“ A writer once said, ‘We find in fiction the plurality of lives we need.’ We believe passionately in the power and value of great writing to enrich our lives.”Mr Benedict, Head of English
Whether you are immersing yourself in the worlds of ‘Tess’ or ‘The Bell Jar’, in ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ or ‘Hamlet’, there are insights to be gained, dilemmas to be analysed and ideas to be explored.
We follow the two-year Edexcel A Level in English Literature, welcoming the breadth and clarity it offers as a scheme of assessment. Each year we vary the choice of texts we teach to keep things fresh and exciting. We will study modern fiction, looking at the agonies of Afghanistan in Hosseini’s ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ or Margaret Atwood’s disturbing vision of a dystopian future in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. Later in the course we study ‘Hamlet’, Marlowe’s ‘Faustus’ and Chaucer’s ‘Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale’, matching the last with a fabulous collection of modern poetry, ‘Poems of the Decade’, a collection of poems that have won the Forward Prize for poetry since 2000. The focus on modern poetry is delightful and refreshing, and if you haven’t read Patience Agbabi’s ‘Eat Me’ – well, you have a treat in store.
When it comes to coursework, girls have the option to compare two texts of their own choosing, but we can also make suggestions and help guide them through the process; such as ‘The Go-Between’ and perhaps ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn or Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’.
Outside of lessons, we have a wide range of extra-curricular activities to enrich our students’ literary intelligence. ‘Lit Lunches’ run every Friday where girls can read and discuss writers who they might not otherwise encounter. It’s totally eclectic and we might move from Boccaccio to Victorian sensation novels to ‘The Lie Tree’, which recently won the Costa Prize. (Warning: cake is eaten on these occasions.) There are also plenty of theatre trips to the Tobacco Factory and the Bristol Old Vic, public speaking competitions, debates with local schools, and the ESU Mace competition.