English at Wycombe Abbey: Broadening Horizons

Reading at Wycombe

Integral to our vision for providing a world-class education in English is a desire to broaden horizons, deepen cultural appreciation and nurture a passion for reading and discussing literature from a diverse range of writers. Literature offers us a lens through which we can encounter the world and an invitation to join the conversation about who we are, exposing us to ideas and perspectives to enrich our lives and refine our character.

As passionate advocates for the transformational power of reading, the English department want all girls at Wycombe Abbey to capture this vision and we have taken a number of important steps this term towards this goal. While every text we study provides opportunities to engage with issues shaping our society, we have sought to diversify our curriculum to take our girls on an even greater journey, while helping them see how literature speaks into particular socio-political struggles. The LIV have recently started exploring issues of colonialism and cultural identity in The Wheel of Surya by Jamila Gavin, while the UIV are being exposed to the stark portrayal of slavery in Sharon Draper’s Copper Sun, which will be our primary focus in January. At the other end of the school, our UVI have recently completed coursework in which they compared Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s outstanding novel, Purple Hibiscus, with Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire – an experience that perfectly encapsulates our vision to bring such diverse texts together in a sophisticated, far-reaching exploration of issues of representation.

Complementing these curriculum changes, we have refreshed our environment to ensure that even our walls provide a cultural education. In fact, it is quite a feat if you manage to avoid learning something when you walk down the T-Block first floor corridor. Drawing on the expertise of our Resident Tutors, we proudly proclaim the ‘heroes of literature’ from all over the world, while showcasing a selection of inspirational female writers from Julian of Norwich to Toni Morrison. A timeline of the history of English literature running along one side of the corridor takes the girls beyond the context of individual books to appreciate the literary movements and defining texts that paved the way for what we read today. With our subscription to Digital Theatre Plus presenting girls with a smorgasbord of the finest drama, we offer not only recommended reading but suggested viewing to continue the journey beyond the classroom.

If a girl at Wycombe Abbey chooses to embark on all three stages of the English journey during their time here, culminating in the richness of a life-enhancing A level course, they will have a truly global experience of literature complementing all other academic and professional pursuits. Take a wander down our corridors for a taster of what’s on offer and you will see a department offering something that we all consider to be so much more than a subject: English exposes, English engages and English explores. It is our privilege and our pleasure to accompany the girls through such an enriching experience.

Mr Sam Lenton

Head of English