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UPSC Mains: Optional Strategy-2 ENGLISH LITERATURE

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This Article is contributed by a ForumIAS User VSH_DU2015. She is currently pursuing her PhD in English at University of Leeds, UK. She joined ForumIAS a few years ago when she was an M.Phil scholar at University of Delhi and entertained the idea of preparing for CSE. But, the moment she passed her M.Phil and bought all books, she subscribed to websites like ForumIAS ? 

I will show a sample of how an answer is supposed to be written in English Mains paper.

This question is from Section A of Paper I, that came in 2013 Mains. Word limit was 150.


Q. The impact of the French Revolution on the English Romantic poets.


Answer: [Words:167] [Nobody counts your answers word-by-word, so 5-10 words increase/decrease doesn’t at all matter! But not substantial decrease/increase]

The classic Marxist interpretation of the French Revolution is that it constituted a change from an old feudal order to a new capitalist order and, in essence, amounted to the triumph of the middle-class over the aristocracy. Thus one can say that the most crucial aspect of French Revolution was an increased sense of human agency. Inspired by the Revolution, in the Romantic period, we encounter literature that rejected old literary conventions and tried to find new forms of expression. For e.g. William Blake welcomed French Revolution as an agent that would sweep away old exploitative patterns of social relations; The Lyrical Ballads by Coleridge and Wordsworth, marked a withdrawal from public life and celebrated the subjective insight of the poet, which aided by nature tried to bring a pattern in life. Similarly, Byron showed a desire to strike out a new path, surpassing conventional morality. Based on these examples one can say with confidence that the French Revolution was central to the English Romantic poets.

  • Understanding of the main literary trends during the period with reference to the authors prescribed.
  • Questions on the social and cultural background to the period.
  • First hand reading of the text along with their ability to examine
    literacy problems critically.

These three are most crucial points while taking English Literature as an optional. Are you already preparing?

Please stick to any one book, either Albert which I suggested in my previous post or whatever you’re already referring to. Use bullet points to divide different points but don’t use sub-headings/bullet points otherwise. Literature answers are supposed to be paragraphic. Your syllabus doesn’t mention the word limits for this exam, so just keep it within 300-500 for each important socio-political point.

I think sticking to Forum is a rather good idea as my office computer shows a pop up every time anything happens on anything I visit regularly.

All the Best 🙂


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