English literature is an optional subject under the UPSC mains exam. There are two papers – paper 1 and paper 2. Each exam is conducted for a duration of three hours and carries marks of 250 each. Paper 1 focuses on English literature from a period of 1600 to 1900. The next paper, paper 2, focuses on modern English literature from 1900 onwards.
UPSC Mains English Syllabus Paper – I
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:
– 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.
– 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.
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UPSC Mains English Syllabus Paper – II
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.
– Lapis Lazuli
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 :
– Musee des Beaux Arts
– in Memory of W.B. Yeats
– Lay your sleeping head, my love
– The Unknown Citizen
– Mundus Et Infans
– The Shield of Achilles
– September 1, 1939
4. John Osborne : Look Back in Anger.
5. Samuel Beckett. Waiting for Godot.
6. Philip Larkin. The following poems :
– 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
(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.
Also, Check Other Optional Subject’s Syllabus
Preparation tips for English optional subject in IAS Mains
- Try to read and completely understand all the books quoted in the syllabus.
- Try to interpret and analyze all characters and events in your own words. Never try to memorize anything in this section.
- Having your original presentation in answers will fetch very good marks.
- English is not a factual or technical subject, be creative in your writing skills.
- Reading too much may confuse events, plays, and characters.
- The best strategy to adopt is to write and highlight whatever you read. Note down everything that seems important to a situation or character.
- Make your observations about a story or novel in sync with the timeline of its period. Express it in the same manner, too, in your answers.
- Just reading the entire story or novel or an author’s work won’t be sufficient. IF you have to put them down in your paper, then you have to search for more related content on the internet.
- Make concise, understandable summaries for every literature work that you study. It could be short stories/poems/ novels or any other work.
- After finishing with the work under study, collect informative knowledge about the author.
- Use mind-mapping techniques. Prepare charts using the technique to write/mark all important characters/events/names of persons involved in one place, so you have the all information in one heap.
- Try to read critics’ views about the authors and their works, at least one critic would be useful.
- Perform a comparative analysis between two noted authors of the same era. It will help when you write elaborate answers in exams. In the same way, make notes on contradictory views too.
- Analyze the generic theme applicable to a certain timeline of a specific era.
- Literature movements over the years are crucial, and they must be studied with precision and good data.
- It’s a good idea to write answers for previous year question papers and get your answers checked by a mentor.
- Refer to few extra noteworthy poems by poets like Rudyard Kipling, Robert Frost, Shelley, Blake, Milton, Wordsworth, and Shakespeare.
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