Aim of the course
English Literature is one of the most established, rigorous and widely-recognised A level courses. It allows students to engage in a stimulating and demanding way with a wide variety of texts, ranging from 14th-Century English poet Chaucer to contemporary British playwright Jez Butterworth.
This course is lively and interactive, from group work to student-led seminar presentations, and improvisation in class to analysing film language. Discussing complex ideas and challenging themes in a lively and supportive environment is integral to our working methods, and students grow in skill and confidence as they explore texts in detail.
Students develop their interest in and enjoyment of literature and literary studies as they:
- Read widely and independently both set texts and others that they have selected for themselves
- Engage creatively with a substantial body of texts and ways of responding to them
- Develop and effectively apply their knowledge of literary analysis and evaluation in speech and writing
- Explore the contexts of the texts they are reading and others’ interpretations of them
Students enjoy an immersive experience in literature, in all its genres, performances and manifestations. They develop the skills to reach personal critical responses, engaging with contextual material and wider trends in the literary world.
In the Upper Sixth, students are accessing higher-order skills of analysis and creativity in preparation for independent study and a comprehensive textual study of their own choosing for coursework.
English literature is a subject to be enjoyed both inside and outside the classroom and there are many opportunities for theatre trips, lectures, directing, performing and filming as well as gallery and exhibition visits. We regularly run study visits to Dublin and literary tours of New York.
We encourage wide reading to stimulate intellectual curiosity and develop new interests, understanding and skills. In addition to the course-specific reading lists we provide, we encourage students to delve into Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, The Outsider by Albert Camus and Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance.
The department holds weekly seminars to encourage interdisciplinary thought across the arts and humanities. Discussion topics have included the author’s identity crisis, aesthetics and criticism, and romanticism.
Our Sixth Form Reading Group meets to discuss and debate a wide range of literature with like-minded individuals.
We prepare and enter students for external public speaking and debating events, competitions and workshops, including Debating Matters, the English-Speaking Union ‘Mace’, Rotary ‘Youth Speaks’, Cambridge Union and Oxford Union competitions.
External challenges our pupils enjoy include:
- The Rotary (Cambridgeshire) and University of Cambridge colleges essay competitions
- The Betty Haigh Shakespeare Prize
- Poetry Now, Poetry Live, Poetry by Heart, Foyle Young Poet of the Year and the National Poetry Competition
Two written exams and a piece of non-examined assessment submitted at the end of the Upper Sixth.