Literature in English

What Our Subject is About


True ease in writing comes from art not chance,

As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance.’  

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)


Studying Literature at RI means we spend our time looking lovingly at words and how they work; studying closely the techniques of those whose words seem to come to them so easily, those who are beset - as we are - by what T.S. Eliot called “the intolerable wrestle with words”. From them, we seek to improve our own writing, raise the quality of our own written response both to literature and life. We enjoy exploring different genres and different periods. ‘Why bother?’ some would say. But, you see, we believe all this writing things down really matters. Why? Well, Phyllis Rose summed it up for us in her book Parallel Lives:


‘I believe we need literature which, by allowing us to experience more fully, [and] imagine more fully, enables us to live more freely.’


For us, Literature is the subject, more than any other that makes us aware of what it is to be really and truly human.  The breadth of the course ensures an experience of prose, poetry and drama across different centuries – and yet allows us to see how the past is still present. Since great writing enables the exploration of many of life’s fundamental themes: love, loneliness, prejudice, perseverance, death to name but a few, it arms us with experiences to help us cope with what challenges lie ahead. Through examining the creation of different characters and what makes them tick we learn to be more empathetic. So, if you want to live life more freely, experience life more fully and feel it more intensely, come and learn to “dance” with us.


What We Do To Develop Students' Interest/Abilities

Besides sharing a desire to communicate our passion for literature in the classroom, through the rigorous formal study of texts, we also look for opportunities to inspire in you a love of Literature by providing opportunities to participate in the wider, more informal, arena. During your time with us you will have the chance, where possible, to live Literature through film screenings, theatre visits, and take part in display work,  write poetry or prose and even get involved in performances and workshops during ‘Lit Week’. 

Above and beyond this, some will have the chance to further satiate their interest by studying H3 Literature - designed for the lit specialist, for the really passionate lit obsessive! It is totally student-centred and involves writing an individual 3,500-word research essay, and an accompanying evaluative commentary, based on a self-constructed proposal comparing three works in terms of literary techniques, themes or narrative style. What more could the literary aficionado hope for!


LitposterPublicity Poster for ‘Crossover’ the 2019 Literature Week.

Who We Are

The RI Lit Team comprises all sorts of people—youngish, oldish, long, short, tall, flat, round, grey-, blonde-, black-haired, bold and shy—but we are all one in a shared passionate obsession: books! Reassuringly, we have over a century’s worth of experience in RI’s literature department between us! And we’re all hoping to live up to Roger Rosenblatt’s claim in The Odd Pursuit of Teaching Books that “Two, perhaps three, teachers in a lifetime stick in the mind, and one of them is almost always a teacher of Literature”.


What Our Students Say

“As a total beginner at Literature, deciding to take it in at A level was daunting. But in my experience, the course truly has no prerequisites, other than a willingness to try. And at the end of the 2 years, I have gained a new way to understand the world, which has made me a more attentive listener, and a better communicator.”
- Rohan Sundaram (Y6 student)


“Studying literature in RI helped me appreciate different literary genres and forms. The sheer breadth of the syllabus exposed me to everything from the punchy, compact beauty of the sonnet to the stage effects and witty repartee of drama. I really enjoyed the lively class discussions and our tutors’ efforts to immerse us in the texts––think screenings of the texts’ film adaptations and theatrical productions. That I was able to experience and examine characters and themes through such a wide variety of ways deepened my learning by encouraging diverse perspectives and by enacting the literary world on screen and on stage.”
- Wong Shao-Yi (Y6 student)


"Literature lessons were always something to look forward to because they were full of incisive commentary, mind-blowing revelations and lots of witty quips - I knew that I had teachers who really poured their soul into the subject they were teaching;  it's truly something that I’ll miss!"
- Ian Yam (Y6 student)


“I’ve absolutely loved studying Literature in RI! The freedom we have had to express our opinions, the passion of the teachers, and the diverse selection of texts made this subject one I really cherished.”
- Ashley Goh (Y6 student)


"Taking Literature in RI has moulded me into a more analytical and critical thinker. Under the guidance of my teachers, I've grown a more incisive eye and a sharper mind, helping me not only in Literature, but in looking more closely at everything around me."
- Nicholas Yong (Y5 student)


“I really enjoy studying literature in RI as the teachers provide us with very useful guidance for our independent thinking. We are encouraged to develop our own thoughts and ideas from the text instead of merely passively receiving information imparted by the teachers. The literary texts that we are studying are not only interesting but also relevant to our daily lives as certain characters and plotlines find their resemblance in the real world, thus allowing me to approach and analyse those social issues from a more critical and a more humane angle.”
- Yu Yiwen (Y5 student)