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La Retraithe Sixth Form

English Literature

Studying English Literature at the La Retraite 6

Exam Board: AQA

Entry Criteria: GCSE English Language and Literature Level 6

Why study this course?

English Literature is a brilliant course and the La Retraite 6 is probably the only English department in South London where one of our students has just completed her PhD in English Literature at Oxford and another is completing her PhD at Cambridge.

English Literature is widely regarded as one of the best A’ levels to have as it has gained a reputation for academic rigour and excellence over the last century and is recognised by all the top universities as an exam with real pedigree. Many of our students have gone on to study the Law after taking this subject as its mixture of research, debate and close analysis give you the forensic skills needed when studying the minutiae of legal arguments – although thankfully our texts are much more engaging than some of the dusty tomes’ lawyers have to read! 

It’s the perfect course for academically gifted students who have enquiring minds and love learning and opens up a wide range of career opportunities from the Law to journalism and from teaching to a high-flying career in the Civil Service. 

What will I learn?

Students will learn how to apply critical theory to a selection of key texts ranging from Shakespeare to the present day. These critical theories will include: Feminist readings, Marxist readings and Ecocritical readings of texts They will interpret some texts through the lens of tragedy writing and other texts through the lens of crime writing as they learn to evaluate both classic and contemporary texts critically. 

How will I be taught?

There are six lessons a week of English. Students will generally study one text or question with one teacher for three of these lessons and another text or question with another teacher for the other three periods.

How many hours a week of private study are recommended?

12 hours (mainly reading the course books and books of students’ own choosing to broaden and deepen your knowledge of the key texts).

You’ll enjoy this course if…

You love reading and enjoy a lively debate. Please don’t take this course if you thought the books in Year 11 were too long! You’ll also need to be broad minded and open to questions.

Course description

In Year 12 we will study Aspects of Tragedy; an exam unit in which we consider the tragic aspects of the three key texts: ‘Othello’, ‘Death of a Salesman’ and Keats’ poetry.

In Year 13 we will study Elements of Crime; an exam unit in which we consider which elements of crime writing may be applied to the three key texts: ‘When Will There be Good News’ by Kate Atkinson; ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ by Agatha Christie and a selection of poetry by George Crabbe, Robert Browning and Oscar Wilde. 

Students will also complete two NEAs (Non-Exam Assessments) in which they will independently write one essay giving a critical analysis of a novel they’ve read by themselves and another essay giving a critical response to a selection of modern poetry. Each essay will be 1500 words in length and will be worth 10% of their final mark.


Paper 1 – Aspects of Tragedy (Closed book)

  • A 2-and-a-half-hour exam with 2 questions on ‘Othello’ and 1 question on ‘Death of a Salesman’ and Keats’ poetry.
  • 40%.

Paper 2 – Elements of Crime (Open book)

  • A 3-hour exam.
  • A question on an unseen piece of crime writing.
  • A question on the poetry.
  • A question on both novels.
  • 40%.

The NEA folder:

  • An essay on a novel they’ve read independently.
  • An essay on modern poetry.
  • 20%.