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A Level English Literature

(32 Posts)
lemonsorbet1 Sun 12-Jul-20 13:46:37

Hello. I’d be very grateful for thoughts from any teachers of English Literature A Level or parents of those of who have recently studied it. Dd has chosen A Level English Literature as one of her subjects next year. She really enjoyed English Lit GCSE (particularly the plays and poetry) and did well in the assessments and class work. Hopefully she should receive a decent grade in August. She’s keen to do A Level but I am concerned that she doesn’t do much ‘reading around’ the subject. Clearly A Level is a huge step up and she is aware she will have to do much more than just read the set texts. So, in order to start this process, which books would you recommend she read (or listen to on audible) before the start of the course? Exam board is Edexcel. Thank you for any suggestions.

OP’s posts: |
clary Sun 12-Jul-20 13:58:38

I would look at the spec and read the books on there. Can you find out which books they study? For example if they do Handmaids Tale, could she read other work by Margaret Atwood?

Dd did eng lit. One thing she had to do (different board) was a special piece on a book of her choice - she looked at female characters in Donna Tartt's Secret History. What might inspire your Dd?

lemonsorbet1 Sun 12-Jul-20 14:05:10

Thank you. She’d study A Streetcar Named Desire, A Thousand Splendid Suns etc so we’re starting with other books by the same authors. Would you recommend reading the set texts before she starts as well as others by the same authors? I suppose I didn’t want her to go too early on the set texts themselves as they’ll be studying them for a while.

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SerenityNowwwww Sun 12-Jul-20 14:08:25

Has the school sent a reading list? We have one - I’ll send a copy of you are interested. Lots of good stuff on there.

SerenityNowwwww Sun 12-Jul-20 14:09:47

I’d recommend she ploughs through a variety of books to keep her ‘reading’ up. Also for fun - read a book then watch a good film version and see what was changed/was it better - pick it apart.

lemonsorbet1 Sun 12-Jul-20 14:14:11

Thank you Serenity, reading list would be great and that’s a great idea about book then film. I guess I was looking for ideas of things a widely read student should be reading rather than just what’s on the spec. But I guess at this stage, it’s about getting back in to reading having done nothing for months! Thank you all.

OP’s posts: |
clary Sun 12-Jul-20 14:18:44

Can't do any harm to read the set texts surely. What Shakespeare? Find some film versions and watch those?

Just asked DD and she says for sure read the actual texts; also if she is doing a Shakespeare tragedy, read other tragedies, ditto for a comedy.

SerenityNowwwww Sun 12-Jul-20 14:20:38

Things Fall Apart/No Longer at Ease/A Man of the People – Chinua Achebe The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga
The Oresteia – Aeschylus, translated by Ted Hughes
The Handmaid’s Tale/The Testaments – Margaret Atwood
The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov The Stranger—Albert Camus
The Awakening – Kate Chopin
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
David Copperfield/Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
The Great Gatsby – Scott Fitzgerald
Madame Bovary—Gustave Flaubert
The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories – Charlotte Perkins Gilman Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes Were Watching God—Zora Neale Hurston
Daisy Miller/ The Aspern Papers – Henry James
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce Metamorphosis—Franz Kafka
Motherless Brooklyn – Jonathan Lethem
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy
Moby-Dick/Billy Budd—Herman Melville
Cry, the Beloved Country—Alan Paton
The Chosen—Chaim Potok
Close Range – Annie Proulx
The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
Three Theban Plays – Sophocles, translated by Robert Fagles East of Eden – John Steinbeck
Anna Karenina/The Death of Ivan Ilych – Leo Tolstoy
Candide, or Optimism – Francois Voltaire
Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

SerenityNowwwww Sun 12-Jul-20 14:21:26

You can probably get a load of these on eBay but I’m not certain which versions are best!

Bakedpotatoandgin Sun 12-Jul-20 14:21:50

Hi, I did A level English lit not too long ago (and now tutor it). I'd recommend reading the set texts this summer, not making notes or anything, just to enjoy them first. If she can find a theatre production of the plays on video, so much the better! Also she could find out what era her unseen paper is from and read some stuff from there. If she's not done much reading for a while though, to start off just reading anything she fancies (even YA stuff/ old children's books, which aren't "lesser") is good. I also advise my tutees to get into the habit of reading a broadsheet/ higher quality opinion articles online, to improve their writing style.

clary Sun 12-Jul-20 14:22:33

The Yellow Wallpaper is so brilliant

Namechangex10000 Sun 12-Jul-20 14:22:46

I loved English literature and language at school....I wish more than anything I hadn’t followed it to a level, surely the enjoyment is dependent on her interest in the particulars studied? I actually did Margaret Atwood st a level and I couldn’t stand it. At school I did of mice and men and blood brothers which were entirely different kettle a fish! The year below me studied Harry Potter st school. I’m sure many of them enjoyed it but wouldn’t enjoy Margaret Atwood so much. God they were some of the most depressing years of my life. Sorry. I know that’s not really the question you asked I guess I’m just pointing out something which could make a difference

SerenityNowwwww Sun 12-Jul-20 14:25:48

I did it for higher and DH did it for degree. We both enjoyed it - horses for courses and I think it depends on the teacher too!

lemonsorbet1 Sun 12-Jul-20 14:47:46

Thank you all so much! Really helpful comments. Will buy the books, download on audible and look for plays and films.

OP’s posts: |
thesunwillout Sun 12-Jul-20 14:49:20

Hi just asked DD who did a level English lit this yr, and she said she didn't find it a huge step up from GCSE.
Found the poetry easier because you don't have to learn as much off by heart.
She's a big literature fan, works at an A mostly.

She says the modules in terms of what you learn, 1st year 2 plays, streetcar (modern) and The Duchess of Malfi (historic type). She had questions in mocks comparing the two plays.

Then, during the second half of the first year her class started reading One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

In second year she got to choose from two modern novels to write coursework on - this coursework was a 2500-3000 word essay comparing Cuckoo's Nest with her chosen novel. She also studied Hamlet in second year, with nothing to compare it with - it was a standalone text.

Poetry wise, in first year she studied Philip Larkin and Carol Ann Duffy's poetry, so she read the anthologies of each poet. In the exam you were allowed to take a clean copy of the anthology which meant she didn't have to learn each poem off by heart. In second year she learnt more about unseen poetry, so she was taught how to analyse poetry she'd never seen before.

Disclaimer, DD took over and wrote the majority of the above.


CorianderLord Sun 12-Jul-20 14:50:00

Hi, I took my A level in English in 2013 if it helps. I went on to do an Ma and undergrad in the subject.

At A level I'd say she doesn't need to do reading around. So long as she reads the set texts and applies herself to researching around the essay topics when set then she'll be fine.

It's not like undergrad where you need to be aware outside of the focused scope. Reading for fun over summer and watching some of the film versions should set her up well.

If she's capable and puts her mind to the task and goes to all her classes I'd say she'll do fine.

Somehow I managed to pass an A level essay despite not fully reading the book blush

SeasonFinale Sun 12-Jul-20 15:02:11

I think rather than reading just the same author (unless they are genre specific) then read books within the same genre so if doing Gothic read other gothic novels or dystopian read other dystopian. Then she will be able to introduce comparisons into her essays but for now I would leave the set texts so that she isn't sick of them by the end of 2 years.

Abe Books is a great website for 2nd hand books. Sometimes only £2.50 including postage.

estherfrewen Sun 12-Jul-20 16:30:41

My DS doing A level as well from September. They haven't been told set books - am thinking they won't want kids getting bored of them! He has lots of transition work with numerous different tasks - some long some v short and had to do an essay on the Great Gatsby. He has read a fair few different books since March. He hated the Handmaids Tale. Loved Dorian Grey, Fathers and Sons, Great Gatsby, Catch 22. I did English degree so have a lot of books he can plough through. Am going to try him with the Yellow Wallpaper next...

Bakedpotatoandgin Sun 12-Jul-20 17:13:57

Yess The Yellow Wallpaper is amazing

SerenityNowwwww Mon 13-Jul-20 07:52:01

Not on the list but slaughterhouse 5 is a good read.

lemonsorbet1 Mon 13-Jul-20 07:56:52

That’s all so helpful thank you everyone. I’ll have another good read of all your posts today and come up with a strategy with dd!
Thank you so much 😊

OP’s posts: |
Ethelswith Mon 13-Jul-20 08:21:09

She might like to have a look at a good introduction to lit crit.

Try Seven Types of Ambiguity by Empson, or any one of the many 'Introduction to' books for literary criticism/theory

I'd also recommend Changing Places, and Small World by David Lodge. Also 'The British Museum is Falling Down (as each chapter is in a different literary style - not intrusive enough to get in the way of the story, so it doesn't matter if you don't get it, but another way to look at writing style)

Pythonesque Mon 13-Jul-20 13:32:07

Check whether your local library can provide ebook loans. Older stuff you can often get electronically for free. It's great to have physical books to read but also great to be always able to find the next book without having to buy it or wait for the library. I know my daughter's reading a lot online (yr 12).

boredboredboredboredbored Wed 15-Jul-20 20:35:10

Dd starts A-level lit in September. First year they're doing Handmaids Tale & George Orwell's 1984. Second year it's Shakespeare & poetry.

totallyyesno Wed 15-Jul-20 20:40:35

Just wanted to add that a lot of these books and audio books can be borrowed for free from your local library. I wouldn't buy them unless you know what edition they are expected to read. Also, I did Alevel English a long time ago and we were all encouraged to read the bible as it helps put so much in context - still good advice I think.

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