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What will I study in A Level English?

The English Literature A-Level course both builds upon the work undertaken at GCSE level and prepares students for higher level skills at University. The AS course includes the study of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead, as well as the poetry of W. B. Yeats and contemporary British poet Tony Harrison. Students will also be introduced to aspects of literary theory, fostering the ability to think about literature with criticism and subtlety. The A2 course deepens and strengthens this study, featuring Shakespeare as well as canonical British writers such as Ben Jonson (Volpone) and William Blake (Songs of Innocence & Experience). A2 students will also study 20th century American fiction such as William Faulkner’s The Sound & The Fury. Students will be further stretched in their skills at analysis and argumentation by the option to enter the Institute of Ideas’ “Debating Matters” competition, as well as having the opportunity to take relevant theatre trips during the A-Level course.

The AS course comprises two units. The first, “Poetry and Prose 1800-1945″, is examined externally and is worth 60% of the marks for the AS course (30% of the A-Level). Pupils will study Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre and the poetry of William Butler Yeats, placing them into their literary context and demonstrating a thoughtful appreciation of the effects of literary devices and techniques. The second unit, “Literature Post-1900″ (worth 40% of the AS course and 20% of the A-Level), is assessed via a coursework folder, and features study of Marilynne Robinson’s modern classic Gilead, the poetry of contemporary British writer Tony Harrison, and an introduction to literary theory, through Roland Barthes’ seminal “The Death of the Author.”

The A2 course strengthens the skills developed at AS and provides more depth and understanding of the history and movements within literature. Two further units comprise the A2 course: the first, “Drama and Poetry Pre-1800″ (worth 30% of the A-Level), is externally examined and comprises a study of Shakespeare’s King Lear, Ben Jonson’s Volpone, and William Blake’s poetry collection Songs of Innocence and Experience. The second and final A2 unit, “Texts in Time” (worth 20% of the A-Level), allows for students to elect texts to study from a list of influential and canonical American writing which will include choices such as Faulkner’s The Sound & The Fury and the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop.

Where does A Level English lead? 

The English Literature A Level course aims to provide our students with the ability to read with thoughtfulness and depth across a spectrum of British and American writing. Students will gain an awareness of some of the historical movements and contexts within literature, and will also be exposed to literary criticism and theory, building higher level critical thinking skills which will be invaluable at University and in later life, whether studying English or other subjects.