With the 2009 changes to the HSC English syllabus, I’m finding the Module B and Module C the hardest to tutor out of the 3 Advanced Modules. Module A is easy, because it is basically the same and, in fact, easier, because it no longer focuses on “Into the Wild”, which sometimes stumped students.
At first I thought Module C: Conflicting Perspectives would be easy. I mean, isn’t it just replacing the word “Truth” with “Conflicting Perspectives”?
As such, I had a good look and think about what this Module means and how to best explain it to my students.
Here’s an FAQ that you might helpful:
What do we write about besides the obvious, which is that “conflicting perspectives always exist”?
Someone asked this question on the BOS forums and it is a very good one. It is essentially asking – what ideas can you have based around “conflicting perspectives”? I mean, in Blade Runner/Frankenstein, you can have ideas about the act of creation, the nature of humanity, creation/creator, curiosity…there’s just so much to talk about!
But what can you say about “conflicting perspectives”?
The key is not to oversimply the concept. Unpack the idea by asking WHY and HOW questions.
- What does “perspective” mean?
- Why do conflicting perspectives always exist?
- How do they arise? In other words, how is it that two people viewing the same event can have such different views?
- How do composers represent a particular perspective (or different perspectives) to achieve a certain purpose?
- How can perspectives be manipulated so that one prevails?
- Is your perspective shaped by the perspectives of others?
Your answers to these questions can form the basis or beginning of your ideas about “conflicting perspectives”.
Do we need related texts?
Yes – you should have 2 related texts of different text types to each other and your prescribed text.
For example, if your prescribed text is Wag the Dog, which is a film – you should not choose another film. You should choose a newspaper article, or a cartoon, or a poem etc.
Importantly, these related texts do NOT have to relate directly to the event, personality, situation in your core text.
For example, if your prescribed text is Julius Caesar you are NOT restricted to other texts about Julius Caesar. You CAN choose say a film about Julius Caesar, or you can find an article about 911.
What does the syllabus require?
This is what the syllabus says about Module C:
This module requires students to explore various representations of events, personalities or situations. They evaluate how medium of production, textual form, perspective and choice of language influence meaning. The study develops students’ understanding of the relationships between representation and meaning.
Okay, firstly – to clarify – this does not mean that the structure of your essay is separated into paragraphs about events, personalities, situations. The syllabus does not dictate how your essay is to be structured.
I have read the syllabus to mean that this is what you should have done in your study of this Module, as a preliminary exercise before you write your essay.
So after you finish reading the text, it is a good idea to:
- Identify the events, personalities and situations represented in your texts.
- For example, an event is Michael X’s trial or Caesar’s assassination; a personality is Princess Diana or Caesar; a situation is basically a “theme” ie. in Julius Caesar it is politics and democracy.
- Identify the conflicting perspectives about each of the above.
- Analyse how these conflicting perspectives have been represented by the composer.
An excellent example is HSC Online’s part on Julius Caesar. It provides a clear example of how to view your text through the requirements of the syllabus!
The second part of the syllabus recognise how the following influence meaning:
- Medium of production: for example, is it a play or film?
- Textual form: is it a drama or non fiction? How does The Justice Game being “non fiction” influence the meaning conveyed to the audience?
- Perspective: what perspective does the composer/audience take and how is this shaped by their context?
- Choice of language: techniques.
So you need to mention or refer to these things (eg. medium, textual form, context) in SOME part of your essay. It does not need to be a major part – you simply need to show that you have thought about and are aware of how the above influence meaning. Number 4 is the most obvious and will make the bulk of your essay.
How do I structure my essay?
Different students may adopt different approaches, but this is how I have recommended my students do:
- Idea 1 about conflicting perspectives.
- Discuss prescribed text in relation to Idea 1
- Discuss 1st related text in relation to Idea 1
- Idea 2 about conflicting perspectives.
- Discuss prescribed text in relation to Idea 2
- Discuss 2nd related text in relation to Idea 2
I do not recommend structuring it text by text (this often results in an disjointed argument that fails to link texts in a fluid way).
You should not structure it by an event, personality and situation either. As stated above, identifying the events, personalities and situations represented in the text should only be a preliminary exercise.
What is the biggest mistake I could make?
Writing an essay about WHAT the different perspectives are.
For example, if you were writing about Michael X – do NOT write about the different perspectives about the death penalty etc. If you’re writing about Diana at the Docks, do NOT write about Princess Diana and the issue of privacy.
Your essay should be about….conflicting perspectives and all the ideas discussed in the 1st question above.
What is the hardest thing about this Module?
This is REALLY important to grasp. In this Module, you examine both:
- The content of the text – what the text says about conflicting perspectives.
- The construction of the text – how the text is a “perspective” in itself.
Let me reiterate – the ideas about conflicting perspectives that the composers express ALSO apply to the composers themselves.
For example, Robertson in The Justice Game comments on how emotional subjectivity affects an objective perspective. This is the CONTENT of the text.
Yet at the same time, we can see in his writing that HIS own emotional subjectivity (strong feelings against the death penalty) affects the objectivity of The Justice Game. This is the CONSTRUCTION of the text.
Essay questions may ask you to discuss BOTH. Otherwise they may direct you to look at more at the 2nd – how do the composers of your texts use techniques to create their “perspective” of the event, personality, or situation.