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.


A Level (sixth form)

A Level English follows the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) curriculum.

Component 1 – Drama and Poetry

One play and one collection of poems.

(Examples include Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, Wole Soyinka; and for poetry, Robert Browning, Gillian Clark, Owen Sheers)

Component 2 – Prose and unseen

One prose text (novel or short stories) and one close reading exercise. (Prose examples include Andrea Levy’s Small Island, EM Forster’s Howard’s End, and Stories of Ourselves (anthology).)

Component 3 – Shakespeare and Drama

Two drama texts, one of which will be Shakespeare. (Examples include The Winter’s Tale, Richard II, Athol Fugard’s Township Plays, Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie and Tom Stoppard’s Indian Ink.)

Component 4 – Pre- and Post-1900 Poetry and Prose

A variety of texts for both poetry and prose. One of each will be studied.

(Authors include Chaucer, Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Austen, Milton, Hardy, Woolf, Atwood, Spender.)

IB Diploma

English can be studied at standard or higher level as part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma.

  • Part 1 – Language and Culture
  • Part 2 – Language and Mass Media
  • Part 3 – Literature (International Authors)
  • Part 4 – Close Reading (Poetry)

Our IB Diploma Programme is designed to produce highly-educated all-rounders who embrace social responsibility, intercultural awareness, and a duty to local and global communities to make an increasingly complex world a better place.