4.3 Independent critical study: texts across time
In Texts across time, students write a comparative critical study of two texts.
This specification is committed to the notion of autonomous personal reading and Texts across time provides a challenging and wide-ranging opportunity for independent study. Possible themes for the comparison are indicated below, but this is not a set list and students are free to develop their own interests from their own wider and independent reading.
Texts chosen for study must maximise opportunities for writing about comparative similarity and difference and must allow access to a range of critical views and interpretations, including over time. Students should take an autonomous approach to the application and evaluation of a range of critical views.
The title 'Independent critical study' highlights the important idea that, within a literature course, students should have the opportunity to work independently. Although one common text could, if required, be taught to a whole cohort, at least one text should be studied independently by each student. Texts should always be chosen with your guidance and support. Students should also individually negotiate their own task.
In Texts across time, students write a comparative critical study of two texts on a theme of their choice. Possible themes include, but are not limited to:
- the struggle for identity
- crime and punishment
- minds under stress
- nostalgia and the past
- the Gothic
- satire and dystopia
- war and conflict
- representations of race and ethnicity
- representations of sexuality
- representations of women
- representations of men
- representations of social class and culture.
The spirit of this component is for independent study, with schools and colleges submitting work on a range of texts and tasks. Schools and colleges are encouraged to check the appropriateness of texts and tasks with their non-exam assessment adviser, especially where there may be some uncertainty on the approach being taken, either by the school or college as a whole or by individual students.
- The word count is 2,500 words.
- Tasks should be designed to ensure that students address all assessment objectives in their essay response.
- An appropriate academic bibliography (not included within the 2,500 word count) must be included.
- An appropriately academic form of referencing must be used.
The following conditions apply to the texts chosen:
- one text must have been written pre-1900
- two different authors must be studied
- set texts listed for the A-level exam components cannot be used for non-exam assessment, even if they will not be used in the exam
- the essay is comparative and connective so equal attention must be paid to both texts
- a poetry text could be either one longer narrative poem or a single authored collection of shorter poems. If using a collection of poetry, students must have studied the whole text and select at least two poems to write about in detail as examples of the wider collection
- single authored collections of short stories are permissible. If using a collection of short stories, students must have studied the whole text and select at least two stories to write about in detail as examples of the wider collection
- texts chosen for study may include texts in translation that have been influential and significant in the development of literature in English. The translated text should be treated as the original writer's own words for assessment purposes. Therefore, schools and colleges should ensure that they use a version recognised by academia as being a high quality translation which supports the original author's writing appropriately.
Texts listed in the A-level core set text and comparative set text lists in Sections 4.1 and 4.2 cannot be studied for non-exam assessment. Texts chosen for study may include texts in translation that have been influential and significant in the development of literature in English.
Possible pre-1900 texts include, but are not limited to:
|Jane Austen||Northanger Abbey|
|Anne Brontë||The Tenant of Wildfell Hall|
|Wilkie Collins||The Moonstone|
|The Woman in White|
|Charles Dickens||Hard Times|
|The Mill on the Floss|
|Elizabeth Gaskell||North and South|
|William Makepeace Thackeray||Vanity Fair|
|Oscar Wilde||The Picture of Dorian Gray|
|William Congreve||The Way of the World|
|Henrik Ibsen||A Doll's House|
|Oliver Goldsmith||She Stoops to Conquer|
|George Bernard Shaw||any pre-1900 play by this writer|
|Richard Brinsley Sheridan||The School for Scandal|
|Oscar Wilde||any pre-1900 play by this writer|
|William Wycherley||The Country Wife|
'The Wife of Bath’s Tale'
'The Miller’s Tale'
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'
'Isabella or The Pot of Basil'
'The Eve of St Agnes'
NEA prohibited texts
Students cannot use the following texts for non-exam assessment as they appear on the exam set text lists.
|Margaret Atwood||The Handmaid’s Tale|
|Pat Barker||Life Class|
|Barry Sebastian||A Long, Long Way|
|William Blake||The Garden of Love|
|Charlotte Brontë||Jane Eyre|
|Emily Brontë||Wuthering Heights|
|Robert Burns||Song (Ae fond kiss)|
|Lord Byron||She Walks in Beauty|
|Kate Chopin||The Awakening|
|Caryl Churchill||Top Girls|
|Wendy Cope||After the Lunch|
|Richard Curtis and Ben Elton||Blackadder Goes Forth|
|John Donne||The Flea|
|Ernest Dowson||Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae|
|Daphne Du Maurier||Rebecca|
|Carol Ann Duffy||The Love Poem|
|Carol Ann Duffy||Feminine Gospels|
|Ben Elton||The First Casualty|
|F. Scott Fitzgerald||The Great Gatsby|
|E. M. Forster||A Room with a View|
|Robert Frost||Love and a Question|
|Brian Gardner, ed.||Up the Line to Death|
|Robert Graves||Goodbye to All That|
|David Haig||My Boy Jack|
|Thomas Hardy||The Ruined Maid|
|Thomas Hardy||At an Inn|
|Thomas Hardy||Tess of the D’Urbervilles|
|Tony Harrison||Selected Poems (2013 edition)|
|L. P. Hartley||The Go-Between|
|Seamus Heaney||New Selected Poems (1966–1987)|
|Ernest Hemingway||A Farewell to Arms|
|Susan Hill||Strange Meeting|
|Ian Hislop and Nick Newman||The Wipers Times|
|Ted Hughes||Birthday Letters|
|Elizabeth Jennings||One Flesh|
|John Keats||La Belle Dame sans Merci|
|Ken Kesey||One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest|
|Philip Larkin||Wild Oats|
|Philip Larkin||Talking in Bed|
|Joan Littlewood||Oh! What a Lovely War|
|Richard Lovelace||The Scrutiny|
|Louis MacNeice||Meeting Point|
|Andrew Marvell||To His Coy Mistress|
|Charlotte Mew||A quoi bon dire|
|Edna St. Vincent Millay||I, being born a woman and distressed|
|Arthur Miller||All My Sons|
|Paul Muldoon||Long Finish|
|Ian Hislop and Nick Newman||The Wipers Times|
|Catherine Reilly, ed.||Scars Upon My Heart|
|Erich Maria Remarque||All Quiet on the Western Front|
|Michael Symmons Roberts||To John Donne|
|Arundhati Roy||The God of Small Things|
|Anne Sexton||For My Lover, Returning to His Wife|
|William Shakespeare||The Taming of the Shrew|
|William Shakespeare||Measure for Measure|
|William Shakespeare||The Winter’s Tale|
|William Shakespeare||Sonnet 116|
|Owen Sheers||Skirrid Hill|
|R. C. Sherriff||Journey’s End|
|Jon Stallworthy, ed.||The Oxford Book of War Poetry|
|Jon Stallworthy, ed.||The War Poems of Wilfred Owen|
|Kathryn Stockett||The Help|
|Alice Walker||The Color Purple|
|George Walter, ed.||The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry|
|Timberlake Wertenbaker||Our Country’s Good|
|Rebecca West||The Return of the Soldier|
|Peter Whelan||The Accrington Pals|
|Tennessee Williams||A Streetcar Named Desire|
|Tennessee Williams||Cat on a Hot Tin Roof|
|John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester||A Song (Absent from thee)|
|Jeanette Winterson||Oranges are not the Only Fruit|
|Sir Thomas Wyatt||Whoso list to hunt I knowe where is an hynde|
|Richard Yates||Revolutionary Road|
Examples of choices of non-exam assessment texts and possible connections
- John R. Reed (1973) has suggested that the ‘unacknowledged crime’
of Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone is the colonial guilt of the British Empire
for its annexation of the entire Indian sub-continent rather than the theft of a
single exquisite diamond.
Compare and contrast the presentation of British attitudes to race and ethnicity in The Moonstone and in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth in the light of this view.
- Compare and contrast the presentation of women in Keats’
narrative poems 'Lamia', 'Isabella' and 'The Eve of St Agnes' with that of Anne
Brontë's in her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
In what ways do you think the Gothic settings of these texts help the writers to shape their presentation of heroines in peril?
- Sarah Waters has argued that the Victorian ‘sensation novel’
genre ‘was at its best when tugging at the seams of certainties and easy solutions’.
Compare and contrast the presentation of Sue Trinder in Fingersmith with Marian Halcombe in The Woman in White in the light of this view.