A Level English Literature

Head of English: Ms S Elliott
Studying English Literature A Level encourages students to explore the world of literature whilst developing the skills they need to approach any text with sophisticated understanding and an enquiring mind. We support students in becoming confident, articulate and able to enjoy a critical appreciation of literature through studying contemporary and pre-1914 poetry, plays and novels in context.

Course content
Examination board: Edexcel

– Component 1: Drama examination (30%) – Shakespearean drama and one other
drama text
– Component 2: Prose examination (20%) – a study of two texts, including one pre-1900 text, linked by genre or movement
– Component 3: Poetry examination (30%) – a selection of post-2000 poetry and a specified range of poetry from a literary period
– Component 4: Coursework (20%) – a study of two texts linked by genre, movement, author
or period

William Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Geoffrey Chaucer and the post-2000 anthology Poems of the Decade are assessed for the drama and poetry examinations, respectively. Students explore prose by Mary Shelley and Margaret Atwood, considering the influence of science on literature across different time periods. Work by Alice Walker and Carol Ann Duffy is compared in a 3000 word essay on modern feminist literature for the coursework unit. In class, students take part in lively discussions and engage in creative writing to supplement and extend analytical work. Critical theory is an integral part of the course and provides opportunity for students to make wider political, social, and historical subject links. This is supported by a robust series of lectures at Sydenham High School’s Literary Society, which Sixth Form English Literature students attend to broaden their understanding of the literary world.

We frequently enjoy trips to the theatre, where A Level students are able to analyse productions of their examination texts. We organise study days for A Level students to access university style lectures to gain insight into the texts studied for their assessments. Moreover, the newly introduced English Master Class provides exciting workshop opportunities to hone analytical skills.

Our Literary Society is the department’s flagship club and encourages students to discover a range of texts outside of the A Level syllabus. Students attend a range of lectures on a wealth of topics. This year alone includes attending the live cinema screening “In conversation with Margaret Atwood”. Upper School Book Club, run by Sixth Form students, provides a less formal environment for literary discussion and is open to students from year 10 onwards. Writers’ Club allows students to experiment with different forms, share ideas, and enter their work in GDST and national competitions; students are also encouraged to try their hand at journalism through the Young Reporter Scheme. In addition, we are pleased to welcome visiting authors to school to run workshops and inspire students.

University and beyond
Studying English Literature develops a wide variety of skills, from close reading to arguing a range of interpretations. Analysing texts using critical approaches enables students to discuss universal themes, intricate plots and complex characters. English Literature courses at A Level and university appeal to students who are intrigued by the ways in which language is used to communicate, how language has evolved and how language is influenced by society. English acts as the basis for a whole spectrum of career options where communication and creativity is vital. Publishing and journalism, media and advertising, as well as law and business are just some of the possibilities a degree in English Literature opens up.

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