A-Level English Literature at Winstanley College
Study of poetry - post 1900 two paired texts
(The Whitsun Weddings, Philip Larkin; Mean Time, Carol Ann Duffy)
Carol Ann Duffy, our current poet laureate, creates real emotional impact with vivid, inventive, sometimes quite surreal poetry that gives a voice to an array of characters, from monsters to underdogs. Philip Larkin, beloved in his day by both public and critics, is more ‘buttoned up’ emotionally, but tells his truths in a startlingly perceptive and skilful way. Both deal with the ‘big themes’: love, loss, ageing and finding meaning in our lives.
Study of drama - two paired texts pre-and post-1900
(The Duchess of Malfi, John Webster; A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams)
Webster, a near contemporary of Shakespeare, is renowned for his dark, brutal tragedies and none come gorier than this one, with its themes of madness, deception and revenge. Williams’ gut-punch depiction of a woman on the verge of destitution and insanity makes for an intriguing comparison, as both his and Websters’ heroines strive for independence in a violent, patriarchal world.
Study of prose
(Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys)
Rhys takes the creative genius of Jane Eyre and turns it on its head, giving the animalistic ‘madwoman in the attic’ of Bronte’s classic a voice, with great compassion and inventiveness. Fans of Rochester beware: he’s no hero in this novel!
Further Study of poetry
(Pre-1900; Post 1900 two paired texts)
(The Merchant’s Tale, Geoffrey Chaucer)
The Medieval world may seem light years away, yet Chaucer’s lively depiction of a foolish old man and his hasty marriage to a not so innocent young woman still entertains and poses questions about the supposedly eternal ‘battle of the sexes’.
Further study of drama
(One Shakespeare; two paired texts pre-and post-1900)
(The Tempest, William Shakespeare; The Duchess of Malfi and A Streetcar Named Desire)
Enter the topsy-turvy world of Shakespeare’s most intriguing of plays, set on a remote island, where monsters, fairies, magicians and a few humans eventually find love, forgiveness and freedom.
Unseen poetry (any period) and unseen prose from the period 1880-1910
Hone your skills to analyse anything from a sonnet to a sestina, a haiku to a ballad.
The late Victorian period is an enticing period of innovation, encompassing gothic horror, detective fiction, witty social comedy and psychological studies of women trapped in a patriarchal world.
Coursework: Comparative study of two prose texts
(One pre-2000, one post-2000)
(Wide Sargasso Sea and a post-2000 novel from a recommended list)
This is an opportunity to work independently on texts linked by common threads that have inspired and engaged you.
Where are they now?
Beth Ashton studied English Literature and went on to study English at the University of Leeds. She followed this with an MA in Journalism and has written freelance for a number of publications, including The Daily Telegraph. She is now Head of Social media at The Telegraph, and received an award for fundraising following the Manchester Dogs’ Home fire. She feels her success relates to being able to see new opportunities within the world of technology and social media. She still enjoys writing, particularly theatre and music reviews.
Learning outside the classroom
One to one tutorials
Lectures and talks
Workshops with visiting writers
Theatre visits, both locally and in London
Trips to places of literary/linguistic interest e.g. The British Library,
Study days e.g. visits to the Shakespeare Birthplace Institute in Stratford upon Avon
Stretch and Challenge sessions
Writers’ groups-poetry anthology, short story anthology, open mic sessions
Wide range of reviews/magazines/books available to borrow
We’ll ensure that you’re receiving all the help you need, for example you may benefit from working with a study support tutor or you may simply need help with organising your file. Sometimes students just need a bit of extra input on organising an essay, using quotations, or applying terminology and one to one help is available.
If you’re keen to continue with English at university you will receive help with choosing which university and which course is right for you. We’ll support your development of interview skills, recommend (and lend!) books and inspire you with enrichment activities which will look great on your personal statement or CV. We keep in touch with students studying English at a whole range of universities, and enjoy passing on what we learn from them to you. Students also visit and give first- hand information about what study at different institutions is like.
From school pupil to Winstanley student
The main thing we want from you for studying English Literature at A level is a genuine interest in literature in all its forms (poetry, drama and prose) and an enjoyment of reading. This means reading independently, and being willing to tackle texts of a range of different genres and from a range of different periods. You’ll be encouraged to develop your own views about books, and to read outside the specification.
If you come along for a taster day you’ll be given a reading list, which will hopefully prove useful and enjoyable.
How to apply
If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Winstanley College directly.