For those with a passion for the written word, the English Department runs AS and A2 English Language and English Literature (OCR) and English Literature (OCR).
The language and literature course begins with Speaking Voices– an externally-assessed written paper testing through passage-based and essay-based questions. It represents 60% of the marks for AS (30% of A Level). Texts studies range from Oranges are not the Only Fruit, The Remains of the Day, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, The Child in Time, A Handful of Dust and Persuasion.
Students soon become adept at combining literary and linguistic analysis while experiencing literature of the highest calibre. The remaining 40% of the AS course is Changing Texts which offers AS students the opportunity to further demonstrate these skills through analysing and producing multi-modal responses to texts. For example, in previous years, students have produced monologues in character, articles (one of which was actually published by a scientific news journal), graphic novels, transcripts. The joy if this element is the fact that students can be creative even while studying at the highest level prior to university.
During the A2 year, we switch to Dramatic Voices– at present Volpone by Ben Jonson and Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet. Taken together they represent the opportunity to explore and compare drama and contextual themes from the Jacobean and contemporary eras; a surprising but effective pairing.
The final quarter of this four-part A level enables further multi-modal analysis and expression. Connections across Texts last year offered students the opportunity to look at texts as diverse as The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat (Oliver Sachs), The Private Life of the Brain (Susan Greenfield) and The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins) in order to write a comparative analysis before embarking upon another creative writing task.
AS English Literature is divided between poetry and prose from 1800-1945. Poets and authors include: Robert Browning, Emily Dickinson, Edward Thomas, W.B. Yeats, Mary Shelley – Frankenstein, Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre, Henry James – The Turn of the Screw, Oscar Wilde – The Picture of Dorian Gray, Joseph Conrad – The Secret Agent and Virginia Woolf – Mrs Dalloway. Students choose from this group to inform examination and coursework. While these text choices inform examination preparation, students are also expected to produce a 3,000 word coursework portfolio including a comparative analysis and a re-creation. At A2, Drama and Poetry pre-1800 including a selection of Shakespeare texts (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Antony and Cleopatra, King Lear, The Tempest), as well as the drama element (John Ford – ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, Ben Jonson – Volpone, John Webster – The White Devil, Richard Brinsley Sheridan – The Rivals) and poetry Geoffrey Chaucer – The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale, John Milton – Paradise Lost Book Nine, Andrew Marvell – Selected Poems, William Blake – Songs of Innocence and Experience). The wealth and texture of these texts will enable students to go on and study literature at the most prestigious seats of learning. The final part of the A’ level, Texts in Time, further widens students’ reading experience. The aim of this unit is to encourage students to further develop research skills acquired at AS Level and to synthesise knowledge and understanding acquired through their studies in an extended individual study of literary texts across at least two of the genres of poetry, prose and drama. Students are required to cover three texts of their choice. This must include one prose and one poetry text. The third text can be from any genre. Texts can be selected from any period and also across periods, depending on your interests. This represents an excellent opportunity that, while challenging, would be extremely rewarding. Such a diverse course will also benefit from theatre trips whenever possible.
At present, we have a group studying English Language and Literature while a separate group focuses on pure literature. In 2013, we achieved 100% A*-C grade at A2.