Do you know that English literature is there in the optional subjects list of UPSC? Well, it’s true. Thi subject is commonly taken by aspirants with an English degree. The curriculum for English Literature for UPSC Mains is extensive. It includes literature written in old English throughout the mediaeval and early modern periods, as well as literature written in contemporary English after 1900 AD. English literature is also one of the required language papers in the UPSC Mains. Let’s get started with the article to learn all about the English literature optional UPSC subject.

UPSC Optional English Literature

In the following sections, you will learn about the English literature optional syllabus, books, pros and cons and much more. So, continue reading.

English Literature Optional Syllabus

Paper I

The Renaissance: Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama; Metaphysical Poetry; The Epic and the Mockepic; Neoclassicism; Satire; The Romantic Movement; The Rise of the Novel; The Victorian Age.

Section A

William Shakespeare: King Lear and The Tempest.

John Donne: The following poems : Canonization; Death be not proud; The Good Morrow; On his Mistress going to bed; The Relic;

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

Alexander Pope: The Rape of the Lock.

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.

Alfred Tennyson: In Memoriam.

Henrik Ibsen: A Doll’s House.

Section B

Jonathan Swift Gulliver’s Travels.

Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice.

Henry Fielding: Tom Jones.

Charles Dickens: Hard Times.

George Eliot: The Mill on the Floss.

Thomas Hardy: Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Also Read : 3 Months Preparation Plan for UPSC Prelims: A Step Towards Success


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

Section A

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

T.S. Eliot: The following poems: The LoveSong of J.Alfred Prufrock; Journey of the Magi;  Burnt Norton.

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.

John Osborne: Look Back in Anger.

Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot.

Philip Larkin: The following poems: Next; Please; Deceptions; Afternoons; Days; Mr. Bleaney

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; Small Scale Reflections on a Great House; Obituary.

Pros of English Literature UPSC Optional

# The pressure is also much lower here, and you will just need to write better than your rivals to earn a decent grade.

# There is no limitation to how good you may write on this topic. If you’ve been reading since you were a youngster, you can really do quite well if you keep the UPSC exam’s specific requirements in mind.

# This optional subject can be prepared for in three months.

# The curriculum is highly detailed and specified.

# This optional might also assist you with your essay assignment.

Also Read: What are Endogenic and Exogenic Forces? IAS Geography Notes

Cons of English Literature UPSC Optional

# This optional subject has a scarcity of expert guidance.

# This optional additionally has a tough time obtaining a solid test series.

# There is no crossover with the general studies articles at all.

# To get good grades here, your responses must be excellent.

# As a literature topic, it is subjective in form, keeping your performance uncertain, in contrast to science courses.

English Literature Optional UPSC Books I

Book Name Author
King Lear William Shakespeare
She dwelt among untrodden ways  William Wordsworth
Michael William Wordsworth
Resolution and Independence  William Wordsworth
The Tempest  William Shakespeare
Canonization  John Donne
Death be not proud  John Donne
A short History of English Literature  Pramod K. Nayar
Paradise Lost, I, II, IV, IX  John Milton
The Good Morrow  John Donne
On his Mistress going to bed John Donne
The relic by John Donne
The Rape of the Lock  Alexander Pope
The World is too much with us  William Wordsworth
Ode on Intimations of Immortality William Wordsworth
Tintern Abbey  William Wordsworth
Three years she grew  William Wordsworth
Tom Jones Henry Fielding
Hard Times  Charles Dickens

Also Read: Understanding the Different Dimensions and Branches of Ethics: Ethics for UPSC

English Literature Optional UPSC Books II

Book Name Author
Look In Anger  John Osborne
Afternoons  Philip Larkin
The Shield of Achilles W.H. Auden
Burnt Norton  T. S. Eliot
Journey of the Magi  T. S. Eliot
Mundus Et Infans  W.H. Auden
Deceptions  Philip Larkin
Please  Philip Larkin
The Unknown Citizen  W.H. Auden
Bleaney  Philip Larkin
Days  Philip Larkin
The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock  T. S. Eliot
Among School Children  William Butler Yeats
The Tower  William Butler Yeats
Sailing to Byzantium  William Butler Yeats
Easter 1916  William Butler Yeats
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn  Mark Twain
Leda and the Swan  William Butler Yeats
A Prayer for my daughter  William Butler Yeats

Also Read: A Detailed Guide to Choosing the Best Optional Subject for UPSC Exam

How to Prepare for English in UPSC?

Read Editorials

When it relates to UPSC Exam preparation, any IAS candidate would tell you that reading newspaper editorials is crucial. Newspaper editorials may be used to practise English in addition to giving important information and clear opinions on current events of national relevance. The editorials in the newspaper are all authored by well-known editors and columnists. These renowned writers’ vocabulary, structure, style, and language are not only technically accurate, but also give a contextual knowledge of proper English usage. Take notes if you get any current affairs too.

Practice Letter Writing

In accordance with the subject of newspaper editorials, it is critical for IAS candidates to understand how to articulate their opinions on current events in the sociopolitical and economic realms. What greater way of learning than to write letters to editors? IAS candidates who want to improve their writing abilities should compose a letter to the editor every day.

Communicate in English

The art of communication in English is among the most prevalent obstacles that IAS candidates confront throughout their interview process. Even applicants who are proficient in reading and writing English sometimes struggle when it comes to speaking the language. Thousands of ‘Spoken English’ courses and programmes back up the claim that few people can utilise English in conversation notwithstanding having a proper English education.

Watch English TV Shows, Movies and Documentaries

Learning a new language, unlike technical disciplines, is an art, and there are numerous methods other than the traditional ones that may be used to learn English. Television is a fun and effective method to study for IAS examinations. While most of us consider television to be an ignorant box and try to avoid it as much as possible throughout our IAS preparation, it may really be our greatest ally when it comes to learning English.

Build Your Vocabulary

Any IAS candidate is well aware of the crucial relevance of vocabulary. However, it is important to remember that you do not need to master every difficult term that exists; instead, you should concentrate on words that are used in our everyday lives and are mentioned in policy choices, government decrees, and current events. As a result, the best approach to make progress in this area is to make a habit of writing down all of the difficult phrases you come across on a regular basis, whether when reading the newspaper or conversing with others. Any IAS candidate is well aware of the crucial relevance of vocabulary.

Solve Question Papers

At the end of the day, the IAS exam, including the IAS Mains Exam, is a recruiting test, just like any other exam. As a result, in order to use it, you’ll require to be excellent on the test pattern. Even while studying for the portions, it is necessary to practise with prior year’s question papers. You can also refer to toppers notes to get an idea of the exam.

Be Patient

Despite being at the bottom of the list, this is arguably the most crucial topic to remember when studying for the Main Exam. Learning or perfecting a language, particularly for the Main Exam, is a difficult endeavour that will not be completed overnight. To do this, you will need to be persuasive, dedicated, and hardworking. Regardless of your best efforts, you will need to devote a significant amount of time to studying this subject. As a result, your patience and devotion throughout the process will be crucial to your success.


English literature can be a good optional sublet for you if you hold a degree in English. Aspirants from other fields can also go for it if they are confident about their proficiency and knowledge of the language. As we have read in the article that there are pros as well as cons of taking this subject. Therefore, choose it wisely or you can go for some other optional subjects.

Check out these courses from UPSC Pathshala to boost up your preparation.

Also Read: 6 Best Optional Subjects in UPSC: Guide to Choose Most Scoring Non-technical Subjects

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About the Author

Madhurjya Chowdhury

Madhurjya Chowdhury, a web content writer in Ufaber EduTech has a very strong passion for writing and alluring the readers. You can find him writing articles for the betterment of exam aspirants and children. With immense interest in research-based content writing and copywriting, he likes to reach out to more and more people with his creative writing style. On the other side, he is an Electronics and Communication Engineer from LPU, Jalandhar. In his leisure time, he likes to play badminton or read about space discoveries. Apart from this, he is a pro gamer on PC, PS and Mobile gaming platforms.

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