Related texts are a thorn in the side of almost every English student. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Related texts in English are an opportunity for your personal voice and interests to shine. As soon as I started viewing elated texts as an opportunity for me to showcase my interests, I really started enjoying them.
Finding a related text can be difficult because of all the freedom you’re given. Do you choose a canonical text you know your teacher will appreciate, or something a little more modern? How about form and values? Here is your ultimate guide to finding the perfect related text.
In order to find the perfect related text, you must first understand what a related text really is. A related text is not simply a spin-off of your prescribed text, the two do not have to a a literal connection. Rather, your related text is a text that you feel sheds new light on the values of your prescribed text. So, the two texts must share discussion of similar values, but the nature of that discussion can disagree.
The first step you want to take in finding the perfect related text is identify what concept in your prescribed text interests you most. There are many concepts that will be spoken about in your prescribed text, some more salient than others. It’s up to you to identify what concept you find resonates with you the most. This concept will become what you base your thesis and argument upon in your essays.
However, you must be wary that you do not choose a concept that is extremely insignificant. Your concept(s) should make up a significant part of your text and should have a strong link to authorial purpose.
For example, don’t simply choose hunger from the Hunger Games saga without any connection to the other themes it may represent, as it has very little to do with the main content of the plot of the trilogy, and very little connection with Suzanne Collins’ authorial purpose.
But, if we’re looking at themes throughout the Merchant of Venice, we can choose racial discrimination, gender roles and limitations, the vices of money, capitalism and commercialisation, the list goes on! All these themes are equally important to the text as a whole, and any one of them may be specified by you for the purpose of choosing a related text.
The next step to take is to find a text that discusses the same concept that you identified in your prescribed text. This is key as this will serve as your main point of comparison between the two texts, and therefore, where the crux of your analysis comes from.
Your chosen concept will need to be somewhat of a salient theme in your search for a related text, just as it is a salient theme in your prescribed text.
The point of using a concept as the grounding point between your two texts is to foster your personal voice. Choosing a concept that interests you in your prescribed text frees you from the obligation you may feel to choose a text that is a direct appropriation of your prescribed text, or from the same context, and using these as points of comparison.
The next step is important for you to consider. The concept you’ve identified will not be your only source of comparison. The study of English is centred around how concepts are represented in texts. In order to draw interesting comparisons between your prescribed and related text, the form of the texts is essential to consider.
Choosing a related text with a form different to your prescribed text provides you with more launching points from which you can compare and contrast your texts, thereby comparing the role that form plays in communicating the shared theme you have chosen. From this comparison, discussion on the respective effectiveness of your texts can be integrated.
Finally, you must test whether or not you’ve got a strong pairing of texts and that you can analyse them effectively. In order to do this, write out your thesis.
In order to make sure your prescribed text and related text work well, make sure you can analyse them fully, write out a thesis/sentence outlining your general argument regarding the texts. Under that sentence/thesis, write out 3 topic sentences and a very brief skeleton essay. If you find that you can write 3 separate, but strong topic sentences with evidence that does not overlap, you have a strong pairing of texts!
Similarities or differences?
Many students struggle with whether to focus on the similarities or differences between their texts.
The easy answer is you must look at both. The similarities between your texts can be shown through form, language techniques, macro techniques like plot, characterisation, or can be shown through the text’s similar discussion of the shared theme. Without similarities, there is no real connection between your texts, and you’re not showing your marker why you’ve chosen the pairing in the first place.
The differences between texts is also crucial and demonstrated your critical thinking ability. For example, if your texts are from two different contexts, analysing differences allows you to demonstrate your understanding of the influence of context on a text’s construction and purpose.
Through an analysis of differences between your texts, you can compare the social utility of texts to audiences, are they of value or not? Does the later text critique or support the contentions of the earlier text? What aspect of the text has ensured their social relevance, the universality of the theme, or the form through which it is communicated?
Without discussion of the differences of your text, you may as well be analysing two texts that are the exact same!
Here are some weird related text pairings that have worked well in the past:
Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare and Black Panther, Ryan Coogler – Main avenue of comparison: The empowerment of marginalised Jewish groups despite the overt triumph of the dominant culture in Merchant of Venice, and the perpetuation of the racist discourse in Black Panther despite the triumph of African ‘Wakandan’ people.
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley and Finding Nemo, Andrew Stanton – Main avenue of comparison: The central theme of nature vs nurture, which power is shown in the texts as having a larger impact on an individual’s belonging and place in society.
1984, George Orwell and Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo – Main avenue of comparison: Totalitarian government’s power to strip individuals and society of their humanity, and comparison of the ways in which both texts subvert the rebellious hero’s journey in their own way.
Good luck with finding your own related text!