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English Literature

English Literature is the practice of studying literary texts (prose, drama and poetry) to better understand and engage with our societies - the past, present and future; to explore what it is to create, read and interpret literary art; and ultimately grapple with what it is to be human.

You will be challenged and stretched to read brilliant texts from the ‘canon’ as well as texts which reflect our 21st Century culture and society. You will engage critically and creatively with independently selected and set texts, exploring ways to respond to them, developing your own opinion and applying wider meta-narratives and critical theories to place the texts in the wider understanding of the literary world. You will develop your knowledge of literary analysis and evaluation in writing, building on the skills you’ve developed at GCSE, to write academically, critically and independently. You will explore the contexts of the texts and others’ interpretations to inform your own opinion and gain a greater understanding of our culture, society and history.


What exam board do we follow?

OCR A Level English Literature (H472)


How is the course examined?

Component 1: Drama and poetry pre-1900 (2 hours 30 minutes exam, 60 marks, closed text, 40% of your A Level) 

  • ‘The Tempest ‘ (Shakespeare): exploring an extract from the play and discussing it in relation to the changing interpretations by different audiences over time.
  • ‘A Doll’s House’ (Ibsen) & ‘Paradise Lost’ (Milton): exploring contrasts, connections and comparisons between the texts and how they reflect literary traditions, movements, and the contexts of the texts. 

Component 2: Comparative and contextual study (2 hours 30 minutes exam, 60 marks, closed text, 40% of your A Level)

  • American Literature 1880-1940: close analysis of an unseen extract of American Literature in relation to the tropes, themes, contexts and attitudes of the genre.
  • ‘The Great Gatsby’ (Fitzgerald) and ‘A Farewell to Arms’ (Hemingway): exploring contrasts, connections and comparisons between the texts and how they reflect literary traditions, methods and the contexts of the genre; applying critical theories.

Component 3: Literature post-1900 (coursework, 40 marks, 20% of your A Level)

  • Task 1: close analysis of a poem from ‘Hold Your Own’ (Kae Tempest).
  • Task 2: comparative analysis of ‘Far Away (Churchill) and ‘Gun, With Occasional Music’ (Lethem).


How is the curriculum structured?

Teacher 1 Teacher 2
Year 12

Terms 1 and 2

An introduction to critical theories and application of critical lenses to a range of texts.

Study ‘Hold Your Own’ by Kae Tempest in preparation to complete coursework task 1.

Terms 3 and 4

Study ‘The Great Gatsby’; exploring the tropes, themes and motifs of American Literature 1880-1940.

Terms 5 and 6

Study ‘A Farewell to Arms’; drawing comparison to ‘Gatsby’ and developing understanding of the tropes, themes and motifs of American Literature 1880-1940.

Terms 1 and 2

An introduction to literary timelines and advanced literary methods used by writers.

Study ‘Far Away’ by Caryl Churchill and ‘Gun, With Occasional Music’ (Lethem)

Terms 3 and 4

Complete coursework task 2.

Study ‘A Doll’s House’ by Ibsen and Books 9 & 10 of ‘Paradise Lost’ by Milton.

Terms 5 and 6

Continue to study ‘A Doll’s House’ and ‘Paradise Lost’, exploring contrasts between how the texts reflect literary traditions, movements, and the contexts of when they were written and received.

Year 13

Terms 1 and 2

Study Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’; exploring the contexts of the play and varied adaptations and interpretations over time.

Terms 3 and 4

Revisit and revise the American Literature novels, applying broader contextual themes and interpretations from your synoptic study to comparative analysis and extract analysis.

Terms 5 and 6

Revision and preparation for final exams.

Terms 1 and 2

Study the synoptic American Literature unit, studying texts from 1880-1940 and exploring the tropes, themes, contexts and attitudes of the genre across this time period.

Terms 3 and 4

Revisit and revise ‘A Doll’s House’ and ‘Paradise Lost’, working on close comparative analysis, essay-writing practice and deepening your understanding of wider critical theories.

Terms 5 and 6

Revision and preparation for final exams.

Why is the curriculum sequenced this way?

All A Level Literature students need a strong grasp on the chronological development of the literary canon, therefore we begin the course with a 2-week introduction to a literary timeline so you can place your texts within their wider literary context. You will also get your first introduction to critical theories: how to synthesise other critics’ interpretations with your own to understand the patterns within literature and wider literary traditions.

You will then go on to complete the coursework tasks for component 3 of the course: these tasks are linked thematically through the exploration of dystopian visions of the future and critical explorations of our current societies. Many of these themes are initially explored at GCSE, and we have selected texts that further your early understanding in a modern, progressive and challenging way. We will support you in choosing your own coursework titles and possibly your own coursework texts as you grow in independence.

For the rest of Year 12 with one teacher, you will study the American novels for your Comparative and Contextual study exam. Alongside reading and studying the texts themselves, you will explore the social, historical, literary, biographical and political contexts of the novels to allow you to make coherent, detailed and academic points of comparison about the individuals, genres and time periods they present and represent. 

With your other teacher, you will study the pre-1900 texts, beginning with the most recent (Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’) which will allow you to develop your understanding of drama which began with your study of ‘Far Away’. You will then connect your interpretations back to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ (Books 9 and 10), creating critical and evaluative links between theme, literary analysis and interpretation building on your contextual knowledge from the introduction of the course.

In Year 13, you return to American Literature, looking at the broader genre from 1880-1940; exploring how the political, historical  and social context impacted the work produced by American writers at this time. You will return to close extract analysis and develop your ability to critically evaluate the writer’s methods within the context of the societies and individuals they were representing.

You will also study your last complete text, Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, building on all of your contextual knowledge from studying his contemporary Milton, and some of his other plays in KS3 and KS4. Here, you will be assessed on your ability to understand how the play has been interpreted over time, so you will study various adaptations and 

Your final terms of Year 13 will be revision of all of the above units: honing your critical writing skills and practising writing to time in an academic, confident and engaging way to best demonstrate your love and understanding of English Literature.


How will I be assessed during the course?

Your knowledge of and confidence with the course skills and content will be checked in class through discussion; you will complete various essays, presentations and wider research projects to develop your own understanding. Mocks and practice exam-style essays throughout the course will be given specific feedback using the exam mark scheme to identify targets to improve your analysis, interpretation and expression.

Before you submit your final draft of your coursework, you will have one draft checked by your teacher with general feedback given as per the exam board guidelines.


What is the best way to succeed?

It goes without saying that reading widely, actively and passionately will allow you to develop the skills, confidence and interest in all aspects of the course. For the American Literature unit, we expect you to read beyond the set exam texts, and for most of the other texts you need a good understanding of varied interpretations of the texts - therefore watching the film adaptations and engaging with directors’ and actors’ choices is critical.

You will also be expected to take part in discussions in class: in Literature, there’s no wrong interpretation, so trying them out and grappling with your ideas, expression and opinions is the best way to build your confidence, clarity and precision and therefore allow you to succeed in the final coursework and exam essays.