Wider reading for A Level English Literature: 1: Getting Started with Victorian Literature

In a new series of A Level English Literature blogs, one of Oxford Home Schooling‘s tutors makes suggestions for wider reading. We start by looking at wider reading around Victorian Literature.

Wider reading for A Level English Literature: 1: Getting Started with Victorian Literature

Students are sometimes very surprised at the wide gap between GCSE and A level studies in many subjects, and this is definitely the case with A level and GCSE/ IGCSE English Literature. In GCSE/IGCSE the study of set texts is all important – do well with those and you’re pretty assured of a good grade. At A level you can study your set books as much as you like but without your wider reading in the appropriate topic area, in our case at Oxford Open Learning, Victorian Literature for AS level and ‘Love Through the Ages’ for A2, it is well near impossible to achieve the higher grades.

For those of you who are just starting your A level course, remember in your wider reading that you need to be concentrating on the areas of:

Ideas of progress – industry and empire;

The position of women in Victorian society;

Social problems: urban poverty and the working class;

Evolving attitudes: culture, religion and science.

Why not start off with a sensible, accurate, but readable factual book which will get you into the swing of Victorian life? It’s really helpful to be able to put things in context. I would suggest you look at The Victorian House by Judith Flanders or dip into Victorian People, Victorian Things or Victorian Cities, three books by Asa Briggs. These will all give you a sound foundation to work on…

Do bear in mind that you do not necessarily have to read all of any of these books – dip in and out of them, look for our four areas using the contents page and the index as your guide and don’t forget to make some notes to use for the future. These will be useful for your wider reading but will also help if you choose to write a transformational piece for your first piece of coursework – have a look at the coursework question options now so that you can be bearing them in mind as you start your wider reading…

Anne Thomas


For more information about studying A Level English Literature or A Level English visit the Oxford Home Schooling website, or contact a Student Adviser.

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