A2 English Literature (2016-17) – Coursework Brief

taken from AQA specification

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 the teacher’s 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
  • A-level core set texts and chosen comparative set texts listed for study in either Love through the ages or in Texts in shared contexts cannot be used for non-exam assessment
  • the essay is comparative and connective so equal attention must be paid to both texts
  • collections of short poems are not recommended as texts for study. Longer narrative poems can be used
  • 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.

Recommended texts

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 AustenNorthanger Abbey
Mansfield Park
Anne BrontëThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Wilkie CollinsThe Moonstone
The Woman in White
Charles DickensHard Times
George EliotMiddlemarch
The Mill on the Floss
Elizabeth GaskellNorth and South
Charlotte Perkins GilmanThe Yellow Wallpaper
Mary ShelleyFrankenstein
William Makepeace ThackerayVanity Fair
Oscar WildeThe Picture of Dorian Gray


William CongreveThe Way of the World
Henrik IbsenA Doll’s House
Hedda Gabler
Oliver GoldsmithShe Stoops to Conquer
George Bernard Shawany play by this writer
Richard Brinsley SheridanThe School for Scandal
Oscar Wildeany play by this writer
William WycherleyThe Country Wife


Geoffrey Chaucer‘The Wife of Bath’s Tale’
‘The Miller’s Tale’
Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’

John Keats


‘Isabella or The Pot of Basil’

‘The Eve of St Agnes’

‘Le Belle Dame Sans Merci’

Examples of choices of non-exam assessment texts and possible connections

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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 Fingersmithwith Marian Halcombe in The Woman in White in the light of this view.
(C) Bishop Justus Church of England School

1. Refresh the page
2. Use a different internet browser (Chrome/Internet Explorer)
3. Download the file using the DOWNLOAD link

Leave A Comment?