There are multiple options for each candidate in the UPSC exam. The optional subjects consist of 2 papers. Both the exam papers are of 250 marks. The total marks is 500. The papers have different approaches in their syllabus. It is for testing your first-hand and critical reading of texts. Paper 1 of English Literature is 1600-1900 and Paper II is 1900-1990. If you are a candidate of CSE and searching for the entire syllabus to study for your UPSC preparation, we have it in this article. The English Literature optional syllabus is not heavy but you have to be consciously concentrated on preparing it. You must choose a subject when you are interested and attracted to it. If you like English literature, you can select it and work for it positively. Look below to acknowledge the syllabus for 2021.

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English Literature Optional UPSC

The English Literature paper consists of two parts. There are two compulsory questions in each paper:

#1. A short-notes question related to the topics for general study.

#2.  A critical analysis of UNSEEN passages both in prose and verse.

Go through this complete article and know all that is necessary for your UPSC preparation.

English Literature Optional Syllabus 2021: Paper 1

The candidates are required to answer all the questions in English. The necessary texts for detailed study are listed below. You must check the given data for analyzing your potential and know what to study. The candidates appearing for this esteemed exam 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; Neoclassicism; Satire; The Romantic Movement; The Rise of the Novel; The Victorian Age.

#1. English Literature Optional UPSC Section A

  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;

  1. John Milton: Paradise Lost, I, II, IV, IX
  2. Alexander Pope. The Rape of the Lock.
  3. William Wordsworth. The following poems: – Ode on Intimations of Immortality.

– Tintern Abbey.

– Three years ago 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.

  1. Alfred Tennyson: In Memoriam.
  2. Henrik Ibsen: A Doll’s House.

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#2. English Literature Optional UPSC 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.

English Literature Optional Syllabus 2021: Paper 2

The required answers must be written in English. The necessary 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.

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#1. English Literature Optional UPSC Section-A

  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.

  1. T.S. Eliot. The following poems: – The LoveSong of J.Alfred Prufrock – Journey of the Magi.

– Burnt Norton.

  1. W.H. Auden. The following poems: – Partition

– Musée des Beaux-Arts

– in Memory of W.B. Yeats

– Lay your sleeping head, my love – The Unknown Citizen

– Consider

– Mundus Et Infants

– The Shield of Achilles – September 1, 1939


  1. John Osborne: Look Back in Anger.
  2. Samuel Beckett. Waiting for Godot.
  3. Philip Larkin. The following poems: – Next


– Deceptions – Afternoons – Days

– Mr. Bleaney

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

Looking for a Cousin on a Swing

– A River

– Of Mothers, among other Things – Love Poem for a Wife 1

– Small-Scale Reflections on a Great House – Obituary

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

#2. English Literature Optional UPSC Section-B

  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. Naipaul. A House for Mr. Biswas.

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English Literature Optional UPSC Books

There are books for English literature present in the market for your preparation. You can go through them to have clear learning and understanding. It is often said that good preparation is an output of good books. There are online platforms from where you can order the books or can get them from the shop. The candidates taking this subject in their optional exam must study very diligently and deeply because the syllabus is a bit lengthy. You must know all the things related to your syllabus. You could be asked questions from your optional subject in the interview as well. So, it is your responsibility to make sure you are perfect in it. You can gather information about the other relevant topics too to enhance your knowledge and make an impression in the examination.

UPSC Preparation

The time phase of the UPSC preparation is difficult and stressful for all the candidates because everyone finds ways to study as much as they can and ace the civil services examination. In the hustle of succeeding, the aspirants forget to take care of their bodies and the soundness of their minds. To be able to concentrate on something, you need to be mindful and unpressurized. According to experts, you must be calm and organized to grab every bit of the syllabus that you are going through. This time brings challenges and insecurities to the lives of people. You must have patience, tranquillity, and self-confidence to overcome the hard situations and keep working hard on your ambitions. The determination within you will lead you towards success.

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The syllabus of English literature will help you in your preparation. You must go through all the topics in detail. UPSC exam is considered tough but if you prepare exceptionally for it, you will succeed in making yourself proud. We hope that this article will prove to be of great significance for your preparation. You can visit UPSC Pathshala, if you have any doubt regarding the syllabus of any subject, its details, marking criteria, preparation for the interview, or anything that creates chaos in your mind. Make yourself stress-free and excel in the exam with high scores. The professionals of the website will give you personalized mentorship where you will be free to ask anything you desire along with the guidance needed to all the people for cracking the examination. The experts are there to ensure your success and turn your ambitions into reality.

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There are many choices for your optional subject in the UPSC exam. Are you looking for English literature optional syllabus? We have all of it in this article. Keep reading it carefully.
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Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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