Part 11: The Year 12 English Modules (2018)

We've already looked at the Year 11 Modules and stepped you through some of the Matrix secrets for studying English. Now you're in Year 12 in this part of the Guide, we'll give you an overview of each Module so you can ace the HSC.

year 12 english modules

What is the structure of Year 12?

Year 12 is similar in structure to Year 11. However, instead of having only three Modules, the HSC year has four. In this part of the guide, we will give you an overview of the four modules and the texts set for study for 2018. Don’t forget, there will be new modules for Year 12 students beginning from the 2018/2019 HSC cohort. Watch this space for a comprehensive overview of the New 2019 HSC English Modules – Coming Soon!

In this article we discuss:

The Year 12 English Modules (2018)

There are four modules for Year 12, they are:

  • Area of Study: Discovery
  • Module A: Comparative Study of Texts and Context
  • Module B: Critical Study of Texts
  • Module C: Representation and Text

Each Module places an emphasis on different aspects of the texts. The different Modules each require the study of a different number of texts.

Let’s have a look at what the different modules entail.

Area of Study: Discovery

All students in Year 12 English Standard and English Advanced undertake the Area of Study Course. An Area of Study Course offers students the opportunity to explore and discuss a concept that affects their perceptions of themselves and their world. Area of Study is always focused on universal human concepts: past iterations of Area of Study [AOS] include the themes of identity, journey, and belonging. The current AOS course is Discovery.

Area of Study requires students to perform a thematic reading of a prescribed text and two supplementary texts of their own choosing. Students must read the text for representations of the central theme and consider how different texts, if not all texts, convey this universal human experience.

For this Module, students will need to write several creative pieces and answer some short answer questions, as well as write essays on their prescribed and supplementary texts.

For the HSC Trials and HSC, students will complete Paper One. Paper One has three sections: a creative response (usually a short story); a short answer section on unseen texts; and an extended essay response.

To do well in this Module, students need to have a thorough understanding of their texts and of the prescribed Area of Study – Discovery.

What is Discovery?

For every Area of Study NESA (formerly the BOSTES) provide a syllabus rubric that defines the concept to be studied. The purpose of this is to guide all students undertaking the AOS Module in the thematic approach they should take on the texts they study.

The Module Rubric can be found on page 9 of this document.

The document breaks Discovery down into 3 different categories: definitions of Discovery; processes of Discovery; and consequences of Discovery.

The definitions of Discovery include statements such as, “Discovery can encompass the experience of discovering something for the first time or rediscovering something that has been lost, forgotten or concealed.” This explains to you that discovery includes the initial finding of something, such as an object, idea, or emotion, but ALSO finding that something for a subsequent time.

The processes of Discovery include procedures such as, “Discoveries can be sudden and unexpected, or they can emerge from a process of deliberate and careful planning evoked by curiosity, necessity or wonder.” This tells us that we find things because we go out looking for them, or because we accidentally stumble on them. We might be driven to look for these things by compulsion, because we are forced, or because we are curious about them.

The consequences of Discovery include such outcomes as, “The impact of these discoveries can be far-reaching and transformative for the individual and for broader society.” This describes how the process of discovery can make us reevaluate ourselves or our understanding of the world. Some discoveries are so far reaching that they change society in small or large ways. For example, Copernicus’ discovery that our Earth was not the centre of the universe forced people to reevaluate their understanding of the universe and their place in it.

When studying this Module, it is important that students take the time to learn all the rubric points. This is not only because you need to understand them to analyse your texts, but because the HSC questions are drawn from these phrases. Matrix English Advanced students are taught how to compile study tables and notes to address the different aspects of Discovery presented in the syllabus rubric. This is an essential step for responding to the AOS essay questions, but also for composing creatives and answering the short answer questions found in Paper One.

There is an extensive list of prescribed texts that teachers can choose from for this course:

  • James Bradley, Wrack (prose fiction)
  • Kate Chopin, The Awakening (prose fiction)
  • Tara June Winch, Swallow the Air (prose fiction)
  • Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything (non-fiction)
  • Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries (non-fiction)
  • Michael Gow, Away (drama)
  • Jane Harrison, Rainbow’s End from Cleven, Vivienne et al, Contemporary Indigenous Plays (drama)
  • Ang Lee, Life of Pi (film)
  • William Shakespeare, The Tempest (drama /Shakespeare)
  • The selected poetry of Rosemary Dobson
    ‘Young Girl at a Window’, ‘Wonder’, ‘Painter of Antwerp’, ‘Traveller’s Tale’, ‘The Tiger’, ‘Cock Crow’, ‘Ghost Town: New England’
  • The selected poetry of Robert Frost,
    ‘The Tuft of Flowers’, ‘Mending Wall’, ‘Home Burial’, ‘After Apple-Picking’, ‘Fire and Ice’, ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’
  • The selected poetry of Robert Gray,
    ‘Journey: the North Coast’, ‘The Meatworks’, ‘North Coast Town’, ‘Late Ferry’, ‘Flames and Dangling Wire’, ‘Diptych’
  • Simon Nasht, Frank HurleyThe Man Who Made History
  • Ivan O’Mahoney, Go Back to Where You Came From – Series 1, Episodes 1, 2 and 3 and “The Response”

Students also need to choose their own related texts. We have some suggestions for you in the following posts:

If you would like to know more about AOS, you should read these articles from the Matrix Blog:

Back to Top

Module A: Comparative Study of Texts and Context

Module A is a comparative study. This means that students need to compare two texts and discuss how they share similar ideas and concerns. These ideas and concerns will be relevant to the contexts that they were composed in. You will need to research the context of each of your texts. The syllabus rubric can be found here on the BOSTES website (pages 16 & 17).

When we talk about context, we mean the time period that it was written in. A contextual study is concerned with the analysis of changing values and attitudes. Values are the things that society holds to be important, and attitudes are the perspectives that groups or individuals have on these values. We can derive the values and attitudes of a period by considering historical information.

Context will include historical information about important events, society, politics, culture, the economy, religious beliefs, and more. For example, if we were to think about the context of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) we would need to know about:

  • World War One and its aftermath
  • The Weimar Republic
  • The Rise of Hitler
  • The Bauhaus Movement
  • Modernism
  • Women’s rights in Weimar Germany
  • and lots more

You will then need to discuss the text in light of this historical information. You will need to demonstrate how context might have shaped the composer’s view of their society, or how they are commenting on aspects of their society. Detailed responses consistently achieve better marks, which is why Matrix English Advanced Students’ Theory Books provide detailed contextual information. It is important for the study of this Module that you focus on historical details rather than broad events.

This Module is split into two Electives. They are Intertextual Perspectives and Intertextual Connections. Each elective has several text combinations to choose from. Your school’s English Department will decide which Elective and pair of texts you will study.

Elective 1: Intertextual Connections

Intertextual Connections means that you will be studying texts that have an explicit connection to each other. This connection may be explicit or implicit. For example, the composer might be commenting on the ongoing relevance of the earlier text or perhaps critiquing it from a more recent perspective. All of the texts in this Elective are separated by a significant amount of time (at least a century).

The text combinations set for study for this elective are:

  • William Shakespeare’s King Richard III and Al Pacino’s documentary Looking for Richard
  • Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway and Stephen Daldry’s film The Hours
  • Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice and Fay Weldon’s novel Letter’s to Alice
  • The selected poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson and Jessica Anderson’s novel Tirra Lirra by the River
  • The selected poems of John Donne and Margaret Edson’s play W;t

Elective 2: Intertextual Perspectives

Elective 2 is concerned with thematic connections between texts rather than direct links. The title Intertextual Perspectives refers to the different perspectives on a context that texts present. For this Elective, you will need to analyse the different values and attitudes presented in each text and comment on what has changed. Unlike Elective 1: Intertextual Connections, the texts in this Elective are much closer to together in context (both have been composed within the same century, if not even closer in time). This means that the changes in context, values, and attitudes may be more significant.

The text combinations set for study in this Elective are:

  • William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Niccolò Machiavelli’s political treatise The Prince (translated by Tim Parks)
  • F Scott Fitzgerald’s novella The Great Gatsby and a selection of Elizabeth Barret Browning’s Sonnet’s from the Portuguese
  • James Joyce’s collection of short stories The Dubliners and a selection of Seamus Heaney’s poetry
  • Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis and George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four

For a more detailed explanation of Module A, read our blog post on Module A: Comparative Study of Text and Context.

Back to Top

Module B: Critical Sstudy of Texts

Module B is a close study of a single prescribed text or group of texts such as a set of poems or series of speeches. Close study means that you undertake a detailed and thorough reading of the text and consider it in relation to context, the composer’s biographical details, the lasting appeal of the text, and whether or not it can be said to have “textual integrity.” Many students find Module B to be the most challenging of the Modules because of the complexity of the texts and the depth of study required.

Critical Study of Texts requires you to know the text intimately. The HSC questions are always specific to a theme from the text and these are not always the predominant theme. Memorising essays for Module B will leave you unprepared for the HSC question you will be presented with. This is why Matrix English Advanced students learn how to make thorough notes for Module B and write essays that respond to the requirements of theme specific questions. The rubric for Module B can be found on page 18 of this document on the NESA website.

Module B requires students to make value judgements about the text that they are studying. You will need to assess whether you feel it is worthy of study and deserves its label as a “significant text.” You will also need to decide whether the text demonstrates “textual integrity.” These judgements can only be made with a detailed understanding of the text, its context, and its reception over the period of time since its publication.

Textual integrity

One of the challenging aspects of Module B is understanding Textual Integrity. Textual Integrity is a broad concept and one that many students struggle to fully understand.

NESA describes textual integrity as “The unity of a text; its coherent use of form and language to produce an integrated whole in terms of meaning and value.” This means that a text consistently presents meaning through its thematic content and its structural composition. For example, Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a text obsessed with uncertainty and questioning. The play is full of questions, many of which are not answered or resolved. This thematic concern is made apparent from the first line of the play, “Who’s there?” A question that is asked on a darkened stage before the audience has the opportunity to familiarise themselves with any of the characters from the text.

If you are still unsure what textual integrity is, you must read our Essential Guide to Textual Integrity.

Critical reception

Critical reception refers to the lasting value and appeal of the text. You need to assess whether the text you are studying is significant and merits, what is known as, “canonical status.” The list of texts that are considered to possess literary significance is known as the canon. Not all texts are considered significant and the significance of a text can vary depending on its context.

For example, the poetry of John Donne fell out of critical and popular favour during the Regency. The Modernist poet TS Eliot wrote at length on Donne’s work, and that of his contemporaries, and saw Donne return to critical favour almost 300 years after his death. From this, we can see that critical reception is not something that is fixed, but is rather something that changes according to a society’s values and attitudes. You need to assess whether the text you have been set for study is still relevant to your context.

You can find a detailed explanation of this in our post: Understanding Module B: Critical Reception, Context, and Significance.

There are many text options that your English department can choose from for Module B, they are:

  •  William Shakespeare, Hamlet
  • Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
  • Gail Jones, Sixty Lights
  • Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion
  • Tim Winton, Cloudstreet
  • Anton Chekhov, The Seagull (translated by Stephen Mulrine)
  • Orson Welles, Citizen Kane
  • The following select poems of TS Eliot,
    ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, ‘Preludes’, ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’, ‘The Hollow Men’, ‘Journey of the Magi’
  • The following selected poems of Christina Rossetti,
    ‘Goblin Market’, ‘After Death’, ‘Maude Clare’, ‘Light Love’, ‘L.E.L.’, ‘In an Artist’s Studio’
  • The following select poems of William Butler Yeats,
    ‘When You Are Old’, ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’, ‘An Irish Airman Foresees his Death’, ‘Easter 1916’, ‘The Second Coming’, ‘Leda and the Swan’, ‘Among School Children’
  • Woolf, Virginia, A Room of One’s Own AND Three Guineas
  • The following selected speeches:
    Anwar Sadat – Speech to the Israeli Knesset, 1977
    Paul Keating – Redfern Speech, 1992
    Margaret Atwood – ‘Spotty-Handed Villainesses’, 1994
    Noel Pearson – ‘An Australian history for us all’, 1996
    William Deane – ‘It is still winter at home’, 1999
    Doris Lessing – ‘On not winning the Nobel Prize’, Nobel Lecture, 2007
    Geraldine Brooks – ‘A Home in Fiction’, Boyer Lecture 4, 2011

If you would like a more detailed explanation of Module B, you should read our blog post, HSC English Advanced Module B: Critical Study of Texts.

You may also be interested in reading our posts on:

Back to Top

Module C: Representation and Text

Module C asks you to consider the fundamental process of art and literature – the representation of ideas. Representation and Text requires you to analyse how composers represent specific types of ideas in your texts. For this Module, you will study one prescribed text and choose two elective texts.

According to the Module rubric (pages 20 & 21), the key concern for the Module is to develop “students understanding of the relationship between representation and meaning.” This is asking you to analyse how composers go about conveying meaning to their audiences. You need to consider how they utilise techniques, form, and structure to represent their ideas to their audience.

Similarly to Module A, this Module is split into two distinct Electives: Representing People and Politics and Representing People and Landscapes. While these Electives focus on tangible themes – politics and landscapes – you must evaluate how these themes are represented, not the themes themselves. Let’s have a quick look at what that entails.

Elective 1: Representing People and Politics

Representing People and Politics requires you to examine how composers represent political ideas in their texts.

The rubric demands that you “consider the ways in which texts represent individual, shared or competing political perspectives, ideas, events or situations. Students analyse representations of people’s  political motivations and actions, as well as the impact political acts may have on individual lives or society more broadly.” This means that you must consider what the political perspectives, ideas, events, and situations are in the texts you study, and then discuss how the composer has represented these and the different perspectives on them.

It is important to remember that you are not being compelled to evaluate the political ideas themselves, but how they are portrayed and what this suggests about the composer’s perspective on them.

The prescribed texts for this elective are:

    • William Shakespeare King Henry IV, Part 1
    • Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World
    • Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible
    • Barry Levinson’s film Wag the Dog
    • Henry Reynold’s historical criticism Why Weren’t we Told
    • The following selected poems of WH Auden,
      ‘O what is that sound which so thrills the ear’, ‘Spain’, ‘Epitaph on a Tyrant’, ‘In Memory of W.B. Yeats’, ‘September 1, 1939’, ‘The Unknown Citizen’, ‘The Shield of Achilles’


Elective 2: Representing People and Landscapes

ELective 2 asks you to look at how composers represent the relationships people have with the landscapes around them. This is a broad concept, and NESA narrows it down by asking you to focus on “the ways in which texts represent the relationship between the lives of individuals or groups and real, remembered or imagined landscapes.”

The difficult concept here is understanding what is meant by real, remembered, or imagined landscapes. These different types of landscapes can be understood as:

  • Real landscape – the landscape experienced by an individual in the present moment. Think for a moment about where you are as you read this article!
  • Remembered landscape – a landscape you have experienced and remember. These landscapes differ from the real because they are often made subjective by our emotions. For example, when we are nostalgic about places we often exaggerate their positive qualities and downplay their negative ones.
  • Imagined landscape – this can be a landscape that you create in your imagination as an idealisation of a place that you’d like to go to, or perhaps as an ideal image of a place that you use to define your identity. For example, many tourists to Australia anticipate the Outback and the beaches but are surprised by the cosmopolitan nature of our cities.

What you need to do is look at how the composers of your texts represent these relationships. You must consider what forms, structures, and techniques they use to make these ideas clear to their audience. Remember, it is essential that you don’t get sidetracked and focus on the landscape itself, you must focus on the process of representation being used.

This elective has the following texts set for study:

  • Melissa Harrison’s novel CLay
  • Colm Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn
  • Patrick White’s novel Tree of Man
  • The following poems by Judith Wright
    ‘The Hawthorn Hedge’, ‘Brothers and Sisters’, ‘South of My Days’, ‘For New England’, ‘Flame-tree in a Quarry’, ‘Train Journey’, ‘Moving South’
  • Alain de Botton’s philosophical treatise The Art of Travel

If you want a more detailed explanation of Module C, you should read our blog post – HSC English Advanced Module C: Representation and Text.

© Matrix Education and, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Get free study tips and resources delivered to your inbox.

Join 27,119 students who already have a head start.