A Level English Literature Course

Ashbourne’s English Literature A level course teachers and students show genuine love and enthusiasm for the subject helping to make it one of our top performing courses.

A level English Literature at Ashbourne

Studying A level English literature feeds the imagination. It allows you to travel back in time, share the experiences of others, take on new perspectives, explore ideas, beliefs and values, challenge or discover your own and learn the literary skills to express yourself in original and creative ways through dialogue, argument, prose and poetry. The analytical, interpretative and discursive skills you develop by studying literature will also prove excellent preparation for university. A level English Literature is a highly regarded qualification by universities.

The English department at Ashbourne gave me a completely new perspective on literature and created safe spaces for ideas to be presented, explored and challenged, allowing for exciting literary discussions to take place. The teachers offered a broader and extra-curricular approach to Literature which greatly prepared me for my academic studies at university.


Ashbourne’s A level English Literature students cover a broad range of topics making for an extremely lively and engaging classroom environment and which have contributed towards our students sweeping up CIFE academic awards for Humanities. Students are encouraged to take part in an ongoing wider reading project, attend poetry readings and get involved in Ashbourne’s annual Revue to show their artistic talents.

Ashbourne’s superb location in the heart of London also makes it ideal for students who wish to enjoy the excellent variety of shows, events and exhibitions on offer as well as using the outstanding libraries and bookshops close by.

I am very indebted to not only my subject teachers but Ashbourne as a whole. It’s not just trying to get an A*, it helps you find a passion for English and getting strong grades without losing the love for the subject.

Andrew, A* English, Drama A* and History A, studying English Literature at Cambridge University

Beyond A level English Literature

With your excellent communication skills, wily use of language and creative flair you could write a block buster novel, set up your own publishing house or online media platform, produce scripts for film, theatre and TV, perform gritty, hard-hitting poetry, go undercover in the world of etymology, teach speech, act on the fringe or hit broadway, create lyrics for pop stars, start a revolution, get on your soapbox, set up global campaigns and much more. Add business acumen and political nous and your career pathways could open even further.

English Literature is a highly regarded A level that can take students onto almost any course of study. It is an obvious choice for English degree courses but is also an excellent option for those considering arts and humanities subjects, languages, business and law.

Which syllabus do we follow?

Ashbourne follows the Edexcel specification for A level English Literature.

What is covered in the course?

The A level course comprises three main components: drama, prose and poetry; plus coursework.

Poems of the Decade (An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry 2002–2011) offers students an eclectic mix of contemporary prize-winning poetry to pore over by familiars such as Simon Armitage, Seamus Heaney and Andrew Motion and less conventional poets as Tim Turnbull, Daljit Nagra, George Szirtes and Patience Agbabi.

TS Eliot Selected Poems include celebrated works such as The Waste Land and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. TS Eliot was a distinguished poet, literary critic, editor and publisher who help define twentieth century poetry.

Students reflect on the issues and choices of these modern-day poets and examine poetic form, content and meaning, analysing links and connections between the poems. They will also explore a variety of themes within the poems.

Importance of Being Earnest is Oscar Wilde’s farcical comedy about the duplicitous character known both as Jack and Ernest whose antics and romantic aspirations make light of serious Victorian conventions and etiquette. The plot winds and twists until finally it reveals Jack as truly being Ernest in the end.

King Lear is Shakespeare’s bleak story of a king who splits his kingdom between his two self-serving daughters, forsaking his youngest and truest of heart. His decision drives him mad and wreaks havoc across the land bringing conflict, suffering and despair.

The first known performance of this Shakespeare play was in 1606.

Students explore form and the use of literary and dramatic devices in shaping meanings. They will also analyse the significance and influence of contextual factors (social, cultural, political and historical) and engage with different interpretations of the plays.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a dystopian novel set in the fictional totalitarian society of Gilead. In this futuristic world women have been stripped of their rights by an ultra-conservative Christian movement and any behaviour falling outside of the rigid social structure and strict rules is meet with violent repression.

The novel have been interpreted as a social and political protest against the rise of Christian fundamentalist and right-wing views held in the US during the 1980s.

Mary Shelley’s classic Gothic horror Frankenstein is a story about a mad scientist whose attempt to play God instead unleashes a monster. The novel is considered a forerunner of the genre, fusing science with fiction to depict the ruthless and reckless pursuit of knowledge. It captured contemporary fears, which remain ever relevant today, of what could happen when ideas are taken too far.

Mary Shelley started writing the novel, which she subtitled The Modern Prometheus, in 1818 when she was 18 years old. It is one of her best-know works. She was the daughter of political philosopher William Godwin and philosopher and women’s right campaigner Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women.

The coursework, based on the student’s own selection of a text, is internally assessed and externally moderated.

Who teaches the course?

Danielle Grover
PhD English Literature (University of Southampton); MA English Literature (University of Warwick); PGCE Secondary English (Durham University)

Danielle loves English literature, particularly 18th Century novels, and brings her enthusiasm and knowledge to the classroom to inspire her students. She has plenty of experience teaching and has presented her own research at conferences abroad and in published articles in the UK and internationally, which she shares with her students to inspire and engage.

Abigail Pillai

BA English; PGCE Secondary English (UCL)

Abigail is enthusiastic to share how English literature and language can engender empathy, provide a platform for many voices and empower both the author and reader. Her teaching experience and passion for the subject have been instrumental in helping students achieve excellent results

Lauren Vanderhurst Moorley

MA English: Issues in Modern Culture (University College London); BA Hons English Literature (University of California, Santa Barbara); PGCE (Institute of Education, UCL)

Lauren’s love and enthusiasm for English inspires her students to find their own passion and embrace all that the subject has to offer. She has played a full and active role in the college’s academic and cultural life since joining in 2014.

James Wykes

Assistant Director of Studies and Head of Faculties

MA Modern Literatures in English (Birkbeck); BA Hons English Literature (University of Wales); PGCE in English (King’s College London)

James leads Ashbourne’s flourishing English Department and has been instrumental in establishing both English and Drama as vital parts of the college’s curriculum. He has helped set up and is involved in a variety of very successful enrichment projects that encourage students to take the lead role in their learning and explore differing perspectives to interpret the world around them, including the student-run college newspaper, a series of critical theory lectures and the very popular Ashbourne Annual Revue showcasing students’ artistic talents.


Year 12
Drama: Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde
Poetry: Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry, published by Forward Arts Foundation.
Prose: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Prose: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Year 13
Drama: King Lear by William Shakespeare
Poetry: TS Eliot Selected Poems

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