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.

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

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 Atonement
Mal Peet Tamar
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 1984
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 Frankenstein
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 Fingersmith
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 Hornblower
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

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