Complete Book List & Resources for English Literature as an Optional

English Literature is an extremely interesting and thought provoking optional. It brings readers close to the narrative, helps them deconstruct it well and form opinions. For an aspirant with a background in literature, the recommended sources will be known. In fact, many of them will be a part of the curriculum during graduation or masters. However, for a first timer, this can be a tricky aspect. The first step towards preparation is to get acquainted with the prescribed syllabus. The second is to gather all the books and study material in order to get started. This is where the current post will help you, especially if you’re a newbie to the subject.


The syllabus consists of two papers, designed to test a first-hand and critical reading of texts prescribed from the following periods in English Leterature : Paper I : 1600-1900 and Paper II : 1900-1990.

There will be two compulsory questions in each paper : a) A short-notes question related to the topics for general study, and b) A critical analysis of UNSEEN passages both in prose and verse.


Answers must be written in English.

Texts for detailed study are listed below. Candidates will also be required to show adequate knowledge of the following topics and movements :

The Renaissance : Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama; Metaphysical Poetry; The Epic and the Mock-epic; Neo-classicism; Satire; The Romantic Movement; The Rise of the Novel; The Victorian Age.


1. William Shakespeare : King Lear and The Tempest.

2. John Donne. The following poems :

*  Canonization;

*  Death be not proud;

*  The Good Morrow;

*  On his Mistress going to bed;

*  The Relic;

3. John Milton : Paradise Lost, I, II, IV, IX

4. Alexander Pope. The Rape of the Lock.

5. William Wordsworth. The following poems:

*  Ode on Intimations of Immortality.

*  Tintern Abbey.

*  Three years she grew.

*  She dwelt among untrodden ways.

*  Michael.

*  Resolution and Independence.

*  The World is too much with us.

*  Milton, thou shouldst be living at this hour.

*  Upon Westminster Bridge.

6. Alfred Tennyson : In Memoriam.

7. Henrik Ibsen : A Doll’s House.


1. Jonathan Swift. Gulliver’s Travels.

2. Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice.

3. Henry Fielding. Tom Jones.

4. Charles Dickens. Hard Times.

5. George Eliot. The Mill on the Floss.

6. Thomas Hardy. Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

7. Mark Twain. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.


Answers must be written in English.

Texts for detailed study are listed below. Candidates will also be required to show adequate knowledge of the following topics and movements :

Modernism; Poets of the Thirties; The stream-of-consciousness Novel; Absurd Drama; Colonialism and Post-Colonialism; Indian Writing in English; Marxist, Psychoanalytical and Feminist approaches to literature; Post-Modernism.


1. William Butler Yeats. The following poems:

*  Easter 1916

*  The Second Coming

*  A Prayer for my daughter.

*  Sailing to Byzantium.

*  The Tower.

*  Among School Children.

*  Leda and the Swan.

*  Meru

*  Lapis Lazuli

*  The Second Coming

*  Byzantium.

2. T.S. Eliot. The following poems :

*  The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock

*  Journey of the Magi.

*  Burnt Norton.

3. W.H. Auden. The following poems :

*  Partition

*  Musee des Beaux Arts

*  in Memory of W.B. Yeats

*  Lay your sleeping head, my love

*  The Unknown Citizen

*  Consider

*  Mundus Et Infans

*  The Shield of Achilles

*  September 1, 1939

*  Petition.

4. John Osborne : Look Back in Anger.

5. Samuel Beckett. Waiting for Godot.

6. Philip Larkin. The following poems :

*  Next

*  Please

*  Deceptions

*  Afternoons

*  Days

*  Mr. Bleaney

7. A.K. Ramanujan. The following poems :

*  Looking for a Causim on a Swing

*  A River

*  Of Mothers, among other Things

*  Love Poem for a Wife 1

*  Samll-Scale Reflections on a Great House

*  Obituary

(All these poems are available in the anthology Ten Twentieth Century Indian Poets, edited by R. Parthasarthy, published by Oxford University Press, New Delhi).


1. Joseph Conrad. Lord Jim

2. James Joyce. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

3. D.H. Lawrence. Sons and Lovers.

4. E.M. Forster. A Passage to India.

5. Virginia Woolf. Mrs Dalloway.

6. Raja Rao. Kanthapura.

7. V.S. Naipal. A House for Mr. Biswas.



Each and every text prescribed in the syllabus for poetry, drama and fiction should be purchased by the aspirant. If you’re unwilling to buy , search for them online or get a membership of your campus library to issue the books.


  • Casebook Series (Available in campus libraries only)
  • Cliff Notes


  • Casebook Series (Available in campus libraries only)
  • Cliff Notes


  • Casebook Series (Available in campus libraries only)
  • Cliff Notes
  • Spark Notes


  • The Routledge History of Literature in English
  •  A short History of English Literature BY Pramod K. Nayar
  • The Complete History of English Literature by Prof. Bhimsen Dhaiya


  • Modern Criticism and Literary Theory by David Lodge
  • Key Concepts in Literary Theory by Julian Wolfreys, Kenneth Womack and Ruth Robbins


  • A Glossary of English Literature by M.H.Abrams
  • Research Papers and M.Phil/PhD Thesis available on the Internet

I would highly recommend to all the first time aspirants of English Literature to get a membership of the nearest campus library (preferably university). If the institute does not allow you to get membership, ask your friends who might be a part of the campus to help you with issuing the books. Make notes out of the books and return them in time.



Akriti Mattu


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  2. This post was highly required and was of great help. Thanks 🙂

  3. sir i want English literature material for upsc cse plz suggest me how can i get it

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