UPSC English Syllabus for 2021: Detailed Syllabus and General Preparation Tips for Literature Optional

UPSC English Syllabus For 2021

The UPSC offers candidates 48 optional subjects to choose from for the specialized two optional papers in the civil services mains exam. Out of these, 23 are the literature of different languages. English literature is not only one of them but is also one of the most popular optional among the language optionals. In the 2017 IAS exam, the all-India rank 26 was bagged by Anjali S, and her mains optional subject was English Literature. English literature is considered not a very scoring option. Contrary to what many may think, it is very possible to secure good marks in this subject. With the UPSC 2021 exam dates going to be announced soon, candidates should get updated with the UPSC 2021 English syllabus. This article talks about the UPSC English syllabus 2021.

UPSC English Optional Syllabus for Optional Paper 1

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:
  1. William Shakespeare: King Lear and The Tempest.
  2. John Donne: 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:
  • 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.

Section B
  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.

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

UPSC English Literature Syllabus for Optional Paper 2

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; Post Modernism.

Section A

1. William Butler Yeats:

  •  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

2. T.S. Eliot:

  •  The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock
  •  The journey of the Magi.
  •  Burnt Norton.

3. W.H. Auden:

  •  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:

  •  Next
  •  Please
  •  Deceptions
  •  Afternoons
  •  Days
  •  Mr. Bleaney

7. A.K. Ramanujan:

  •  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

How to Prepare English Literature Syllabus for UPSC 2021?

  • Make sure you, go through the syllabus in detail before you start your preparation.
  • Check out the past years’ UPSC question papers of English Literature and interconnect it with the syllabus.
  • Go through the question papers, and try to get an idea of the kind of questions asked. They are not like the ones they ask for in university exams for English graduation and also needs to be answered differently.
  • After this, start reading the texts. When you read the texts, there are certain things you should look for as you need to keep in mind that you’re preparing for a civil service examination. Give importance to and look out for the time period when the work is set in and look at the behavior, practices, belief systems, moral values, etc. of the people of that time setting.
  • Try to compare and connect the characters of two different texts set in different time periods. Get an understanding of and compare the belief systems of people of different time periods through different characters set in those time periods.
  • You should have a deep understanding of the socio-political set up of the time period the work is set in.
  • Supplement your thoughts with pointers from scholarly articles you find on the internet.
  • Answer-writing practice is a must in this optional and you should make sure to do a lot of it.
  • Make sure your conclusion to the answer is original and not copied off from any famous critics. Having a very different view from the established view is of no consequence at all.
  • The questions asked to judge you on the basis of your understanding of not just the literary merit of the text but also the social, political, and cultural context of the work. Therefore writing answers from a literary point of view is not enough.

Also Read: UPSC Prelims Cut Off 2020 Expectations: Effect of Covid 19 on UPSC Prelims


Only if you love this subject and have taken it out of genuine interest and an innate flair for the subject, will find the preparation journey a smooth and enjoyable affair. English literature will come as a fresh breath of air from the strenuous general studies preparation. The subject is all about reading, celebrating, appreciating, and understanding the nuances of works of art written by great authors, playwrights, and poets. It takes a different kind of a learned mind to be able to have this kind of literary flair for the subject.

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UPSC English Syllabus for 2021: Detailed Syllabus and General Preparation Tips for Literature Optional
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UPSC English Syllabus for 2021: Detailed Syllabus and General Preparation Tips for Literature Optional
Candidates appearing for UPSC 2021 should have ideally started their preparation and choosing their optionals is one of the most important steps. Learn about English Literature optional.
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