Studying Advanced Level English Literature at King Solomon Academy
WHY STUDY ENGLISH LITERATURE?
Studying English Literature not only helps us to better understand ourselves, but gives us an insight into the ideas and behaviours in many different societies throughout history, and start to interrogate the subtleties of human nature. The analytical approach of studying English Literature will also give you a deep understanding of the powers of language itself to shape the world we live in. Being able to read, write, speak and listen is at the heart of everything we do, every day. Practically speaking, you will also develop a range of key skills which you will need to study any degree subject and which you will use throughout your adult life.
WHAT WILL WE STUDY?
The A Level course runs over two years and covers a range of exciting, interesting and controversial texts from different historical periods.
We start in Year 12 studying ‘Poems from the Decade’, a collection of poems written in the last ten years which deal with themes that are intensely relevant to our own lives. We then study Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ and explore the many moral debates raised by this philosophical text. While ‘Frankenstein’ is a historic text, we then compare it to another novel which explores the role of science in society in a completely different context: ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Attwood. This dystopian novel imagines a world where women fulfil discrete roles and investigates the consequences of such a controlled society for both women and men. Drawing out the comparisons between these texts highlights the recurrence of ideas and issues across many different societies and allows us to consider some striking universal themes. In the second half of Year 12, we look at ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, a 1947 play by Tennessee Williams exploring the challenges of life in post-war New Orleans.
In the second year of the course, we begin with a comparative coursework assignment. Although we study one of the texts together, the second text for your coursework is your choice and an opportunity to pursue your own literary interests. We then return to the early 19th century in our study of the Romantic poetry of Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, Byron and Shelley, where we analyse some of the most influential and famous poems ever written. Our final text is William Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, a humorous, intriguing and outrageous play about two very different sisters as they encounter marriage and discover what it really means to become a wife. At this point you will begin to engage with critical theory and interpretations of the text in a more systematic university style.
HOW IS OUR LEARNING ASSESSED AT A2?
Although there are exams at the end of Year 12, the whole course is fully examined at the end of Year 13. Each exam requires you to write an essay on the text you have studied, or in the case of ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and both poetry units, a comparative essay about two texts. You will take clean (un-annotated) copies of the text into the exams. The coursework element counts for 20% of the final grade.
WHICH SUBJECTS COMPLEMENT A STUDY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE?
It is more common for students of English Literature to take more ‘arts’ based subjects such as history, government and politics, RS and foreign languages. However, plenty of scientists also enjoy the rigour of a different discipline as a fourth subject.
WHAT COULD I DO NEXT WITH AN A LEVEL QUALIFICATION IN ENGLISH LITERATURE?
Being brilliant at reading and analysing text and writing well about it prepares you for every degree subject. You would be specifically well prepared for a degree in any English discipline such as English Literature, English Language, English or English studies. You would also be very well prepared for any other essay writing subject such as law, history, politics or languages. Admissions tutors of sciences and social sciences are also often interested in students who have been successful in English Literature too.
WHICH SKILLS WILL I BE DEVELOPING THROUGH STUDYING ENGLISH LITERATURE?
You will definitely be improving all your reading skills: reading for meaning, analysing and interpreting language, structure and form. You will also be improving your speed reading and summary skills as you read secondary critical reading on our core texts (this is a particularly important skill for future lawyers). You will also be developing a range of writing skills such as writing coherently and concisely at speed as well as learning how to research widely and in depth for your coursework studies. In class, you will be mastering the art of discussion and debate, learning how to structure a powerful argument and use language effectively to influence others.
ARE THERE ANY EXTRA-CURRICULAR OPPORTUNITIES TO SUPPORT MY STUDY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE?
Yes! There will be opportunities to visit the theatre, take part in writing workshops and masterclasses and learn from professionals who are working in the arts industries. Being a member of the debating society and possibly the Model United Nations team would also enhance your debating skills.
WHAT ARE THE KSA REQUIREMENTS FOR ENTRY ONTO THE COURSE?
You must have achieved at least a Grade 6 in English Language and English Literature GCSE.
You will also need to love reading widely and independently.