How can I write something original on my set texts, when so much has already been written on them by experts?

Firstly, it’s important to remember that this isn’t a doctorate or university thesis – you don’t have to write something entirely original. But obviously, you also don’t want to just repeat a critic’s arguments. There are two main ways of doing this: language analysis and responding to critical arguments.

Language analysis is the clearest way of being original – it’s rare that a passage has been entirely analysed. Or if it’s a poem which has lots of close readings on it, try linking it with another poem from the selection which is not its most obvious pair. These oblique references also strengthen your essay as it shows you have read and understood more than just a central few poems. Very brief references to non-set texts will also impress the examiner as it shows that you have not limited yourself to the prescribed texts (though be wary of making this element too big).

Alternatively, responding to a critic’s argument can also make your essay stand out. Don’t go overboard though – it’s not usually a good idea to scorn their entire argument. Rather, pick at one element of their argument which seems unconvincing. For example, you could look at A. C. Bradley’s famous criticism in his book Shakespearean Tragedy which has been discredited by many critics, though is still held to be one of the most important works of Shakespearean criticism. This would give you an opportunity to acknowledge the wealth of critical debate, while showing that you have not just accepted a critical reading as the ‘right’ reading.

Frances H. A Level English Literature tutor, GCSE English Literature ...

3 months ago

Answered by Frances, an A Level English Literature tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


Oliver W. A Level Philosophy tutor, A Level English tutor, A Level En...
View profile
£20 /hr

Oliver W.

Degree: Philosophy (Bachelors) - Warwick University

Subjects offered: English Literature, Philosophy+ 2 more

English Literature
English Language

“About Me: Hi! My name is Oli. I’m a current undergraduate studying Philosophy at the University of Warwick. My life is a concoction of academic interests, but language, literature and their philosophical applications are at the forefr...”

PremiumKate P. GCSE English Literature tutor, IB English Literature tutor, A...
View profile
£22 /hr

Kate P.

Degree: English Literature (Doctorate) - Cambridge University

Subjects offered: English Literature, Religious Studies+ 5 more

English Literature
Religious Studies
English and World Literature
English Language
-Personal Statements-

“About Me I'm Kate, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, studying English Literature.  I'm passionate about all things literary, particularly poetry and the modern novel.  My not-so-secret love is children's literature - my u...”

PremiumIsabelle A. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level English Literature...
View profile
£24 /hr

Isabelle A.

Degree: Combined Honours in Arts (English Literature, History and Spanish) (Bachelors) - Durham University

Subjects offered: English Literature, Spanish+ 2 more

English Literature
Extended Project Qualification

“Hi, I’m Isabelle. About Me I’m a second-year student at Durham University studying modules in English, History and, in my first year, Spanish, for my Combined Honours in Arts degree. I’ve previously tutored A-Level English Literature...”

About the author

Frances H. A Level English Literature tutor, GCSE English Literature ...
View profile

Frances H.

Currently unavailable: for new students

Degree: English Language and Literature (Bachelors) - Oxford, Trinity College University

Subjects offered: English Literature, Latin+ 3 more

English Literature

“About me: I’m a second year student at Oxford reading English. Not only do I have a passion for my subject, but I genuinely love learning – this is something I want to pass on by sharing my skills and subject knowledge with those I tu...”

MyTutor guarantee

You may also like...

Posts by Frances

How can I write something original on my set texts, when so much has already been written on them by experts?

Is there an easier way of learning noun/adjective/verb endings?

Other A Level English Literature questions

What are the central themes in The Great Gatsby?

How do I study for a closed book examination at A Level?

How can "Assessment Objectives" be incorporated in an essay?

How do I make my essay standout?

View A Level English Literature tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss