Wider reading for A Level English Literature: 3: Industry and Empire

In blog 3 of our A Level English Literature series an Oxford Home Schooling tutor advises on wider reading on the topic of industry and empire.

Now that you have made a start on your wider reading it is time to start focussing on those vital areas that the exam board will expect you to explore, let’s look at the first one – Ideas of progress – industry and empire. You will find that the internet will be very helpful, as will your local library but do make sure that you read some compete texts, not just snippets, the examiners will be expecting some in-depth knowledge. You should already have looked at past AS papers and that means you know that you will be linking an unseen piece with your wider reading but remember that you need to look at poetry, prose and drama for this topic, and some of these areas are easier than others!

For prose you would probably be looking at novels about the world of industry like Dickens’s Hard Times and Gaskell’s North and South. You need to be confident that you understand the Victorians’ view of their Empire, which can at times be complex, so look at some of Kipling’s work, the short stories, Plain Tales from the Hills is a good collection and then perhaps move on to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, then the sky’s the limit!

Poetry about the British Empire and the varying views on it will not be difficult to find, start off with Kipling and work your way onwards, but it’s more difficult, I think, to find poems about industry. There is an interesting poem by Caroline Norton called ‘A Voice from The Factories’ which might be a good beginning to your quest. Good old Wordsworth wrote some interesting poems on the rise of industry, have a look at the sonnet ‘Steamboats, Viaducts and Railways’ as a beginning.

Drama is always a difficult area in Victorian literature I find but make a beginning on studying industry by having a look at Hobson’s Choice by Harold Brighouse and then look at some of the wonderful melodramas about Empire which our ancestors so enjoyed!

Happy 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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