A-level English Literature

A-level English Literature

At both AS and A level, English Literature involves discussion and exploration of many areas of student interest and experience: love, loneliness, prejudice, bravery and perseverance to name but a few. There are not always ‘fixed’ or ‘correct’ responses to issues or questions raised, however, so students need to be open minded and willing to hear and discuss the opinions of their peers.
 
The course covers a variety and range of modern and historical Prose, Poetry and Drama texts from Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde to Andrea Levy and John Betjeman, with many more along the way. In addition, students have opportunities to explore their own interests from their own personal wider reading; indeed a willingness to ‘read around’ texts is essential. Students will develop their skills of thinking critically, reading and analysing texts closely and structuring responses.
 
Studying Literature can be challenging but it is also immensely rewarding and we hope that it will not only provide students with a widely respected A Level but will be enjoyable and enrich their minds. This subject combines well with others such as Psychology, Law, Sociology, History, Media and Business.
 
Entry Requirements
Although other possibilities may be considered, this course is best suited to students with B grades in English and English Literature at GCSE (or equivalent). In addition, students need to enjoy reading, writing and sharing ideas. Because there are often no clear conclusions in discussions about Literature, students need to approach the subject with an inquiring mind.

Course Content

The specification we follow is AQA Syllabus B. In accordance with College policy, ALL students will be entered for AS, regardless of whether or not they intend to follow the course for the full two years.
 
AS Level (one year):
Students study for two examinations on ‘Literary Genres’. We focus on Option B: ‘Aspects of Comedy’, both assessed through examination.
 
1. Paper 1: Literary Genres:
Drama. Students study one Shakespeare text – currently ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ – and ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde. Assessment is through a ‘closed book’ written exam lasting 1 hour and 30 minutes.
 
2. Paper 2: Literary Genres: Prose and Poetry.
Students study one poetry and one prose text, currently: a John Betjeman selection and ‘Small Island’ by Andrea Levy. Assessment is through an ‘open book’ written exam lasting 1 hour and 30 minutes.
 
A Level (two years):
Assessment is through two examinations and one unit of Non-Exam Assessment or Coursework. Note: Students need to be aware that texts covered at AS are also examined at the end of the two year A Level course.
 
1. Paper 1: Literary Genres.
Students will sit a ‘closed book’ written exam lasting 2 hours and 30 minutes addressing three of the same Aspects of Comedy texts that were examined at AS.
 
2. Paper 2: Texts and Genres.
Students will study three further texts focusing either on Elements of Crime writing or Elements of Social and Political writing. Assessment is through a 3 hour ‘open book’ written examination.
 
3. Non-Exam Assessment: Theory and Independence.
This is a coursework unit which involves personal reading alongside the study of a Critical Anthology. Students study two texts and the Critical Anthology and produce two essays of 1250-1500 words each, each essay responding to a different text and linking to a different aspect of the Critical Anthology.

Assessment

AS (1 year course): Aspects of Comedy
Paper 1: Literary Genres: Drama. Written exam, I hour 30 minutes. Closed Book. 50% of AS mark.
Paper 2: Literary Genres: Prose and Poetry. Written exam, 1 hour and 30 minutes. Open Book. 50% of AS mark.
A2 (2 year course): Aspects of Comedy
Paper 1: Literary Genres. Written exam, 2 hours and 30 minutes. Closed Book. 40% of A Level.
Paper 2: Texts and Genres. Written exam, 3 hours. Open Book. 40% of A Level.
Non-exam Assessment: coursework portfolio of two essays. 20% of A Level.

Where does it lead?

This subject is very versatile, developing skills that are relevant in a number of different careers or Higher Education courses, such as interpretive abilities, communication, an understanding of how language works, close analysis, and the ability to construct a well argued case. As well as an English Literature degree itself, students of Literature might go on to study for University degrees in a range of subjects including: History, Sociology, Psychology, Drama and Theatre Studies and Law. Even Medical Schools value the subject highly. Literature is a subject that can support careers in the above areas as well as Teaching, Business and Finance, Journalism, Publishing – even Politics. Employers tend to regard English Literature as an ideal topic of study and one that develops essential and transferable skills.

Reading List

AS Set texts: – ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ by William Shakespeare. – ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde. – ‘Small Island’ by Andrea Levy. – A range of John Betjeman’s poetry.
 
A Level Set texts: – All the texts listed above are re-examined at A Level. The additional set texts have yet to be decided at this time. In addition, students should be reading: – a wide range of individually chosen texts. – Critical texts on any of the above.

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