Past HSC and Practise Questions for English Extension 1: Module B – Elective 2: Romanticism – Essay

Romanticism only started as a English Extension 1 module from 2009 onwards. Here are the list of past HSC questions with underlined key words.

Past HSC Questions:

2012:

Texts in this module are related to a particular historical period, and the diverse perspectives they offer are significant to an understanding of the ways of thinking during that period. To what extent does this statement reflect your study of this module?

In your response, refer to TWO prescribed texts from the elective you have studied, and at least TWO texts of your own choosing.

2011:

In Romanticism, composers not only transform human experience through imagination but also manipulate textual forms and features in response to their times.

Evaluate this statement with reference to TWO prescribed texts AND texts of your own
choosing.

2010:

Significant texts in any period arise from particular ways of thinking and possess an enduring relevance.

Write an essay in which you explore the extent to which this is true of the texts you have studied in your elective. In your response, refer to TWO prescribed texts AND texts of your own choosing.

2009:

Write an essay in which you explore the interplay of imagination and the human experience in Romanticism.

In your response, refer to TWO prescribed texts AND texts of your own choosing.

Marking Notes:

An examination of the markings from previous years shows a couple of key tips:

  • Refer to specific theorists/critics of the Romantic movement.
  • Refer to distinct periods within the Romanticm movement.
  • Discuss not only the Romantic movement, but how they compare and relate to the past movements and emerging issues of the time.
  • When analysing a collection of poems or short stories, refer to at least two and link them through a common concept.
  • Ensure your essay is balanced between discussions of the Romantic movement and detailed textual analysis. Notes often mentioned that weaker responses had either too much on Romanticism (supported by the texts, but lacking actual analysis of the texts), or simply analysed the texts (without sufficient detailed connection to Romanticism).
  • Use fluent academic discourse.
  • Really engage with the essay question. Notes mention topic sentences which just name the text and its relationship with the paradigms, without engaging with the essay question. Or, if it did, it only used they key words in a tokenistic way. Your response to the essay question should be sustained throughout your entire essay (not simply in your introduction/conclusion and superficially added to your topic sentences).
  • This should go without saying, but using at least TWO related texts.
  • Choosing related texts, which are from or about the Romantic period.
  • Analysing your related texts with equal detail as your core texts.

2012:

Generally:

In better responses, candidates stated a clear conceptual thesis in their introduction, and continued to develop and sustain that thesis with detailed and judiciously selected textual analysis and evaluation. In these responses, candidates showed evidence of extensive research into the historical periods and ways of thinking, which helped communicate a deep understanding of the historical periods and how composers provided diverse perspectives on those times and paradigms. The responses, when discussing the diverse perspectives present in the texts, often reflected on how textual forms and features were shaped by, and were a response to, the period and its ways of thinking. Some of these better responses integrated discussion of theorists and critics to support contextual understanding that provided a spine for the argument being developed.

In better responses, candidates also analysed and evaluated their texts in the light of the module and elective in a detailed and sustained fashion. These candidates highlighted elements of the texts that demonstrated an interaction with historical ways of thinking, as well as knowledge of the relationship between textual features and meaning. Their responses explored a variety of sections from the prescribed texts and, when discussing the work of a poet or short story composer, often explored a common conceptual thread between the chosen two poems or short stories that helped to strengthen the argument being made. In these responses, candidates also demonstrated extensive and apt usage of texts of their own choosing, integrating discussion of those texts and their features into the argument.

In weaker responses, candidates answered with a lack of balance in their exploration of the provided statement. They often did not consider the provided statement, or gave a superficial consideration that was not sustained through the response. Some candidates wrote at length about the historical period, using the texts more as a support for the argument rather than analysing them in detail. Other candidates demonstrated an understanding of the texts without the necessary reference to the ways of thinking in the historical period. They often analysed texts in isolation, rather than as part of a synthesised whole discussion. These candidates used prescribed texts and texts of their own choosing in a limited fashion. In some weaker responses, candidates featured texts of their own choosing that limited the ability of the students to support an in-depth discussion of the ways of thinking in the historical periods of the electives.

Specifically:

In better responses, candidates demonstrated a detailed understanding of the relationship of texts produced as a part of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century Romanticism movement with the ways of thinking in the historical period. There were often clear references made to how texts reflected the shift from Enlightenment and Augustan thinking, as well as to distinct periods within the movement. In better responses, candidates made discerning use of suitable related texts from a range of times, contexts and media that reflected the ways of thinking of the historical period of the elective.

In weaker responses, candidates often relied on explaining how individual elements of Romanticism, such as a belief in Imagination or Nature, were reflected in the texts, rather than a broader view of the ways of thinking present in the historical period. In many weaker responses, there were also references to texts of the students’ own choosing that did not reflect or engage with the values present in the Romantic period as defined in the elective’s rubric.

2011:

Generally:

Candidates used the key terms of the questions and articulated a clear understanding of the key paradigms present in each elective. They successfully used the statements in order to execute sophisticated arguments about the relationship between texts and the specific ways of thinking. It was important therefore to accurately use the key verbs of each question – critique, transform and confront respectively – in order to help focus the response. In these arguments, candidates demonstrated an ability to integrate their knowledge of the concerns of each era and balance this with detailed and apt reference to the forms and features of prescribed and self-selected texts.

Better responses contained a detailed evaluation of how texts related to the concerns of the eras of each elective, in both their content and the way in which textual features were manipulated as a response to the concerns of those eras. In these integrated analyses of language, candidates demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of how the techniques of poetry, prose fiction, plays, films and other forms of text were used to deliver meaning. They also balanced this with an argument that clearly revealed the relationship between techniques and the influence on those techniques by events and paradigms of the respective eras. Better quality responses were those in which students analysed at least two poems from a prescribed poet’s work or two short stories from a self-selected short story composer. The analysis undertaken in relation to the two or more self-selected texts was as sophisticated as that accorded to the prescribed text, and seamlessly integrated  the arguments proposed.

In weaker responses, candidates:

  • focused on textual detail and analysis rather than the concerns of the times, or focused mainly on the ways of thinking rather than textual analysis
  • did not address the key terms present in the question
  • used only one self-selected text
  • used texts that did not address the specific concerns of the eras from the electives
  • paid considerably less attention to the analysis of self-selected texts than that of the prescribed texts
  • explained both the ways of thinking and making reference to texts and their relationship with the paradigm, rather than analysing the texts
  • explained the content of the texts and made general comments about their relationship to the ways of thinking.

Specifically:

Better responses balanced an argument about the transformation of human experience through imagination and how the concerns of the era shaped the language used in the texts. In these responses, candidates also provided clear comments on the relationship between the concerns of the late 18th century through to the mid-19th century with the texts, often discussing previous eras or contemporary social movements as a point of comparison or a medium through which paradigms could be discussed. These responses also contained well-chosen self-selected texts that could be compared effectively with the prescribed texts.

Mid-range responses often contained detailed references to textual features, but these candidates included little discussion on the relationship of textual features to paradigms, or presented opaque arguments. Responses were often weakened by poorly chosen self-selected texts that dealt primarily with concerns of the Victorian era or 20th-century romanticism, which placed the response at odds with the parameters set in the rubric of the elective.

In weaker responses, candidates retold the concerns of the era with references to texts that featured superficial textual analysis, or recounted the events of the text with little reference to social movements and concerns.

2010:

General Comments:

Stronger responses showed sophisticated consideration of the key words, ‘significant’ and ‘relevance’. Lucid, sustained and purposeful, these responses integrated theoretical and contextual references relevant to paradigms related to the era defined by the elective. Such arguments used fluent academic discourse to support the development of convincing theses, fleshed out through a sophisticated synthesis of appropriate textual knowledge. In many successful responses, candidates narrowed their scope of argument in order to better explore the implications contained within those self-set parameters.

In better responses, candidates used their prescribed texts to support their arguments, exploring the contexts and concerns of these texts in ways relevant to the question. Through their analysis of language, these candidates showed excellent understanding of the ways composers shape meaning through visual, aural, literary and cinematic techniques. Such candidates also made equally insightful use of self-selected texts with a strong link to the period specified in the elective rubric and showed the ability to analyse and evaluate these texts with the same level of detail and sophistication as the set texts.

Weaker responses displayed difficulty engaging with the question. In these responses, candidates often resorted to recount with little or irrelevant textual detail. Some candidates appeared to lack essay writing skills, such as using topic sentences that articulated the argument being pursued. Paragraphs in weaker responses often started with naming the text being discussed and then followed with an explanation of the relationship between the text and the ways of thinking without reference to the question. Such responses often featured a tokenistic use of the key terms that was not underpinned by a strong, purposeful argument and employed textual references without apparent connection to the argument. On occasions, potentially strong responses were marred by a serious imbalance of content, a lack of detailed analysis of related texts, or inappropriate related text selection. There were also a significant number of candidates who wrote about only one text of their own choosing, despite the requirement to refer to ‘texts of your own choosing’. A number of candidates focused on the identification of technique in isolation from arguments. There was also a tendency in many weak responses for candidates to explain the historical facts and concepts of the period of the elective without much recourse to textual analysis.

Specific Comments:

Better responses contained explicit references to the ways of thinking in the body of a strong argument that was supported with detailed and insightful textual analysis. They also expressed a clear knowledge of different parts of the Romantic period of the late 18th to mid 19th century, making pertinent references to appropriate thinkers and critics. They also provided a discussion of the enduring relevance of the values expressed in the texts. These responses often centred around two premises – one being the significance of the relationship between Romantic paradigms with those from the period before; the other dealt with the significance of the relationship between the Romantic paradigms and the emergence of the Industrial Revolution. Many of these responses also included appropriate use of 20th century texts that substantially related to the paradigms of the rubric-defined Romantic period.

Many candidates provided a detailed literary analysis without establishing a strong link to the ways of thinking related to the historical period. Some responses were marred by references to late 19th century and 20th century texts that did not substantially relate to the period defined in the elective rubric, despite identifying some relevant values. Teachers and students are reminded that suitable related texts should be from or about the time frame specified in the elective rubric. Some candidates that used artworks and music from the period tended to be descriptive and referred to techniques without apt connection to the ways of thinking and to the prescribed texts. Another feature of these less sophisticated responses was the tendency to discuss a narrow range of text types, specifically poems, which at times made for narrowly focused and repetitive responses, limiting the opportunity to display a broad understanding of the representation of the ways of thinking.

In some weaker responses, candidates lapsed into narratives that employed key terms in a superficial manner, failing to address the question in a meaningful way. There was a tendency to also choose quotations from texts that dealt more with plot recount rather than adding to the argument. These responses also often addressed the concept of enduring relevance in a superficial fashion, identifying vague similarities between the values of the Romantic period and contemporary society.

2009:

Generally:

Better responses explored the interplay between the two terms in an explicit, purposeful and fluent way, and in a manner appropriate to the concerns of the elective and the possibilities inherent in prescribed texts and texts of their own choosing. Stronger responses yoked the two terms together in a lucid, sustained and purposeful expositional framework which integrated theoretical and contextual references relevant to the ways of thinking. Such arguments used fluent academic discourse to support the development of convincing theses, fleshed out through a sophisticated synthesis of appropriate textual knowledge, technique identification and pertinent analysis.

In the better responses, candidates selected related texts with a strong link to the periods specified in the elective rubrics and showed the ability to analyse and discuss these texts with the same thoroughness as the set texts. They also showed excellent understanding of the ways composers shape meaning through visual, aural, literary and cinematic techniques. While an increasing number of candidates are selecting aural and visual texts – for example, paintings, popular music and classical symphonies – candidates need to analyse such texts with the same degree of knowledge and technical expertise as is appropriate for more traditional types of texts.

Weaker responses displayed difficulty engaging with the question. In these responses, candidates often resorted to recount with little or irrelevant textual detail and appeared to lack basic essay writing skills, such as using topic sentences. Such responses often featured a tokenistic use of the key terms that was not underpinned by a strong, purposeful argument and employed textual references without apparent connection to the argument. On occasions, potentially strong texts were marred by a serious imbalance of content, a lack of detailed analysis of related texts, or inappropriate text selection. There were also a significant number of responses which wrote about only one text of their own choosing, despite the requirement to refer to ‘texts of your own choosing’.

Specifically:

The better responses interwove explicit references to the ways of thinking in the body of a strong argument that was supported with detailed and insightful textual analysis. They also expressed a clear knowledge of the different strands of Romanticism, making pertinent references to appropriate thinkers and critics. Many of these responses also included appropriate usage of 20th century texts with substantial components related to the Romantic period and focused on the Romantic context of representation in their analysis.

Some candidates provided a detailed literary analysis without a strong link to the ways of thinking. Some candidates marred their responses with references to 20th century texts that did not relate to the period defined in the elective rubric, despite the implication of some relevant values. Please note that suitable related texts should be from or about the time frame specified in the rubric.

Some weaker responses lapsed into narratives that employed key terms in a superficial manner, failing to address the question in a meaningful way.

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