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English Literature A level at Truro and Penwith College

Course description

In Year 1 you will be introduced to dystopian fiction. A dystopia is a nightmarish society, and writers use this genre to comment on and criticise the society in which they write. You will study George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a terrifying vision of the future where everyone is controlled by an oppressive government. In Year 2 you will compare this to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a feminist dystopia which shares many themes with Orwell such as power and identity. In Year 1 you will also study Tennessee Williams’ 1940s play A Streetcar Named Desire; the 19th century poems of Christina Rossetti, including her most famous poem ‘Goblin Market’, and Shakespeare’s last solo play, The Tempest, which combines magic and innovative theatrical spectacle with political commentary on Renaissance society. In Year 2, in addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, you will study Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, a 19th century play with an ending so controversial Ibsen had to rewrite it in order to have it performed in Germany! In Year 2 you will also write two pieces of coursework. You will have a large degree of independence in your choice of texts and tasks.

The AS is a separate qualification. However, at the end of Year 1, all students will sit the AS exams. The content of Year 1 of the A Level is identical to the content of the AS and taking the AS exams means you will have a realistic idea of your progress so far on the A Level. Further, you will gain a qualification even if you decide not to continue to Year 2. In addition, universities have said they will find AS grades helpful when making course offers.

Course content

Unit 1: Drama and Poetry pre-1900 (examined unit - 2 hours 30) – 40%

Section A: an exploration of one Shakespeare play: The Tempest (studied in Year 1)

Section B: a comparative study of poetry and drama: Selected Poems, Christina Rossetti (studied in Year 1) and A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen (studied in Year 2)

Unit 2: Comparative and Contextual Study (examined unit - 2 hours 30) – 40%

Section A: analysis of an unseen extract from dystopian fiction

Section B: a comparative study of Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell (already studied in Year 1) and The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

Unit 3: Content of Literature post 1900 (coursework) – 20%

Assignment A: close reading of an extract from a text (e.g. Streetcar) (1000 words)

Assignment B: comparative essay on two texts (2000 words)

Entry requirements

The basic requirement is five GCSEs at grade C with a grade B for English Language and English Literature (Higher Level). You must enjoy reading!


Your achievement in this subject is dependent upon excellent attendance and effort. You will learn in a friendly and safe atmosphere, using a variety of assessment methods:

You will be assessed on written essay work which will be completed either as homework or under timed conditions in class and you will be given constructive feedback on your progress;

Class discussions are a vital part of our assessment process and you will be encouraged to contribute;

You will review your own performance in 1:1 sessions with your lecturer;

You will undertake mock examinations on each unit in advance of your final exams;

You will be formally examined on each unit that you study. The examinations are traditional and essay-based, and are sat at the end of the second year, although mock exams will be administered at the end of the first year to ensure progress. In addition, as stated above, you will sit the AS exams at the end of Year 1 of the A Level. Coursework in the second year is compulsory

Future opportunities

A qualification in English Literature is highly valued by universities and employers and many university courses welcome an A Level in English Literature.

Further information

We encourage all students to read widely beyond the course and we aim to foster independence. We will provide suggested reading lists, in particular for the unit on Dystopian Fiction. If you are interested in studying English at university then you can join our English Academy which runs in the second year. In the first term you will be provided with support on all aspects of your university application from course choice to personal statement writing; in the later terms you will be introduced to a range of texts and literary movements which go beyond the A Level curriculum, in order to prepare you for first year at university.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Truro and Penwith College directly.

Last updated date: 15 June 2016

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