Part 2: Textual Analysis in Year 9

In Year 9, the way you engage with texts becomes more complex and students struggle with this. In this article, we explain what you need to look for and consider when analysing texts in Year 9.

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Why analyse texts? Textual Analysis in Year 9 requires you to really peel back the superficial layer of a text and look at what the composer is representing and how.

 

Why analyse texts?

The further you get into high school, the more you will notice that the focus is on pulling apart chunks of the text, rather than recounting events or describing moments. Unpacking texts in this way helps us understand what composers are trying to say about the human experience as well as teaching us how they construct their texts.

In this article, we’re going to explain what textual analysis is in Year 9. Then, in the subsequent articles, we’ll give you step-by-step guides for analysing a variety of text types that you’ll encounter in Year 9.

 

In this article we discuss:

What does textual analysis in Year 9 involve?

Textual analysis is the process of reading a text to understand the meaning of a text AND how that meaning is being conveyed.

When we engage in textual analysis, there are many different ways that we can read for meaning. The common forms of textual analysis you will encounter in school are:

  • Considering how a composer has told their story and related events
  • Looking for how composers have created meaning with their use of techniques
  • Considering how a text relates to its context
  • Comparing a text against others

In junior years, Stage 4 and below, students tend to focus on plot and characters. In Stage 5 and beyond, the focus shifts and broadens.

From Year 9 onwards, you will need to really dig into the text and think about these deeper and more complex concerns.

The NSW Department of Education and the English Teachers Association of NSW have defined the key steps in textual analysis as:

  • Understanding – Getting to grips with the content of a text
  • Connecting – Drawing connections between the text and external things like your own experience
  • Engaging critically – Thinking about deeper ideas in the text like power relationships or how reality is reflected in a text
  • Engaging personally – This is when students relate their reading of the text to other texts you have read or your own experiences

When students are trying to connect and engage with a text, they need to start thinking about how composers are using figurative devices – things like metaphors and similes in written texts or mise en scene and shot types or sound in visual texts and film – to create meaning for audiences.

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In Year 9, English you need to hone in on things that meaning stand out.

What you will focus on in Year 9 will prepare for you for more challenging analysis in year 10.

In Year 9, you need to:

  • Consider texts as a whole and see how they develop meaning and ideas across a whole text
  • Analyse your texts and then relate them to your personal experience and context
  • Consider texts in light of particular ideas such as power, gender, or ideology

In Year 10, and even later in Year 9, you will have to start considering more complex concepts about texts in your analysis:

  • Form and the conventions of form
  • Genre and genre conventions
  • Context
  • Artistic movements
  • Higher order techniques like satire and irony
  • Considering values and attitudes

If you feel you need to to know about those now, read our article in the Beginner’s Guide to Year 10 English: Textual Analysis in year 10.

 

Analysing texts

The process of textual analysis is crucial for Stage 5.

During Stage 5, students like you are expected to increase your understanding of texts and various types of texts. The idea is that as you look at more texts with increasing detail, you will develop your understanding of texts. This will provide you with the tools to explain ideas, infer new information, speculate about new ideas, and problem solve.

 

The process of textual analysis

When we discuss textual analysis, many students don’t think of it as a process.

It’s quite common for students to see textual analysis as a vague thing they do to understand texts.

But the truth is, if you want to ace English, you need to be process driven in your approach to analysing texts. At Matrix, students learn how to follow the Matrix MethodTM for analysing and writing texts.

In the following Guides, we will step you through the following process:

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This process is designed to help you crystalise your understanding of a text before you start writing about it. This will allow you to produce a more refined and insightful response.

In the next 6 guides, we will walk you through the step-by-step process – Steps 1-3 – for analysing a variety of different text types to develop your understanding of the text.

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We will then take you through Steps 4-7, the process of composing a variety of different responses – from planning to drafting and, finally, submitting a polished piece of work.

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The first three steps of the Matrix method are all about developing your UNDERSTANDING and engaging with your texts. Each of these steps includes a reading or viewing of your text.

Yes! This means that you must read or view your text at least three times. This will help you get a comprehensive understanding of your text.

The NSW Department of Education and the English Teachers Association of NSW have defined the key steps in textual analysis as:

  • Understanding – Getting to grips with the content of a text
  • Connecting – Drawing connections between the text and external things like your own experience
  • Engaging critically – Thinking about deeper ideas in the text like power relationships or how reality is reflected in a text
  • Engaging personally – This is when students relate their reading of the text to other texts you have read or your own experiences

When students are trying to connect and engage with a text, they need to start thinking about how composers are using figurative devices – things like metaphors and similes in written texts or mise en scene and shot types or sound in visual texts – to create meaning for audiences.

Step 1: Comprehension and meaning | the first reading

Before we walk you through the comprehension part of the Matrix Method, let’s look at why it has helped so many students conquer their English struggles.

Understanding a text should help you comprehend:

  • The plot of a text
  • The characters and their characterisation
  • The themes in a text
  • Concerns like power and truth

But, understanding doesn’t just happen.

Reading or watching an English text once is not going to give you the information you need to nail your assessments.

Far from it, a singular reading will only give you a cursory understanding of the text. Why?

When you read a text the first time you get a sense of what the text is about and who the characters in it are. Trying to analyse a text while you read it the first time will make it harder to get a holistic sense of it. Going back and reading it a second time will allow you to pick about how those ideas, the plot, and character are developed. The second reading allows you to evaluate each moment in the text in light of the whole text.

 

Step 2: Meaning | The second reading

The second reading is about building on an understanding of a text and thinking about how it has been constructed to produce meaning. The best way to gain this insight is by following a process.

Why?

Using a process to analyse a text forces you to be systematic about reading, analysing, AND taking notes.

Once students follow the process, they see their analysis deepen, their responses become more insightful, and their marks improve:

  1. The first reading is about enjoying and getting a feel for the text
  2. The second reading is where you start identifying key moments and considering things like plot development, characterisation, and recurrent motifs and symbols.


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Let’s look at the process of understanding texts:

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The first reading. This a key step in developing your understanding of a text

The second reading. this is when you should consider the deeper ideas within a text. Start drawing connections between this text and your knowledge of the world and your own experiences

Understanding a text is something that comes with the first two readings of a text.

  1. The first reading is about enjoying and getting a feel for the text
  2. The second reading is where you start identifying key moments and considering things like plot development, characterisation, and recurrent motifs and symbols.

As you engage in your second reading, you should begin making notes and annotating your text.

If you find something interesting, write it down! Make note of your initial thoughts and insights. You must then return to these later!

Once you have understanding, you’re in a position to start a detailed analysis of the key parts of the text.

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The first and second meaning are there to help you grasp ideas.

Thinking and talking about techniques: the third reading

A large component of textual analysis is exploring how composers use techniques to convey meaning. This is what you should be doing in your third reading.

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The third reading. This is where you should look for techniques and think about how they develop meaning. Think about how these figurative devices develop meaning and influence your understanding of the text.

 

Once you have understanding, you can start analysing for techniques. This is when you seek to identify key moments in a text and look at how the composer has developed the meaning. You need to see what techniques they have used.

Ask yourself, have the composers employed symbols, metaphors, or used literary devices, or filmic techniques that amplify or draw attention to certain ideas or themes in the text at that moment.

Once you’ve identified techniques, you need to start thinking about how they create meaning. Ask yourself, How does this example and technique:

  • Develop character?
  • Emphasize a theme?
  • Portray relationships?
  • Convey a particular idea or belief?
  • Illustrate a value or attitude?

This is a process of close reading and comprehension that you need to practice so you can perfect it. It is essential that you write down you findings and thoughts as you go through this process.

If you are unsure of how to make notes, you should read the previous article in this Guide, How to Make Notes.

Once you have analysed your text and unpacked the key moments in the text and seen how the composer has represented these, you are ready to start thinking about meaning in a deeper way.

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In the third reading, you need to look deeper into the text.

Critical thinking: Looking deeper into texts

What do we mean when we say looking at texts in a deeper way? We mean engaging with them on a critical and personal level and connecting your knowledge of the text to external ideas and experiences.

This is a three-step process, let’s see what this involves:

 

Step 1: Connecting

When we engage with texts we start relating them to our own lives and experiences. This allows us to consider how the text we are reading or viewing compares to other texts that we have engaged with in the past.

This allows us to think about how others view or represent the world. From these experiences, we develop a wide understanding of the world and the individuals we share it with.

It is important that we think about these connections as we analyse texts. Connections you should look for between texts are:

  • Identifiable links to our worlds and experiences
  • The way they represent common experiences, personal stories and cultural myths, or ideas
  • Whether they share a context
  • Employing similar genres, literary and filmic conventions, or language codes

As you ponder these connections, write down your findings and conclusions. It’s okay to not come up with concrete answers! Sometimes your analysis will leave you with more questions than answers, this is okay.

You should use these questions for thinking more broadly about human experience and the human condition.

 

Step 2: Engaging Critically

When you engage critically, you read or view your text with a view to a particular set of ideas and beliefs.

Sometimes this gets called “a reading.” When you engage in this practice, you are trying to consider the text through a particular set of ideas or values to see how it represents them.

Some things that you may be asked to read texts for include:

  • Power – A reading that considers how the relationships between individuals work. Do some characters have more power and agency than others? What is the basis for this imbalance? Age? race? Culture? Gender? Wealth? Education?
  • Gender – This sort of reading will explore how gender is portrayed. Does the text have a focus on one sex over the other? Are there particular ideas or values of gender being presented or explored in the text? How do these stack up with your values and attitudes, or those of our context?
  • Race and culture – A reading that explores representations of race and culture. Are there particular values around race or culture presented in the text? Does the text reinforce stereotypes or challenge them? Is it conveying ideas that are relevant to your context by challenging or endorsing them?
  • Political and economic – A reading that explores particular political, ideological, or economic beliefs in a text. Texts can be a vehicle for political concerns or ideologies. Some texts, such as Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead espouse a pro-capitalist, libertarian world view. Others, such as JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series present strong arguments against totalitarianism and censorship (think about Dolores Umbridge’s role in censoring the news). When you analyse texts for these concerns you need to look for how these ideas may be present in particular moments, relations, or events in a text.

Critical engagement will force you to draw upon a wide array of knowledge and research different sources. One of the difficulties students face when studying English is coming to terms with the lack of limits to what can be explored. As English is a study of art and art is a process of representing human experience, the idea that you need to have an understanding of the totality of human experience can be overwhelming and disheartening.

Rather than panicking about having to learn huge amounts of information, students should approach English as a way to gain this information.

Year 9 is a crucial year for developing the background and foundational understanding of the world to think about the more complex texts and ideas you will face in Years 11 and 12. A consistent habit of reading from a variety of genres and text types will help you develop this knowledge!

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The third reading is all about forming connections and thinking critically as you analyse your examples.

Step 3: Engaging personally

Engaging personally means more than just deciding whether you like or dislike a text.

In Year 9, it is important that you start connecting your experience of a text to your own experiences and beliefs.

When you take this approach to engaging emotionally and personally to your text you should consider:

  • How you identify with situations, ideas, or characters within the text. Can you relate to these things, or not? Why?
  • Does the text and its subject matter inspire you to discuss it with friends? Do you discuss its construction, ideas, or plot? Why
  • Are there any particular aesthetic qualities (elements that you find beautiful or horrible in the text)? What are they? Why do they stand out to you?
  • Do you value the text? Do you think it is an important text? is it a text you would voluntarily return to? Why or why not?

These questions may seem broad, but asking yourself them will help you develop your understanding of the text by analysing your response to it.

You should make notes as you go through this process. Adding this information to the notes you’ve already developed as you go through the process of textual analysis will give them depth and insight.

We’ve covered quite a lot in this article. So, here is a summary of how to do each of your readings

Analysing texts, a summary!

Read or view your text at least three times.

First readings – the big picture

  • Enjoy the text!
  • Pay attention to characters
  • Pay attention to plot
  • Try and identify themes

Second readings – looking at chapters and scenes

  • Pay attention to key scenes and chapters
  • Consider how characters are developed
  • Consider how the structure of the text develops the plot
  • Connect the development of themes to key scenes
  • Identify consistent motifs and symbols
  • Make a list of key or crucial moments
  • Make notes on themes, characters, and structure

Third readings – unpacking details

  • Return to the key moments in the text
  • Analyse how meaning is developed
  • Connect the meaning in key moments to the text as a whole
  • Consider how the ideas and representations in the text connect to your experience
  • Ask how the text resonates and compares to other texts
  • Make detailed notes

If you need to learn about context, genre, or higher order techniques, read Part 2 of our Beginner’s Guide to Year 10 English: Textual Analysis in Year 10.

Now you’ve got the basics, let’s get into detail!

Now we’ve explained the process for textual analysis, we’re going to give you some step-by-step guides for analysing specific text types:

  • Prose fiction
  • Poetry
  • Shakespeare
  • Prose non-fiction
  • Film
  • Images and visual texts

First up, we’re going to look at how to Analyse Prose Fiction.

© Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au, 2019. 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 www.matrix.edu.au with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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