English Language and Literature
What is A-Level English Language and Literature?
You will explore language and literature in a variety of contexts, both literary and non-literary which will provide access to a wide-ranging degrees and careers.
You will have the opportunity to develop your subject expertise by engaging creatively and critically with a wide range of texts. Using literary and linguistic concepts and methods, you will analyse literary and non-literary texts in a range of modes and genres, in the process gaining insights into the nature of different texts and ideas about creativity.
In addition, you will also develop skills as a producer and interpreter of language by creating texts yourself and critically reflecting on your own processes of production.
What does the course consist of?
In the first year of the course, you will focus on three key areas; Imagined Worlds, Poetic Voices and People and Places.
Imagine Worlds: In this unit, you will be transported to the richly created imagined worlds of the fantasy genre. The focus of teaching and learning is guided by the set text choices, which have all been chosen for their accessibility and position as ideal vehicles for the application of your knowledge across these key areas. For example, this year we have studied Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, often cited as the novel that gave birth to the science fiction genre. By studying this text, you will explore how and why views and perspectives of different kinds are shaped and used in narratives, and how language choices help to shape the representations of different worlds and perspectives. Other texts available for Imagined Worlds include Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones.
Poetic Voices: As well as studying a set novel, you will also explore a range of poems taken from a single author collection, provided by the exam board in a poetry anthology. This allows you to understand how one poet can create multiple poetic voices through a range of both literary and language devices, as well as comparing similarities and differences across poems. This unit also allows you to study contemporary texts, written about issues that impact upon all of our lives. We have chosen to study Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, whose collection of poems, Mean Time, explore a range of human emotions and experiences.
People and Places: this unit will take you to Paris. In a unique anthology, provided by the exam board, you will study a wide range of both written and spoken texts from the Paris Anthology. This a collection of different types of texts, all focused upon impressions and connotations of the wonderful, creative city of Paris. Here, the focus is on close analysis of language choices and how they help to shape the representations of a place, achieve specific purposes and address an intended audience.
In the second year of the course, 20% of the A-Level will be made up of your own coursework, entitled Making Connections, as well as studying two further units: Dramatic Encounters and Writing About Society.
Making Connections: this element of the course allows you to complete your own investigation into an area of your own interest, assessed by a 3000 word piece of coursework, worth 20% of your overall marks. You will choose one literary and one non-literary text to compare, working independently to anlayse your chosen texts and write a sustained investigatory piece.
Dramatic Encounters: this unit will focus on the genre of drama and how playwrights create such dramatic encounters on the stage. You will study texts such as William Shakespeare’s Othello, focusing on the ways in which spoken dialogue and stagecraft have been wonderfully use to create one of the most tragic plays.
Writing About Society: here you will study texts such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, explore his presentation of 1920s American society, as well as his narrative style. You will then be expected to re-cast a section of the novel from a perspective of another character, testing not only your understanding of the text and Fitzgerald’s style, but also your creative flair and style.
Who does the subject suit?
Students who are interested in reading and find this a joy, rather than a chore, are a must. This needs to extend much further than novels; in order to study both English Language and Literature, you need an appreciation of both non-fiction texts, such as newspapers and travel writing, and the desire to explore poetry, plays and beyond. As essay writing forms such an integral part of this course, students who can form clear arguments and can come up with their own interpretations are required. This course also has an additional creative writing element, examined at both AS and A-Level. Students taking this course must therefore be open to taking creative risks and enjoy writing from different characters’ perspectives, as well as for varying audiences.
Who will teach me?
Kate Simpson has been both an English Language and English Literature teacher as GCSE and A-Level for a number of years, with a degree in English Literature from the University of Sheffield and Secondary English PGCE from Durham University. As well as teaching both the separate English Language and English Literature A-Levels, Kate teaches the combined A-Level English Language and Literature course.
What might the subject lead to?
Students who follow the course will enhance their powers of critical analysis, essay and creative writing. The investigation element of the coursework matches the skills needed for university study and dissertation writing in any arts or humanities discipline. As a result, this subject is fundamental in preparing students for many careers including Law, Business, the Media, Social Services, Personnel and Marketing. Past students are to be found in TV and journalism, commerce and finance, politics and the law. Indeed, with English ‘under your belt’, there is nothing you can’t do.