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What is English Literature?

English literature is the study of literature written in the English language and refers to the study of English from around the world. Literature is generally defined as writing with artistic merit. However, other types of text such as song lyrics, screenplays, non-fiction, and online communication through blogs and other means, could now be considered literature under the contemporary understanding of the term.

English literature is hundreds of years old and continues to be one of the most popular courses of study. Studying English Literature demonstrates to an employer that you have a strong grasp of the English language and are proficient in professional English.

What do you learn from English literature?

The study of English literature focuses mainly on analysis, debate and critical theorising about a large number of famous published works – novels, poems, plays or other literary works. You can also expect to be taught aspects of creative writing and how to express ideas and arguments in various literary forms.

One can gather a better understanding of culture by stepping back in time and gathering a better informed and greater appreciation of them. We learn through the way that history is recorded in the forms of manuscripts and through the different types of speech itself.

English is made up of a cocktail of other languages – French, German, Latin to name just a few – but studying English literature opens up a world of knowledge, inspiration and creativity, while also developing skills that are essential for today’s global environment. It is a chance to discover how literature makes sense of the world through stories, poems, novels and plays. It is also a chance to sharpen your own ability to write, read, analyse and persuade.

What are the different types of literature?

Well, as the rhetorical question states, how long is a piece of string?

Stories composed in verse or prose, where conflicts and emotion are expressed through dialogue and action. Usually for theatrical, TV or film performance.

Narration demonstrating a useful truth, especially in which animals speak as humans; legendary, supernatural tale.

Fairy Tale
Similar to fables, a story about fairies or other magical creatures, usually for children but often with moral tales aimed at adults.

Not of this world. Fiction with strange settings or characters; stories that invite the suspension of reality.

Narrative literary works produced by the imagination and is not necessarily but sometimes based on fact.

Fiction in Verse
Full-length novels with plot, subplot(s), theme(s), major and minor characters, in which the narrative is presented in (usually blank) verse form.

The songs, stories, myths, and proverbs of a people or “folk” as handed down by word of mouth. Similar to fairytales but more often grounded in fact.

Historical Fiction
Story with fictional characters and events in a historical setting.


Fiction in which events evoke a feeling of dread in both the characters and the reader. Victorians were particularly keen on this genre.

Fiction using fun and excitement to entertain. Often utilised in all genres

Similar to folk tales, a story, sometimes of a national or folk hero, which has a basis in fact but also includes imaginative material.

Fiction dealing with the solution of a crime or the unravelling of secrets. Often termed “Whodunnits”.

Legend or folklike narrative, based in part on historical events that reveal human behaviour and natural phenomena by its symbolism; often pertaining to the actions of the gods.

Verse and rhythmic writing with imagery that addresses and creates emotional responses.

Realistic Fiction
Story that can actually happen and is true to life.

Science Fiction
Story based on the impact of actual, imagined, or potential science, usually set in the future or on other planets.

Short Story
Fiction of such conciseness that it has no subplots.

Tall Tale
Humorous story with blatant exaggerations, swaggering heroes who do the impossible with nonchalance.

Narrative of a person's life, a true story about a real person.

A short literary composition that reflects the author’s outlook or point. Useful for columnists or journalists.

Narrative Nonfiction
Factual information presented in a format which tells a story.

Informational text dealing with an actual, real-life subject.

Public address, debate, or discourse.

How will English Literature help with my career?

English Literature explores expression and communication and will help with public speaking and self-confidence. English Literature can also encourage philosophical debate and diplomatic responses to a wide variety of issues.

Your range of vocabulary will definitely improve with the assistance of English Literature. Classic novels provide fundamental concepts that modern day texts can’t articulate – the styles of writing and thought processes of historical texts are vital to understanding the world and how humans perceive our surroundings. This subject also provides a broad spectrum of types and times of texts.

Differing points of views, a wide range of knowledge, key lessons for the future, writings from the past, creativity beyond belief, the importance of freedom of expression, and skills for lifelong achievement all contribute to the value of English Literature.

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