There is a wealth of evidence which shows that students who are widely read, achieve higher grades than those who do not. Past experience here at Samuel Whitbread has proved that, in English Literature (and Language) at A Level, there is a clear correlation between the breadth of reading a student has undertaken and ultimate grades. Shockingly, every year, there are students who opt to study English at A Level who claim not to read at all . Without fail, these students struggle to accomplish the written tasks to the same standard as their peers who are keen readers of a variety of texts.
The benefits of reading are huge: not only does it increase your fluency in spelling, punctuation and grammar (since you unconsciously pick up correct English usage) but also you are exposed to a wide range of writing forms and styles. For example, you will find it extremely difficult to analyse the similarities and differences in different texts if you have no experience of different styles and genres. Similarly, you need to read historical articles and critical theory to enhance your argument and achieve the higher bands in your coursework.
You will be given a list of set texts to answer for your coursework question and the exam. However, the more confident you are with the different writing techniques and narrative structures, the easier you will find comparing, analysing and re-creating texts. If you intend to go on to University, whatever your course, then you will be expected to read widely in order to increase your subject knowledge.
It really is foolish to embark upon an English course with the attitude that “I’m not really a reader” – NOW is the time to change that and become one. The tasks you are expected to undertake are designed so that you will encounter a range of genres and build a portfolio fiction beyond the range you have encountered so far; furthermore, you will be expected to research and collate contextual and critical readings of texts.
Your teachers WILL check you have undertaken these tasks and this will highlight your commitment to the course.
Enjoy your reading, have a happy holidays!
Essay Texts and Topics Complete ONE of these essay questions based on your reading of ONE of the texts. Your essay must not exceed 1500 words and should include information regarding the social, cultural and historical context of when the texts were produced. You must include quotations, analyse the language and explore the different responses of the reader. Finally, try to include literary terms in your analysis (please see Glossary of Poetic and Literary Terms).
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- How does Gatsby represent the American dream? What does the novel have to say about the condition of the American dream in the 1920s?
- Compare and contrast Gatsby and Tom. How are they alike? How are they different?
Beloved by Toni Morrison
- Discuss the ways in which beloved conveys the threat or presence of death.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
- Explain Williams’ use of motifs, names and stage directions. How does that help our understanding of the characters?
- Compare the relationships between Brick, Maggie, Big Daddy and Big Momma throughout the play. How are they alike? How are they different?
Introduction to Literary Criticism – these tasks are OPTIONAL For this section, you need to read, then print and keep, a selection of literary criticism in a portfolio. You will be expected to produce this for your teacher. You should continue to add to this as the course progresses.
- Read ‘Schulz: Why I Despise The Great Gatsby’ by Kathryn Schulz. Highlight and summarise the main points of her argument: http://www.vulture.com/2013/05/schulz-on-the-great-gatsby.html
- Read ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Tennessee Williams’s southern discomfort’ by Michael Billington and explain his views on previous stage adaptations of the play: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2012/sep/30/cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof
- Read ‘The Literary Merits of Potter’ by Ryan Britt. Highlight and summarise the main elements of both sides of the argument presented. Furthermore, post a comment at the bottom of the webpage explaining your opinion of whether ‘Harry Potter’ should be considered as English Literature: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2011/06/genre-in-the-mainstream-the-literary-merits-of-potter
- Research and collate two separate pieces of literary criticism on your favourite novel.
- Find at least one piece of literary criticism for each of the set texts for the course.