English Literature Optional for UPSC Exam

“Have more than you show, speak less than you know.” – William Shakespeare in King Lear

Only those candidates with English literature as their subject for graduation could take the English Literature optional till 2014. Now, this rule has been scrapped and anyone can take up this optional. Ideally, you can safely go for English literature if this subject interests you and you enjoy and have been reading from an early age. In fact, many candidates take this subject because it takes away the heat of the strenuous UPSC preparation. But again, you need to follow a strategy here also just like in all other UPSC subjects. This article suggests study material and tips for English literature optional for UPSC exam.

Tips for English literature optional for IAS exam

  • You should be interested in literature.
  • Priority should be given to covering the syllabus.
  • It is recommended that you read the texts in the syllabus at least once.
  • First, complete the texts and then cover the history of literature portions.
  • Practice writing answers.
  • Keep in mind to use simple language even in this paper. Your understanding of the stories, the socio-political period the works were written in, how literary and cultural movements were affected by the socio-political context is to be shown in the paper, rather than flowery words.
  • Strategy for novels and drama: while reading these, focus on the whole context, i.e., the chapter or the text in its entirety. For analysis or criticism, read ‘Worldview edition’ or ‘Norton critical edition’. For Indian origin texts, look up the internet for analysis or criticisms.
  • Strategy for poetry: it is recommended that you learn by rote certain lines of a poem so that you can augment your answers.
  • Strategy for the history of literature section: the following books are suggested:

History of Literature – Louis Cazamian

The Routledge History of Literature in English – Ronald Carter & John McRae

A New History Of English Literature – Bhim S Dahiya

  • There would be two unseen passages in the question papers, from which you have to answer questions. Although you can use your judgment in answering them, you can also go through the book, ‘Practical Criticism’ by Oxford University Press for help.
  • Refer to ‘A Glossary of Literary Terms’ by M.H Abrams for an understanding of the various literary terms.
  • You can also refer to ‘Literary Theory Today’ by Pramod K Nayar.

For more such articles and strategy on clearing the IAS exam, visit the BYJU’S free IAS prep website.

Also, See:

Check out the English Literature Optional UPSC syllabus here.
Tips for English Literature Optional by UPSC Rank Holder Gaurav Garg
Important books for English Literature optional for UPSC IAS Mains Exam


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