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English Literature A Level (AQA) at Allerton Grange School

Course description

The AQA A level in English literature course encourages you to develop your interest in and enjoyment of literature and literary studies. You will:

  • read widely and independently both set texts and others that you have selected for yourself
  • engage critically and creatively with a variety of texts and ways of responding to them
  • develop and effectively apply your knowledge of literary analysis and evaluation
  • explore the contexts of the texts you are reading and others’ interpretations of them
  • undertake independent studies to deepen your appreciation and understanding of English literature, including its changing traditions.

It provides you with an introduction to the discipline of advanced literary studies and presents opportunities for reading widely and for making creative and informed responses to each of the major literary genres of poetry, prose and drama.

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 you to explore the relationships that exist between texts and the contexts within which they are written, received and understood. Studying texts within a shared context enables you to investigate and connect them, drawing out patterns of similarity and difference using a variety of reading strategies and perspectives. English Literature A encourages you to debate and challenge the interpretations of other readers as you develop your own informed personal responses.

Course content

The course is split into a variety of components, two of which are assessed by exam (totalling 80% of the course) and the third is coursework (worth 20%).

Unit 1: Love Through the Ages

The aim of this topic area is to encourage you to explore aspects of a central literary theme as seen over time, using unseen material and set texts. You will read texts from a range of authors and times: one poetry and one prose text, of which one must be written pre-1900, and one Shakespeare play. You will also respond to two unseen poems in the exam. Areas you might explore include: romantic love; love and sex; love and loss; social conventions and taboos; jealousy and guilt; truth and deception; proximity and distance; marriage; approval and disapproval.


Core set texts:


You will study one of the following Shakespeare plays:

  • Othello
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • Measure for Measure
  • The Winter’s Tale



You will study one of the following prose texts:

  • Jane Austen Persuasion
  • Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre
  • Emily Brontë Wuthering Heights
  • Kate Chopin The Awakening
  • Thomas Hardy Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby
  • E.M. Forster A Room with a View
  • L.P. Hartley The Go-Between
  • Daphne Du Maurier Rebecca
  • Ian McEwan Atonement



An Anthology of love poetry through the ages: either pre-1900 or post 1900



Unit 2: Texts in shared contexts: Modern times: literature from 1945 to the present day


In this topic area you will explore aspects of literature connected through literature from 1945 to the present day. You will take the end of WW2 as your historical starting point and explore both modern and contemporary literature’s engagement with some of the social, political, personal and literary issues which have helped to shape the latter half of the 20th century and the early decades of the 21st century.


You will study three texts: one prose, one poetry and one drama text, at least one of which must be written post-2000. You will also respond to an unseen extract in the exam.




Areas that you could explore include: wars and the legacy of wars; personal and social identity; changing morality and social structures; gender, class, race and ethnicity; political upheaval and change; resistance and rebellion; imperialism, post-imperialism and nationalism; engagement with the social, political, personal and literary issues which have helped to shape the latter half of the 20th century and the early decades of the 21st century.


Section A: Core set texts

You will study at least one of the six core set texts listed below:


Margaret Atwood The Handmaid’s Tale

Graham Swift Waterland


Caryl Churchill Top Girls

Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire


Carol Ann Duffy Feminine Gospels (post-2000)

Owen Sheers Skirrid Hill (post-2000)


Section B: Chosen comparative set texts

You will study two texts. These texts can be taken from the following list:


Michael Frayn Spies (post-2000)

Ken Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Arundhati Roy The God of Small Things

Kathryn Stockett The Help (post-2000)

Alice Walker The Color Purple

Jeanette Winterson Oranges are not the Only Fruit

Richard Yates Revolutionary Road


Brian Friel Translations

Arthur Miller All My Sons

Timberlake Wertenbaker Our Country’s Good

Tennessee Williams Cat on a Hot Tin Roof


Tony Harrison Selected Poems 2013 Edition

Seamus Heaney New Selected Poems

Ted Hughes Birthday Letters

Sylvia Plath Ariel



Unit 3 Independent critical study: texts across time

In Texts across time, you will write a comparative critical study of two texts. Texts across time provides a challenging and wide-ranging opportunity for independent study. You will be encouraged to develop your own interests from your own wider and independent reading.

You will write a comparative critical study of two texts on a theme of your choice.

Possible themes include, but are not limited to:

  • the struggle for identity
  • crime and punishment
  • minds under stress
  • nostalgia and the past
  • the gothic
  • satire and dystopia
  • war and conflict
  • representations of race and ethnicity
  • representations of sexuality
  • representations of women
  • representations of men
  • representations of social class and culture



Entry requirements

Applications are considered on an individual basis but subject areas have their own entry requirements. As a guide you will normally be expected to have achieved a minimum of the following:

Level 3 courses - a good range of GCSEs from grade 4 - 9 including a grade 4 in English and Maths or the equivalent at BTEC level.

Level 2 courses - 2 grade 3s at GCSE

Specific entry requirements for this course are as follows:

You should have at least a minimum GCSE English Language and Literature grade 5. You should also have an enthusiasm to read, investigate and write your own texts, as well as persistence in redrafting to ensure your work meets the highest standards.


Three examinations and a piece of coursework form the assessments for A’ Level English Literature.

Unit 1 Assessment

  • A written exam: 3 hours
  • 40% of A-level
  • Questions
  • Section A: Shakespeare: one passage-based question with linked essay
  • Section B: Unseen poetry: compulsory essay question on two unseen poems
  • Section C: Comparing texts: one essay question linking two texts


Unit 2 Assessment

  • written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • 40% of A-level
  • Questions
  • Section A: Set texts. One essay question on set text
  • Section B: Contextual linking: one compulsory question on an unseen extract,one essay question linking two texts


Unit 3 Assessment

  • 20% of A-level
  • assessed by teachers & moderated by AQA

Financial information

There are no costs associated with this course.

Future opportunities

English Literature prepares you for the workplace, or for a wide range of courses in Higher Education. It is particularly relevant to courses in literary studies, linguistics, journalism, media studies and modern foreign languages, as well as being useful for law, history and politics. English Literature is one of the A levels recognised by the Russell Group of Universities as a ‘facilitating subject’. The skills and appreciation of literature that you acquire during this A Level course will last you for the rest of your life!

How to apply

You can apply for this course through UCAS Progress. Add this course to your favourites so you can start making an application.

Last updated date: 11 October 2017
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