English Literature

Specification: AQA

Qualification: A Level

Why study English Literature?

This course encourages you to develop an enjoyment of English Literature, through reading widely, critically and independently, across centuries, genre and gender. It is an accessible and stimulating course in which you will engage with spoken and written texts from the 1500s through to modern literature. You will be challenged to produce and support your own arguments, both verbally and in your writing, developing transferrable skills much valued by universities and employers. The texts we study have helped shape thought and culture; you will leave the course with a rich understanding of how literature has contributed to human identity.

What will I study?

AQA Specification A’s historicist 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, Specification A 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 process of making autonomous meaning, encouraging students to debate and challenge the interpretations of other readers as they develop their own informed personal responses. The course comprises three units:

1.) Love Through the Ages – One prose text – either Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald or Atonement, by Ian McEwan; a Shakespeare play – Othello; Love through the Ages poetry anthology – pre or post 1900.

2.) Modern Literature – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams; Feminine Gospels, by Carol Ann Duffy.

3.) Texts Across Time – An extended comparative critical essay of 2500 words based on two texts of the student’s own choosing.

Assessment Method

  • Paper 1 (40%): Love Through The Ages. Three questions based on Shakespeare, unseen poetry and comparing texts. The Shakespeare question will be a passage-based question with a linked essay. The unseen poetry question will be on two unseen poems. The comparison question will require the linking of two texts.
  • Paper 2 (40%): Modern Literature. Three questions based on a set text, an unseen extract and an essay question linking two texts words.
  • Non-exam assessment (20%): an extended essay of 2500 words.

Future Opportunities and Careers

Employers value English Literature at A Level and degree level as a rigorous academic course which proves graduates are good communicators, who can think and write analytically. English Literature graduates end up in careers as diverse as law, finance, psychology, human resources, sales and a huge range of public sector jobs, as well as the more obvious careers in writing, publishing, teaching/lecturing, media, advertising and public relations.

Ultimately, any role which requires strong communication skills and a good understanding of people will be a possibility for an English graduate.

Entry requirements

Grade 5 in English Literature (and ideally also in Language)

Course expenses

Texts are not provided at A level, and the approximate cost of these will be £35.  We will offer theatre trips, when available, and recommend all students to take advantage of these.


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