Subject Overview

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, when he was at Stonyhurst, that, “What you look hard at seems to look hard at you.”

The study of English literature is an opportunity to learn how to look hard at things both external and internal; to revel in ideas and in language; and to hone skills of close reading and analysis of character, place and situation. We learn to communicate with others expressively and precisely, and to sharpen and organise our thinking. These are attributes for outward and inward fulfilment and success.

Studying English at Stonyhurst has special significance given the College’s rich literary heritage and association with some of the nation’s most loved literature. Whether it be Baskerville Hall in Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles or the Shire in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Stonyhurst and its surroundings are part of the landscape of our literary history.

Against this backdrop, students of English at Stonyhurst are encouraged to challenge themselves in the breadth and rigour of the work they complete, aided by access to a vast array of historical texts contained in the Stonyhurst Collections, not least the Shakespeare First Folio.

Many of the College’s most famous alumni have gone on to read English at University; English Literature remains one of the most respected subjects for university entry, both as a subject in its own right and also as a facilitator for almost any academic discipline.

Therefore, the focus of English teaching is to not only prepare students for the challenges of examinations, but also to equip them for the far greater rigours of University education.