What is it about at sixth form level?
The pleasure of seeing what is under the surface of a literary text is something you will have experienced at GCSE. You have been exposed to Shakespeare at GCSE and it is now time to build on this firm basis by adding to your repertoire of his plays, while also tracking English literature to its sources by making the acquaintance of the first poet to choose to write poetry in English: Geoffrey Chaucer. The first year of English studies also takes account of an exciting mid-to-late twentieth century writer: Angela Carter and her adventurous and definitively adult re-telling of fairy tales in her collection of Gothic short (but interlocking) stories The Bloody Chamber which draw on psychoanalytical interpretations of what these stories really mean!
Why study it and what skills does it develop?
English Literature is a challenging and rigorous academic subject that will be well-respected by any university. It will develop your skills of textual analysis and critical interpretation. You will understand how to look beneath the surfaces of texts to draw out layers of meaning and how to express your thoughts in a clear and precise written form. It is a perfect complement to other essay-based subjects.
What prior knowledge and skills are required?
You will need at least a B in GCSE English. You will need a love of literature and the desire to study it in depth. Not all students beginning the course are particularly keen readers; it is hoped that they will become so by the end of the course!
How is the course assessed?
The A level is assessed in a linear way in the Summer term of year 13 by two exams and the submission of a coursework folder. The exam for Part 1 (Shakespeare and Poetry pre-1900) has two sections. Section 1 is on The Tempest. You will answer a question on the whole play. Section 2 will examine your understanding of The Duchess of Malfi in relation to The Merchant’s Tale. The exam for Part 2 (Drama and Prose post-1900) will examine your understanding of The Bloody Chamber and Dracula. You will be asked to compare and contrast them. Part 3 is a coursework unit requiring you to engage in a close reading totalling 1,000 words of a passage chosen from one text in the first instance and in the second instance to compare and contrast two texts which have connected themes with one another in an essay totalling 2,000 words. The two exams are 2 hours 30 minutes in duration and are each worth 40% of the A level. The Part 3 coursework component is worth 20%.
The Tempest and its Travels
By P. Hulme, W. Sherman
Published by Reaktion Books, ISBN 978-1861890665
Flesh and the Mirror: Essays on the Art of Angela Carter
Edited by L. Sage
Published by Virago, ISBN 978-1844084715
The Duchess of Malfi
By L. Marcus
Published by Methuen, ISBN 978-1904271512
Exam Board and Specification Codes
A level: OCR H472
Head of Department
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