4.2 Texts and genres

In Texts and genres, in contrast to the literary genres of tragedy and comedy, the texts are grouped together as having elements of more modern genres: either crime writing or political and social protest writing. These genres, which are heavily influenced by culture, are continually evolving.

Students will choose one of the following options:

  • Option 2A: Elements of crime writing
  • Option 2B: Elements of political and social protest writing

Students study three texts: one post-2000 prose text, one poetry and one further text, one of which must be written pre-1900. They also respond to an unseen passage in the exam. The unseen extract can come from any of the genres of poetry, prose or drama and can include literary non-fiction.

The paper for this component is open book. Students may take a copy of their set texts into the exam. These texts must not be annotated and must not contain any additional notes or materials.

4.2.1 Elements of crime writing

In the case of Elements of crime writing, many of the texts pre-date the crime fiction genre that emerged as a recognisable literary genre in the mid-19th century and with academic recognition in the 20th century. However, in all the texts a significant crime drives the narrative and the execution and consequences of the crime are fundamentally important to the way the text is structured.

All set texts are narratives which focus on transgressions against established order and the specific breaking of either national, social, religious or moral laws. The focus in this component must be on ‘Elements’ and students need to consider the elements that exist in each of their texts. The elements that might be explored, depending on the individual text, include:

  • the type of the crime text itself, whether it is detective fiction, a post-modern novel, a revenge tragedy, an account of a life lost to crime
  • the settings that are created as backdrops for criminal action and for the pursuit of the perpetrators of crime: both places and times will be significant here
  • the nature of the crimes and the criminals, the criminals’ motives and actions
  • the inclusion of violence, murder, theft, betrayal
  • the detection of the criminal and the investigation that leads to his or her capture or punishment
  • how far there is a moral purpose and restoration of order
  • guilt and remorse, confession and the desire for forgiveness
  • the creation of the criminal and their nemesis, the typical detective hero
  • the sense that there will be a resolution and the criminal will be punished
  • the victims of crime and the inclusion of suffering
  • the central motifs of love, money, danger and death
  • punishment, justice, retribution, injustice, accusation, the legal system, criminal trials and courtroom dramas, imprisonment, death
  • the structural patterning of the text as it moves through a series of crises to some sense of order
  • the specific focus on plotting
  • the way that language is used in the world that is created; there may be use of a criminal register, legal register, police register
  • the way that crime writing is used to comment on society, particularly the representation of society at particular historical periods
  • ultimately, how crime stories affect audiences and readers, creating suspense, repugnance, excitement and relief.

Students study three texts from the following list: one post-2000 prose text, one pre-1900 poetry text and one further text.

Author Text Time period
Kate Atkinson When Will There Be Good News? Post-2000
Agatha Christie The Murder of Roger Ackroyd  
Samuel Taylor Coleridge The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Pre-1900
George Crabbe, Robert Browning and Oscar Wilde ‘Peter Grimes’,‘The Laboratory’, ‘My Last Duchess’, ‘Porphyria’s Lover’, 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol' Pre-1900
Charles Dickens Oliver Twist Pre-1900
Graham Greene Brighton Rock  
Ian McEwan Atonement Post-2000
William Shakespeare Hamlet Pre-1900

We do not expect to change texts within the first five years of the specification. However, texts will be reviewed each year starting in September 2017 and we will give at least nine months’ notice of any changes prior to first teaching of a two year course. The criteria for changing texts will be where a text becomes unavailable or where we can no longer use it in a question paper. Notice of any change will be communicated via our exam bulletins and aqa.org.uk/english

4.2.2 Elements of political and social protest writing

Although it could be claimed that all texts are political, what defines the texts here is that they have issues of power and powerlessness at their core, with political and social protest issues central to each text’s structure. The political and social protest genre covers representations of both public and private settings.

All set texts foreground oppression and domination and they all look at the cultures we live in and have lived in over time. A crucial word in the title of this option is ‘Elements’ and students need to consider the specific elements that exist in each of their texts. The elements that might be explored, depending on each individual text, include:

  • the type of the text itself, whether it is a post-modern novel, science fiction, satirical poetry, historical and political drama
  • the settings that are created as backdrops for political and social action and the power struggles that are played out on them. Both places (real and imagined) and time settings will also be significant here
  • the specific nature of the power struggle, the behaviours of those with power and those without, those who have their hands on the levers of power
  • the pursuit of power itself, rebellion against those with power, warfare
  • the workings of the ruling political classes
  • corruption, conspiracy, control
  • the connection of the smaller world to the larger world
  • the focus on human organisation: domestically, in the work place, in local and national governments
  • gender politics and issues of social class
  • the structural patterning of the text, how political tensions are heightened and perhaps resolved
  • the way that language is used in the worlds that are created
  • the way that political and social protest writing is used to comment on society, particularly the representation of society at particular historical periods
  • ultimately how political and social protest writing affects audiences and readers, inviting reflection on our own world.

Students study three texts from the following list: one post-2000 prose text; one poetry text and one further text, one of which must be written pre-1900.

Author Text Time period
Margaret Atwood The Handmaid’s Tale  
William Blake Songs of Innocence and of Experience Pre-1900
Jim Crace Harvest Post-2000
Charles Dickens Hard Times Pre-1900
Tony Harrison Selected Poems

‘V’, ‘National Trust’, ‘Them and [uz]’, ‘Divisions’,’ Working’, ‘Marked with D’

 
Khaled Hosseini The Kite Runner Post-2000
Henrik Ibsen (Translated by Michael Meyer) A Doll’s House (Methuen Drama Student Edition 2008)* Pre-1900
William Shakespeare Henry IV Part I Pre-1900

* The edition of A Doll's House which must be used is the Bloomsbury Methuen Drama edition, translated by Michael Meyer, ISBN 1408106027. We will treat the translated text as Ibsen's own words for assessment purposes.

As with all the requirements around genre/dates in this specification, a text can fulfil more than one category. So, for example Songs of Innocence and of Experience covers the requirement for a poetry text and a text written pre-1900.

We do not expect to change texts within the first five years of the specification. However, texts will be reviewed each year starting in September 2017 and we will give at least nine months’ notice of any changes prior to first teaching of a two year course. The criteria for changing texts will be where a text becomes unavailable or where we can no longer use it in a question paper. Notice of any change will be communicated via our exam bulletins and aqa.org.uk/english