Or you could dip into the exciting world of Shakespeare.
  • Make notes about the texts you read and the ways in which authors present characters and themes. Try to begin making links between texts and considering how different works interconnect.
  • Use your spare time to watch films or TV dramatisations of literary works.
  • Join your local library, if you are not already a member, and see what it has to offer.
  • Go to the theatre to see plays.
  • Take advantage of the Hull and Beverley Literature Festivals.
  • Talk to friends and relatives about books they like – and books you like.
  • Immerse yourself in literature as much as you can before you start the course!

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