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English Literature

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What Makes Oliver Twist a Classic?
Originally serialised in a magazine between 1837 and 1839, Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist had its first readers hooked. A gripping story full of charismatic characters, it also exposed society's unjust treatment of the poor.
What Makes The Importance of Being Earnest a Classic?
Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest was first performed in February 1895, just weeks before Wilde's career was destroyed by scandal. With themes of deception and double meaning, it lampoons Victorian ideas of class and morality.
What Makes The War of the Worlds a Classic?
In H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, a brutal alien army descends on Earth, intent on colonising the planet for its own ends. First published as a novel in 1898, the story tapped into fears that advances in technology would herald a new age of warfare.
What Makes Great Expectations a Classic?
First published in 1861, Charles Dickens' Great Expectations is a novel about crime, guilt, and social aspiration.
Gothic Horror
With its roots in stories from folklore, legends and religious traditions, gothic horror has entertained, and terrified, readers for centuries. From Bram Stoker's Dracula, to Shirley Jackson's unsettling tales, we look at some examples of the form through the ages.
Historical Fiction
Historical fiction is a literary genre in which a fictional story is set in a chosen period of time in history. Often involving real people, these stories reimagine historical events. We take a look at classics from Homer's The Iliad, to Mildred Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
Folktales and Folklore
Folklore and folk tales are stories that have been passed down through the generations in cultures all around the world. Let’s explore different examples and consider why these types of stories have endured for so long.
Myths and Legends
Myths and legends are ancient stories that have survived for centuries in all parts of the world. Let’s explore some examples from around the world to learn about their enduring appeal.
Context Clues
Sometimes, when we’re reading, we can come across words that we don’t understand. But all texts feature context clues that help us to decipher their meaning. You just need to know where to look.
Gwendolyn Brooks
The first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Gwendolyn Brooks wrote about the hardship and struggles of ordinary people.
The Brontë Sisters
In the 19th century, amidst societal expectations for women to stay home, the Brontë Sisters defied norms, pursuing their literary dreams. Their novels unveiled the genuine aspirations of women at the time.
Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson's journey, from her upbringing during the Civil Rights movement to becoming a celebrated children's author, showcases her dedication to creating stories that resonate with diverse experiences, especially for young Black readers.
The Lost Generation
The devastation and disillusionment that resonated through society in the aftermath of World War I had a profound impact on the literary landscape, notably a group of U.S. writers living in Europe, including Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. These writers are known as the Lost Generation.
Types of Conflict in Literature
Conflict is an essential element in storytelling, driving characters to pursue their goals and overcome obstacles. It comes in five main forms - Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Nature, Character vs. Society, and Character vs. The Supernatural - each of which adds depth and tension to narratives and shaping character development.
Steps in the Writing Process
There are five key steps in the writing process: planning, writing, revising, editing, and submitting. If you can use them your writing will improve and you’ll feel less stressed.
Ibi Zoboi
Ibi Zoboi's journey from Haiti to New York inspired her to write novels that capture the immigrant experience's diversity and challenges, blending elements of fantasy, social justice and cultural identity in her impactful young adult fiction.
Jason Reynolds
Author Jason Reynolds has transformed young adult literature with his unique writing style, merging poetry with colloquial language to reflect the lives of Black and Brown youth in the US and beyond.
Discover the captivating world of epistolary literature, where stories unfold through letters and documents. Explore its rich history, unique storytelling elements, and how it connects readers to characters' inner thoughts and feelings.
What is a Character Foil?
Explore the fascinating world of character foils in literature, where a supporting character’s traits highlight the protagonists' personality, motivations, and the art of storytelling itself.
Angie Thomas
Angie Thomas transformed her challenging experiences into groundbreaking novels, inspiring young African Americans to raise their voices.
Coming of Age
Coming of age stories chart a character’s journey from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. This genre is also known by the German word, 'Bildungsroman'. We take a look at some classics of the genre, from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.
Themes are the profound ideas that shape narratives and give insights into the human experience. Explore how authors subtly convey themes through plot, characters, and details, allowing you to relate universal messages to your own life.
Analyzing People, Events & Ideas
By analyzing the people, events, and ideas that shape a narrative, you can uncover the underlying connections that make a story compelling. Discover how causes, effects, and influences work together, and enhance your own reading and writing skills.
Beginning in the eighteenth century in response to social upheaval, industrialisation and revolution, ideas of Romanticism influenced poets such as Coleridge, Blake and Wordsworth. Later novelists, from Emily Bronte to Nathaniel Hawthorn used elements of the Romantic genre to write some of the greatest works in literature.
Action packed adventure stories can take us on journeys full of danger, excitement and triumph. Sometimes fictional, and sometimes based on true events, we take a look at the adventure stories which entertain and thrill us. From the first adventure novels of the 19th century including Moby Dick and Treasure Island, to popular fiction of the 20th century.
Determine An Author’s Purpose
The author’s purpose is the reason that he or she writes a piece of literature. Let’s explore how you, as a reader, can identify that purpose by examining the text in more detail.
Satire is a form of writing that uses humor to mock those thought to be guilty of foolishness, arrogance, greed or corruption. This video takes a look at the use of satire in literature over the centuries.
Octavia Butler
First popularized as a genre of literature in the 1920s, for decades science fiction was dominated by white male authors. That is until Octavia Butler, an African American woman, rewrote the script.
Lois Lowry
Being a teenager isn’t always easy – but sometimes, books can provide the comfort and guidance we need. Few authors capture the adolescent experience better than young adult author Lois Lowry.
Peer Feedback
Learn to give insightful, respectful feedback that enhances your and your peers’ writing and fosters a supportive learning environment.
What is an Idiom?
From hitting below the belt to couch potatoes, discover how idioms add color and interest to everyday communication and creative writing.
Walter Dean Myers
Author of more than 100 books for young readers, Walter Dean Myers overcame many struggles in his personal life to write stories that represented the Black experience and the struggles of young Americans.
Author W.W. Jacobs crafted a unique blend of Gothic horror and dark comedy in his writings, most notably in 'The Monkey’s Paw', to inspire horror icons like Stephen King and Alfred Hitchcock.
What Makes Little Women a Classic?
When Little Women was first released in 1868, it sold 2,000 copies in just two days. A coming-of-age story that defied convention, it has gripped and inspired readers for generations.
What Makes The Invisible Man a Classic?
First published as a novel in 1897, HG Wells' The Invisible Man is the story of a scientist corrupted by his own ambition. A gripping story of madness and immorality, its brutal conclusion still has the power to shock today.
What Makes Dracula a Classic?
First published in 1897, Bram Stoker's Dracula is the chilling tale of a bloodthirsty narcissist. Drawing on European folktales and gory accounts of a 15th century ruler, the novel reimagined the age-old vampire myth for a new generation.
What Makes A Doll's House a Classic?
Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House is a feminist drama that challenged social convention - and scandalised 19th century audiences. First performed in Denmark in 1879, its subversive themes still resonate today.
What Makes The Odyssey a Classic?
Homer's The Odyssey is the ancient Greek tale of one man's epic journey home from war. Full of vengeful gods and deadly sea monsters, its influence can be seen in countless books, comics and movies today.
What Makes The Scarlet Letter a Classic?
First published in 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is a novel that explores judgement, shame and redemption in 17th century Massachusetts.
Madeleine L'Engle
For Madeleine L’Engle, the starry night sky sparked profound questions about life, the universe, and her place in it. Inspired by science and spirituality, her extraordinary works of fiction have captured the hearts and minds of millions.
Lilian Bland
For this Rebel Girl, the sky was the limit.An aviator who was determined to fly into the history books as the first woman to design, build and pilot her own plane. We explore who Lilian Bland was. Based on the best-selling book series 'Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls'.
This Rebel Girl was a fearless warrior; Queen of an ancient British tribe called the Iceni, who spearheaded a rebellion against the Romans to protect her Kingdom. We explore who Boudicca was. Based on the best-selling book series 'Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls'.
What Makes Emma a Classic?
Jane Austen's Emma is the story of a wealthy heiress who meddles relentlessly in the love lives of others, but has no interest in marriage herself. First published anonymously in 1815, the novel reveals the restricted role of women in the 19th century.
What Makes Silas Marner a Classic?
First published in 1860, but set decades earlier, George Eliot's Silas Marner took its first readers back to a pre-industrial world. A story that celebrates human connection, it explores how caring for a child changes one man's life forever.
What Makes Moby Dick a Classic?
First published in 1851, Herman Melville's Moby Dick sold just a few thousand copies in its author's lifetime. A thrilling novel about man's obsessive quest to conquer nature, its environmental themes still resonate today.
Children's Literature
Children’s literature is fiction created specifically to be read and enjoyed by young people. From nursery rhymes and fairy tales, stories that can teach us about good and evil, to books that whisk us off to fantastical worlds beyond our wildest dreams, we take a look at the history of children's books from Aesop's Fables to modern classics, such as Harry Potter and Wonder.
Nonfiction Text Structures
Understand nonfiction texts with these five essential text structures. From chronological narratives to cause and effect explanations, problem-solving essays, compare and contrast articles, and descriptive lists, once you know these structures, you can read and write with more clarity.
Making Inferences
Learn how to make inferences to uncover hidden meanings in texts. Discover the power of evidence and reasoning as you piece together the author's clues, enhancing your reading experience and engaging with stories on a deeper level.
Finding the Main Idea
Understanding the main idea allows you to grasp the author's purpose. Whether the main idea is communicated implicitly or explicitly, there are simple steps you can follow to identify it and gain a deeper understanding of a text's key message.
Analyzing Word Choice
Just as painters carefully select brushstrokes and colors, writers meticulously choose words to convey emotions, create tone, and shape meaning. By understanding the impact of word choice, you can express yourself more clearly in both speech and writing.
Analysis of Text
Analysis of Text is an important skill that helps readers to understand the true meaning of a text. Let’s explore what clues to look out for to analyze any text.
Symbolism is a literary tool that lots of authors use to make complex ideas more accessible to readers. Let’s explore how writers use objects, characters and events as symbols in their work.
Nonfiction Text Features
Books and articles aren't just made up of words. They can contain images, maps, charts and many other items too. Let’s learn about the Nonfiction Text Features you should look out for.
Allegory is a form of literary fiction that uses symbolism to comment on actual events, people or elements of the human condition, often working on two levels: the surface story and the deeper meaning. We take a look at some of the great allegorical works in literature, from John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progess, to George Orwell's political allegory, Animal Farm.
Sandra Cisneros
A trailblazer in more ways than one, Sandra Cisneros was the first Mexican-American woman to be published by a mainstream publisher. Her work brought Hispanic culture to a wider audience of readers.
Alice Walker
As the first Black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Alice Walker helped to bring the Black experience to readers across the globe. A true trailblazer, her work continues to entertain and enlighten.
Shirley Jackson
A master of the macabre, Shirley Jackson explores the creepy underbelly of domestic life, with a sharp focus on the challenges that women face.
Transcendentalism is a spiritual, philosophical and literary movement that emerged in the United States in the 19th century. With its emphasis on individualism and the inherent goodness of all people, discover how it impacted civil rights movements via works by Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau and others.
Paraphrasing Versus Quoting
Explore the differences between quoting and paraphrasing and learn when to use them to best effect.
Planning For A Research Paper
In the world of research and writing, planning is an essential roadmap that keeps you on course, prevents stress and detours, and leads to more efficient and higher-quality work.
How to Write a Strong Research Question
Crafting the right research question is a crucial step in developing the analytical skills necessary for school and life!
Juxtaposition highlights similarities and differences between two things, giving you a deeper understanding of characters, plot and theme and making storytelling much more impactful.
Tommy Orange
Tommy Orange, a groundbreaking Indigenous American author, illuminates urban Indigenous experiences with a unique narrative.
Anne Frank
Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who wrote a diary about her life in hiding from the Nazis during World War II. Her powerful story reflects resilience, hope, and the tragic impact of the Holocaust.
Pam Muñoz Ryan
Author of groundbreaking novels like “Esperanza Rising" and "Echo," Pam Muñoz Ryan has made literature more representative by expertly mining her own rich Mexican American heritage.
What Makes The Secret Garden a Classic?
First published as a book in 1911, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden is a coming-of-age novel about the power of positive thinking and the importance of friendship.
What Makes A Christmas Carol a Classic?
Published in December 1843, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was an instant bestseller. A ghost story with emotional depth, it helped spark a Victorian love affair with the festive season.
What Makes Frankenstein a Classic?
First published anonymously in 1818, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was inspired by a nightmare. A chilling, gothic tale, it explores the dark side of scientific progress.
What Makes The Wonderful Wizard of Oz a Classic?
Published at the dawn of the 20th Century, L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was far from a traditional children's story. A feminist fairytale with a radical message, it struck a chord with readers across the United States.
What Makes Gulliver's Travels a Classic?
Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels is the story of one man's adventures in fantastical lands. First published in 1726, it's a book that asks a timeless question: can a perfect society ever be achieved?
What Makes The Jungle Book a Classic?
The stories in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book are set deep in the Indian jungle, in a dangerous world without parents - and with few rules. First published as a collection in 1894, the book's themes of belonging and identity are still relevant today.
What was one of America's first fairy tales?
Fairy tales are children’s stories set in magical places that teach us about the world. So how did L. Frank's Baum's children's story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, come to be considered the United States’ first fairytale? David Rubenstein answers that question in a fact-filled history minute.
Autobiography and Memoir
Autobiographies and memoirs are similar – but each is a distinct nonfiction literary genre. Here we discover what they share in common and why true stories about people’s lives remain popular for readers across the globe.
Mystery is a genre of fiction that focuses on solving a crime through a gripping plot. Let’s examine the conventions that mysteries share and explore some of the finest examples through the ages.
Character Development
Discover five techniques that author’s use to develop memorable and engaging characters. From traits and dialogue to thoughts, effects, and actions, learn how your favorite characters are brought to life.
Identifying & Evaluating Evidence
Whether in speech or writing, citing relevant and credible evidence strengthens your analysis and increases your ability to convince others, making your arguments more persuasive and trustworthy.
Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction that whisks readers off other worlds, filled with magic and adventure. From The Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter, let’s explore some classics of the fantasy canon.
Greek and Latin Roots
Lots of the words that we use everyday have their roots in the ancient languages of Latin and Greek. Let’s explore some examples and learn how language is constantly evolving.
Novel in Verse
Novel in verse is a hybrid genre - a style of literature that uses narrative poetry to tell a novel-length story, often through being read out loud. In this film we take a look at narrative poems through history, from the Epic of Gilgamesh to the first Novel in Verse writings of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Modern writers, such as Kwame Alexander in The Crossover and Jason Reynolds in the Long Way Down use this form to explore contemporary themes of racism and identity.
Richard Wright
At a time when Jim Crow laws made racial segregation legal across much of the United States, author Richard Wright gave voice to a struggle – as the first African American author to achieve widespread critical and commercial success.
Mark Twain
Known as the Father of American Literature, Mark Twain used satire and a sharp wit to explore and reveal the realities of US society in the 19th century. In doing so he developed an all-new “American style” of writing.
Ray Bradbury
Awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, recognizing a lifetime of influential literary works, Ray Bradbury wrote from a desire to “live forever”. Through sci fi, fantasy, horror and mystery to themes of death, loneliness and the dark side of human nature.
Amanda Gorman
The youngest inaugural poet in history, Amanda Gorman introduced a new generation to the lyrical power of poetry and became a modern-day icon in the process.
Postcolonial Literature
Giving voice to the oppressed, discover how authors like Achebe, Rushdie and Adichie postcolonial literature to express the impacts of colonialism, reshaping identity and independence narratives from Africa to Asia.
Realism is a genre of writing that explores the real world, in all its gritty glory. Defined by authors like Gustav Flaubert, Edith Wharton and Alice Walker, realist writers often expose societal flaws, offering insights into the real-life struggles and the triumphs of ordinary people.
When to Capitalize Letters
Capital letters might not get your pulse racing, but they’re still vital. They indicate the beginning of sentences, signal proper nouns, names, and titles, and highlight key words in titles, enhancing clarity and understanding in writing.
Interpreting Diverse Media
From books to movies, documentaries to podcasts, and image searches to galleries, embracing diverse media enriches your understanding and transforms your research into a multi-faceted journey of discovery.
Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde, a trailblazing Black feminist, poet, and essayist, passionately explored intersectionality, identity, and activism, leaving an enduring impact on literature and social justice.
Laurie Halse Anderson
For author Laurie Halse Anderson, a survivor of trauma, putting pen to paper allowed her to make sense of the world. Discover how the acclaimed Young Adult author has connected with readers across the globe.
Julia Alvarez
Julia Alvarez's remarkable contributions to Hispanic literature explore immigrant experiences, cultural identity, and resistance against injustice.
Florence Nightingale
This Rebel Girl revolutionized health care. A British Nurse whose work saved millions of lives, by the simple act of encouraging us to wash our hands. We discover who Florence Nightingale was. Based on the best-selling book series 'Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls'.
What Makes Sense and Sensibility a Classic?
First published in 1811, Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility is a funny, authentic portrait of two very different sisters. Still one of literature's best loved rom-coms, it was written when the novel as an art form was in its infancy.
What Makes Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde a Classic?
First published in 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde struck fear into the heart of Victorian readers. A sinister story of a split personality, its psychological themes still resonate today.
What Makes Peter Pan a Classic?
First published as a book in 1911, JM Barrie's Peter Pan is the story of the boy who never grew up. Written at a time when society's attitudes to childhood were changing, it captured the fleeting magic of being young.
What Makes The Tempest a Classic?
Completed around 1611, The Tempest is thought to be the last play that William Shakespeare ever wrote. Set on an enchanted island, its themes of power and betrayal have captivated audiences for centuries.
What Makes Robin Hood a Classic?
Robin Hood first appeared in English folklore seven centuries ago. Traditionally the story of a violent outlaw who murdered without remorse, over the years the tale has morphed into the one we know and love today.
What Makes The Awakening a Classic?
First published in 1899, Kate Chopin's The Awakening is the story of a daring young woman who defies social expectation. With themes of independence and freedom, the book provoked such outrage that it ended Chopin's career.
Magical Realism
Starting as an art form in the 1920s, magical realism is a genre of literature that uses the real world as a setting, but adds a sprinkle of magic or fantasy. Made famous by South American writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his book 'One Hundred Year's of Solitude', this new form of expression soon developed new conventions, with writers around the world, such as Yann Martel and Toni Morrison.
The Elements of Fiction
Discover the secrets of storytelling with the five key ingredients of fiction - settings, characters, dialogue, narrator and plots. Use these elements to analyze and appreciate your favorite stories on a deeper level.
Breaking Down Arguments
Harness the power of critical thinking through the four elements of effective arguments: claim, reasons, evidence, and counterarguments. Learn to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of any argument and make your own case with solid reasoning and evidence.
Annotations are notes that a reader makes to a text. They help you familiarize yourself with both the content and organization of what you read. Let’s discover ways you can annotate a text.
Summarizing Nonfiction Texts
Nonfiction texts can be complex and dense. But anyone can summarize their contents by following four simple steps. It’s as easy as explaining what you have read to a friend.
Colson Whitehead
The first author to win the Pulitzer Prize for two consecutive novels, Colson Whitehead is one of the United States’ most versatile writers.
Lorraine Hansberry
The first African-American woman to have a play staged on Broadway, Lorraine Hansberry was a writer who broke down racial and gender barriers.
Dive into the world of Existentialism, where authors like Dostoevsky, Sartre and Camus challenge readers to find personal meaning amidst life's absurdities, blending deep philosophical questions with relatable human struggles.
Victorian Literature
Exploring the diversity of Victorian Literature, we discover how authors like Charles Dickens, the Brontë Sisters and Lewis Carroll captured the ideals and issues of a rapidly industrializing society, weaving tales of innovation, societal norms and adventure in 19th Century England.
Nic Stone
Author Nic Stone tried many jobs before finding passion in writing, when her travels abroad inspired her to write stories and novels that spotlight issues faced by marginalized groups across the globe.
Kate Chopin
Kate Chopin's groundbreaking novels and short stories drew on her experiences of growing up and living in the multicultural South, and boldly explores taboo themes of race, class, and female sexuality in 19th century society.
Making Connections Within the Text
One of the primary joys of reading is seeing yourself in a character, or seeing world events mirrored in the plot of a book. This is called making connections with texts and it not only enhances enjoyment, it also enhances understanding and your ability as a reader.
Gary Soto
Gary Soto, a Mexican-American author and poet, captures the essence of youth and Chicano experiences in his stories, blending humor and the magic of everyday life.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This Rebel Girl wanted the world to read stories that were a true reflection of life in Nigeria. So she wrote her own stories about Africa which inspired a new generation of readers around the world. We explore who Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is. Based on the best-selling book series 'Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls'.