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English: Beyond the Classroom

English and English Literature are two of the most important and personally enriching subjects that you will have the pleasure of studying.

Ultimately, the study of English not only takes you to different eras, different worlds and to meet some of the most memorable characters ever imagined, it allows you to access the world around you and it also lays the foundations for success in virtually all other subject areas, as well as your future career.

There are a variety of texts, tasks and genres here that should challenge and inspire. If you are considering taking Literature at a higher level, these tasks will enrich your love and understanding of what is such a wonderfully rich and diverse subject. However, these ideas merely scratch the surface; you are encouraged to seek out further avenues upon which you can expand your passion for Literature and the written word. Mr Penlington, Mrs Griffiths and Ms Roberts would be delighted to discuss your discoveries.

Read and Explore

  • Read a pre 20th Century novelist, playwright or poet in depth - the whole of Jane Austen, for example. Other authors of note, the Bronte sisters, Eliot, Dickens, Hardy, Wordsworth, GB Shaw, to name but a few! Try searching on Amazon for critical material on the novels that you have read or start with a Connell Guide on a novel of your choice.
  • Explore a particular genre or an era. For example, read British fiction between the wars, the Angry Young Men of the fifties, Magical Realism, or the romantic poets of the early Nineteenth Century. Aim to have read ten books from the period or movement that fascinates you.
  • Start exploring critical theories or approaches to Literature. You could read Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Stephen Eric Bronner and then investigate further any theories you find particularly interesting. For example, Feminism, or Marxism or New Historicism would be good places to start.
  • Keep a record of your reading and share reviews with others by joining a social networking site for book lovers such as Good Reads. If you're not a fan of technology, keep a detailed reading journal of everything you read in a notebook.
  • Read a famous writer in translation, and do it in depth. Not just The Outsider by Albert Camus, but all his published work. Find out who the major names are in modern European literature and make yourself an expert in one writer or in one country by reading a guide to that country's literature as well.
  • 'Shadow' a literary award by reading all the books on the shortlist. The Carnegie Award is one of the most famous prizes awarded to young adult authors and the Costa Book Award also gives a prize to a young adult author. Awards for adult books are the Man Booker Prize and the Bailey's Woman's Prize for Fiction.
  • Read a novel that has been turned into a film. Watch the film version and then write a comparison between the two.
  • Explore a controversial historical relationship through its literature - the vexed relations between Britain and Ireland, for example, through modern Irish playwrights. Brian Friel is a good place to start.
  • Read a book about the history of the English language such as The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg or Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language by Bill Bryson.


  • Go to London and do some of the literary walks in the footsteps of famous writers 
  • Visit the home of a famous writer such as Jane Austen's House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire, Bronte Parsonage Museum in Yorkshire or Dove Cottage (home of Wordsworth) in Grasmere, Lake District.
  • Get yourself to Stratford-upon-Avon or The Globe, with the play text in hand and make yourself an experienced Shakespeare enthusiast, so that you can talk about Shakespeare in performance, naming actors, directors and approaches. You could compare any productions you see with film versions of the same play.
  • The West End, or even your local theatres, and watch any famous, literary plays. Having read the text, ask yourself how this production has successfully brought the text to life, and/or made it relevant in the 21st century.
  • The National Gallery, and other galleries, churches, and find art works inspired by, or that have inspired, literary texts, such as Philip Larkin's "An Arundel Tomb".


  • The films of novels and critique the interpretation of the text. Discuss with family members or friends the relative success or failure of the film version.
  • Documentaries on writers, novelists, playwrights, learning about their background and the literary and historical contexts of their work.

Click On

  • Sign up to Peripeteia  which hosts a variety of free seminars on different topics relating to literary study. This site aims to bridge the gap between A-level and university students. 

    Other sites you might like to visit:
  • BBC Writers' Room
  • Writing Competitions
  • Radio 4 Book Club
  • Guardian Poetry Workshops

    Make and Do
  • A MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on an area of English/Literature which interests you. Not only will this expand your understanding of the subject in general and specifically, but it is a fantastic achievement to mention in your UCAS application.
  • Start a blog or website on your literary passions or share your own original writing. You could also make substantial contributions to other literature sites. Blogspot run by Google is another good place to start.
  • Enter a poetry or an essay writing competition such as Amnesty International's Young Human Rights Reporter competition, Baillie Gifford's Young Writer competition or Babelzine's language essay competition for 16-18 year olds. 

    Write for pleasure.
  • Buy a journal and start writing descriptions of what you see or accounts of your own experiences. From there, it is only a short step to writing poetry, short stories and even your own plays or novels. The English Faculty will always be keen to read your work!
  • Take part in the 'Poetry by Heart' competition, which runs very year in the Autumn/Winter and involves preparing a dramatic reading of several poems.

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