Department Leader: Frances Dempster

The examination board for this qualification is AQA.

English Literature A’s historicist approach to the study of literature rests upon reading texts within a shared context. Working from the belief that no text exists in isolation but is the product of the time in which it was produced, English Literature A encourages students to explore the relationships that exist between texts and the contexts within which they are written, received and understood.

Students should be prepared to cover a whole range of concepts and ideas from the following topics:

In Year 12

  • An introduction to the historicist nature of studying literature.
  • A selection of poems from an Anthology ranging from poems of the 16th century to 1900.
  • A comparison of two short novels written in different time frames.  Currently students are working with The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  • A thorough analysis of a Shakespeare play.  Currently students are working with Othello.
  • Unseen prose analysis of texts based on the themes of love and relationships.

All these literature texts are based around the theme of Love through the Ages.
Students will complete a formal mock at the end of Year 12 based on this content.

In Year 13

The topics covered in Year 12 will be revised:

  • Othello
  • The Great Gatsby and pre-1900 poetry Anthology
  • Unseen prose appreciation

And the following new content will be added based on a ‘modern times’ unit:

  • An analysis of a collection of modern poetry.  Students are currently working with Owen Sheers’ collection Skirrid Hill.
  • Students will have to compare the representation in literature of modern life and identity through this poetry as well as one prose text and one drama text.  Currently students are working with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams and The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
  • Students will complete a unit on comparing unseen poetry from modern times.

Finally, students will need to complete a non-examined assessment (coursework) based on independent study of two literature texts.  One will be written before 1900.
There will be a formal mock in Term 3 to assess examination skills.  Students will sit two examinations in the summer session.  
This course is assessed with a mixture of two examinations and one internally assessed and externally moderated non-examined unit.

A full reading list will be provided.  Students should already be hearty readers with a genuine interest in literature.  The following website lists a huge range of books students can read as a supplement to the course reading:

In addition, students should be prepared to research literary criticism and theory.  There are lots of articles and summaries online.  Starting places might be:

Shmoop does a good summary of literary criticism in a very accessible style.  You can access the feminist criticism from here: but the site contains other theories too.

The ‘Universal Teacher’ website includes a number of tutorials and summaries relating to literary texts.  It can be accessed here:

Reading list



Sebastian Faulks

Birdsong, Charlotte Gray

Louis de Bernieres

Captain Corelli's Mandolin

Ian McEwan


Mal Peet


Linda Newberry

Sisterland, The Shell House

Aidan Chambers

Postcards from No Man’s Land

Joseph Heller

Catch 22

E M Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front

Lloyd Jones

Mr Pip

DM Thomas

The White Hotel



Science Fiction


Aldous Huxley

Brave New World

Isaac Asimov

I, Robot                                              

John Wyndham

Day of the Triffids

Ray Bradbury

Farenheit 451 

George Orwell


Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin

HG Wells

The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Kashuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go

Mary Shelley




Modern Life


Lionel Shriver

We need to talk about Kevin

Jodi Piccoult

My Sister’s Keeper, Nineteen Minutes      

Nick Hornby

High Fidelity, Fever Pitch, A Long Way Down, Slam

Alice Sebold

Lovely Bones

Mohsin Hamid

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Nicole Krauss

The History of Love

Jonathan Safran Foer

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns





Marc Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

Tom Sharpe

Wilt, Blott on the Landscape

Douglas Adams

Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Zadie Smith

White Teeth

Alexander McCall Smith

No 1 Ladies Detective Agency

Jasper Fforde

The Eyre Affair/ The Big Over Easy





Frederick Forsyth

The Day of the Jackal

John Grisham

The Client, The Chamber, The Firm

Iain Banks

The Wasp Factory

Ian McEwan

Enduring Love

Sarah Waters


Robert Ludlum

The Bourne Trilogy

Jed Rubenfeld

The Interpretation of Murder



Non Fiction


Julian Barnes

A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters

Joe Simpson

Touching the Void

Bill Bryson

Notes from a Small Island

George Orwell

Down and Out in Paris and London

Jung Chang

Wild Swans

Adeline Yen Mah

Falling Leaves, Chinese Cinderella





Lian Hearn

Across the Nightingale Floor

Phillip Pullman

His Dark Materials Trilogy

Terry Pratchett

Discworld Series

JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings

Yann Martel

The Life of Pi





Tracey Chevalier

Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Virgin Blue, Falling Angels,The Lion and the Unicorn, Burning Bright

Kate Mosse

Labrynthe, Sepulchre

Jennifer Donnolly

A Gathering Light

Bernard Cornwell

The Sharpe novels

C.S. Forester


Margaret Atwood

Alias Grace

Stef Penney

TheTenderness of Wolves





EM Forster

Room with a View, Howard’s End, A Passage to India

Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone, The Woman in White

Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre, Villette

Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights

Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Northanger Abbey etc

George Eliot

The Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch

Alexander Dumas

The Man in the Iron Mask

Thomas Hardy

Tess of the D’ubervilles, Far from the Madding Crowd etc

Harper Lee

To Kill a Mocking Bird



Cult Fiction


Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange

Jack Kerouac

On the Road

R M Pirsig

Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Douglas Coupland

Generation X

Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest

Albert Camus

The Outsider

JD Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye

F Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby

Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar

Useful websites   English and Media magazine  AQA Literature exam board site   British Library  The Globe  Project Guttenberg online books Great Expectations Voice of the Shuttle- a literature gateway maintained by the Uni of California

Any questions about this course can be directed to Mrs Johnson at or Ms Canham at 

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