English Literature

Exam Board

Additional Entry Requirements

Grade 6 in both GCSE English literature and English language, and grade 5 in mathematics

Course Content

Why English literature?
You will develop an appreciation of how writers shape meaning across a range of texts such as poetry, drama (including Shakespeare), novels and short stories. You will be able to assess how texts are influenced over time by historical, literary and cultural factors.
Our students have gone on to study English literature or an English-related degree course at a range of well-respected universities. Many will combine their study of literature with another subject and some will choose to go on to study other subjects at university that require similar skills, such as history, philosophy or law. Students studying literature at Woodhouse are likely to achieve final grades well above the national average.
You’ll take trips to the Globe and West End productions, attend lecture days with university professors, and experience cinema screenings of drama productions. We’ll also provide students with creative opportunities for collaborative work using video and drama, and poetry and design competitions.
Course content
You will study texts from medieval Chaucer through to Shakespeare and revenge drama, as well as more contemporary poetry and prose. You will explore a range of styles from Gothic fiction to 17th century Jacobean drama. Your examined units will focus on Shakespeare and drama pre-1900 and comparing a classic Gothic novel with Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. Class discussions explore a range of adult themes such as forbidden desire, adultery, revenge, gender and power. In addition, you will complete two coursework assignments, one on a modern play and the other comparing 20th century poetry with a modern novel.
Mark scheme
Exam - 2 hours 30 mins - 40%
3 questions, closed text - 60 marks
Drama and poetry pre-1900
  • Shakespeare’s The Tempest
  • The Merchant’s Tale by Chaucer
  • The Duchess of Malfi
Exam - 2 hours 30 mins - 40%
1 of 3 questions, closed text - 60 marks
Comparative study
  • Dracula or Frankenstein and The Bloody Chamber
Coursework - 20%
40 Marks - 15 for play, 25 for comparative essay
Literature post -1900
  • Close reading or re-creative: Jerusalem play by Jez Butterworth
  • Comparative essay on poetry and modern novel (teacher choice)

Frequently Asked Questions

Please click on the headings below.

What does the coursework involve?

Your first piece of coursework is a 1000 word close analysis or re-creative piece. The re-creative piece involves writing an extra part of a play, emulating the style of the playwright. Your second piece of coursework is a 2000 word essay, comparing prose and poetry. Some text combinations we study are: Langston Hughes’ poetry and Jazz by Toni Morrison, Wilfred Owen’s poetry and Regeneration by Pat Barker and E. E. Cummings’ poetry and the short stories of Annie Proulx. There are also other combinations.
Your 2 coursework pieces combined are worth 20% of the course. The exams are worth 80% of the course.

Which texts will we study?

In the first year, you will study the following set exam texts: William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. You will also study your first coursework text, Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem.You will also study a Gothic Unseen module, which is skills based and assesses your knowledge of the Gothic genre and your close analysis skills.
In the second year, you will study and compare the following set exam texts: Chaucer’sThe Merchant’s Tale and Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi. You will also write your second piece of coursework and this will be based on texts of your teacher’s choice.

How many students will there be in a class?

There should be a maximum of 24 students in your class. Often, there are less than this.

How many teachers will I have?

You will have one or two teachers, depending on the class you are in. This is the same in the first and second years of the course.

What sorts of things will we do in lessons?

You will take part in a variety of activities and tasks during English literature lessons. There will be plenty of whole class, small group and paired discussions and debates. You will be expected to contribute your ideas to whole class discussions and your teacher will ask you questions about what you think. There will be lots of close analysis of texts, studying of the historical and social contexts of your texts and consideration of different interpretations of your texts. We will consider critical responses and different productions of your texts, watching clips and films of the ways directors and actors have brought your texts to life.
We will do short writing tasks in lessons to get you prepared for writing at speed and in timed conditions in an exam. There will be a mixture of teacher assessment, peer assessment and self-assessment to help you build confidence with the success criteria and to build your knowledge of how to write effectively at A level. We will also look at model answers and give you plenty of examples to follow in your work. There will also be lots of opportunities to be creative, including making infographics, videos and drama pieces in groups.

What sort of support can I get in English literature?

Your teachers will be available to help you. You can always talk to them in a lesson or contact them via email to arrange a 1:1 appointment. We are here to help. The College also runs a subject tutorial system on Thursday afternoons, where you can see your teachers 1:1 to ask questions or go through your work. There will also be support group tutorials that you might be asked to attend.

How will I be stretched and challenged in English literature?

Your teachers will differentiate lessons so that you are stretched and challenged in class. You will also be given challenging critical reading to complete and independent work every week. You might be asked to lead a part of a lesson or to lead a group tutorial for other students. We have groups/clubs you can join to challenge your knowledge of literature, including a Gothic Book Club. We also run weekly challenge subject tutorials to push your knowledge of texts beyond the curriculum. As part of this, we invite in guest speakers, often university professors, to deliver lectures on your texts.

How much reading is there?

There is a lot of reading! You will be expected to read your set texts in your own time by particular dates and you will be set regular critical reading as part of your homework or independent work. Sometimes we do silent reading in lessons, but this is often of texts outside of the syllabus, to develop your knowledge of different genres.

Will I go on any trips?

Yes, we do our best every year to take students on trips. In the past couple of years these have involved a trip to the V&A Museum to watch a screening of the coursework text Jerusalem, other relevant theatre trips, visits to the British Library to see different exhibitions and visits to lecture days or guest lectures to build your knowledge of the curriculum.

What sort of careers can English literature lead to?

English literature is a very well-respected A level that can be studied in combination with a variety of other subjects in order to study a range of degrees. It is also a flexible degree choice and students who take English literature at undergraduate level enter a variety of professions, including: law, publishing, advertising, education, teaching, medicine and many more. There are different conversion courses that you can take after an English degree to move into professions such as law and medicine.
The Compton School
"I enjoy the opportunity for open discussion and being able to bounce ideas off of other people. I like being able to really unpick a text and get inside an author's mind and understand why they wrote that particular text and what ideas they wanted to propose.
I’ve applied to study law at university. English literature will be an invaluable asset to me because it gives me the ability to express my ideas and arguments fluently, analyse them deeply - and the opportunity to formulate my own convincing argument.
My secondary school was right next to Woodhouse and I aspired to come here because it appeared to be a fresh, mature, challenging place that would help me bridge the gap between secondary school and university. I like the independence it gives you… here you are treated as an adult."
The Archer Academy
"I chose to study English Literature because I wanted to understand what goes on beneath the surface of books, poems and plays. I enjoy the creative freedom in the lessons. The teachers allow us to pursue many different analyses, not restricting us to the syllabus. I have applied to read history at university, but studying English literature has given me some valuable skills, such as convincing essay writing and argument proposition.
I chose to come to Woodhouse in the knowledge that it would encourage and support my application to the University of Oxford. I like the emphasis on academic achievement, but also intellectual development, with classes often veering off the beaten track."
JFS - Jewish Free School
"What is most enjoyable in English literature lessons for me is exploring different texts, their contexts that establish their meaning and what lies beneath. Talking to my peers and discussing different viewpoints and ideas are central to the lessons. Not only do we learn what is necessary for the syllabus, but are exposed to new ideas.
English literature holds a prominent place in my future. It has always been the subject I wanted to take at university and I have applied for it. My interest started from reading and escapism, and as I learnt how to understand how an author is able to create something that we can escape into, it became a favourite task of mine to analyse texts and explore the different approaches.
I came to Woodhouse from a predominantly Jewish school and wanted a change - to be exposed to people that weren't just from my background. The relaxed college environment where teachers treat you like an adult spoke out to me. There are many things I like here; the way teachers will support you indefinitely and help you to achieve your best, the size of the college - which allows you to meet loads of different people. I have felt supported every step of the way with my Cambridge application which shows how much the college wants us to succeed."

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