Part 3. Year 11 Module B: Critical Study of Literature

In Part 3 of the Year 11 English Study Guide, we discuss why Year 11 Module B: Critical Study of Literature prepares you for Year 12. We explain how to address the NESA rubric requirements so you.

Do you know what textual integrity is? Do you understand why a text’s critical reception is important? In this post, we will address these questions and explain the details of the New Year 11 Module B: Critical Study of Literature.


The 2018 Preliminary Syllabus and Year 11 Module B

From the 2018/2019 syllabus, there are compulsory Modules for Year 11 students and Year 12 students. The Year 11 Preliminary English Advanced Course is now aimed at directly preparing students for the HSC.

NESA (The NSW Education Standards Authority) has mandated that all students must study the same Modules. However, there are no prescribed texts.

It is compulsory for students to study Common Module: Reading to Write first. The order students study the other Modules is decided by individual schools and their departments.

Module B: Critical Study of Literature is the 3rd, and final, Module of Preliminary English. It is designed to prepare you for the rigours and challenges of Year 12 Module B (also titled Critical Study of Literature).

In Year 12, Module B is often the Module that causes students the most anxiety and difficulty.

The Year 11 Modules set for study for English Advanced are:

You can find an overview of the Year 11 Modules and Syllabus in our Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English.


What is Module B: Critical Study of Literature?

Module B requires you to be a literary critic.

  1. You must closely analyse a text. You must develop your own “reading” of the text (this is your interpretation of the meaning and events of the text).
  2. You must then appraise whether the demonstrates “textual integrity” (more on this further in the article).
  3. You must also consider its critical reception by taking into account the opinions of others and evaluating their ideas about the text against your own.
  4. You must write a critical response or presentation discussing the text.

Sound confusing? It is a little.

Essentially, you’re a literary critic assessing whether the text’s reputation is deserved. You need to ask, does it live up to the hype? Is it still relevant to us today?

Don’t worry, though. We’ll explain it here in detail so you don’t need to stress in either Year 11 or Year 12.


What does Module B: Critical Study of Literature teach students?

Students in Year 12 need to do Module B: Critical Study of Literature. The Preliminary Year 11 version of the Module is preparation for the HSC year.

Both the Year 11 and Year 12 courses are concerned with getting students to evaluate how and why composers create meaning in their texts.

When we read texts critically, we want to unpack how composers develop their ideas and what techniques and tools they use to communicate them to the audience.

We also want to think about why a composer would want to explore themes and ideas they have chosen. While it is impossible to know exactly what a composer seeks to achieve with their text, we can make reasoned hypotheses about their intent.

In the Preliminary Course, your focus is going to be on how composers construct meaning in their texts and why. Additional considerations will be whether or not the text can be said to have “textual integrity” and what other people think about it.

Let’s have a look at the Year 11 Module B Syllabus Rubric and see what it asks students to do.




To Ace “Critical Study of Literature”, you must understand the Year 11 Module B Rubric

Module B Rubric from NESA

Acing Module B requires you to address the requirements from the Module rubric. They provide the following of objectives for you to demonstrate in your assessments.

In this module, students develop analytical and critical knowledge, understanding and appreciation of a literary text. Through increasingly informed personal responses to the text in its entirety, students develop understanding of the distinctive qualities of the text and notions of textual integrity.

Students study one text appropriate to their needs and interests. Central to this study is the exploration of how the author’s ideas are expressed in the text through an analysis of its construction, content and language. Students develop their own interpretation of the text, basing their judgements on evidence drawn from their research and reading, enabling the development of a deeper and richer understanding of the text. In doing so, they consider notions of contexts with regard to the text’s composition and reception; investigate the perspectives of others; and explore the ideas in the text, further strengthening their personal perspective on the text.

Students have opportunities to appreciate and express views about the aesthetic and imaginative aspects of a text by composing creative and critical texts of their own. Through reading, viewing or listening they analyse, evaluate and comment on the text’s specific language features and form. They express increasingly complex ideas, clearly and cohesively using appropriate register, structure and modality. They draft, appraise and refine their own texts, applying the conventions of syntax, spelling and grammar appropriately.

Opportunities to engage deeply with the text as a responder and composer further develops personal and intellectual connections with this text, enabling students to express their informed personal view of its meaning and value.

Source: Module B Rubric from NESA website

Did you struggle to understand some of that? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most students struggle to understand what the rubrics ask of them.


Unpacking the Module B rubric

To help you get ready to ace Year 11 Module B : Critical Study of Literature, we’ve broken the rubric down into 8 key statements and explained them in plain English.

Let’s break them down for you:


Rubric Statement #1

“Students develop analytical and critical knowledge, understanding and appreciation of a literary text.”

Analysis of Rubric Statement #1

This point is telling you that you need to develop an in-depth knowledge of the text.

Unlike other Modules where you look at context and broad issues surrounding the text, here your main focus is the text and its meaning. Essentially, your job for this Module is to be a literary critic and develop an interpretation of the text you’ve been set for study.


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Rubric Statement #2

“Through increasingly informed personal responses to the text in its entirety, students develop understanding of the distinctive qualities of the text and notions of textual integrity.”

Analysis of Rubric Statement #2

For this Module, you need to develop your own understanding of the text. You need to consider the text as a whole and think about what makes it effective or distinctive.

Ask yourself, what makes this text different and, perhaps, more effective at conveying ideas than other texts?

The other concern mentioned in this point is “textual integrity” (which we will discuss in detail a little later in this article). Briefly, “Textual integrity” refers to the qualities that significant texts have that, well, make them significant or important.

Think of it this way, if a text is popular with the public or critics it must be doing some things very well. Some critics argue that popular and critically successful texts share some common features and qualities.

NESA refers to these successful features and qualities as “textual integrity.”


Rubric Statement #3

“Central to this study is the exploration of how the author’s ideas are expressed in the text through an analysis of its construction, content and language.”

Analysis of Rubric Statement #3

When you study your text for this Module, you need to look at how it is constructed and what the composer has done to develop meaning for readers. These are the examples and techniques you need to gather together.

When analysing the text, you need to consider the text’s:

  • Plot – The events which occur in the text;
  • Characters – The cast of the text and the ideas and beliefs that they embody;
  • Form – Is the text a novel, film, or poem? Each text type has different conventions. You need to think about how the composer has used, or possibly subverted, these conventions.
  • Structure – The way the text has been put together. What point of view is used? What tense is the text told in? At what pace do events unfold.
  • Genre – What genre does the text fit into? Is it a drama, a tragedy, a science fiction text, or a comedy? Like textual form, different genres have different conventions surrounding structure and intent.
  • Register – Is the text written with a formal high use of language or does it use more colloquial registers. Why do you think the composer has chosen to do this?
  • Use of techniques – You need to consider what techniques the composer has used to convey their ideas. You need to look for recurrent motifs and symbols and figure out what these represent.

This syllabus statement is instructing you to draw on these aspects of the text when developing and supporting your argument. Each piece of evidence you provide in your responses will draw on one these aspects of the text. When you are asked to explain how a composer creates meaning, these are the “techniques” you reference as conveying specific ideas.


Rubric Statement #4

Students develop their own interpretation of the text, basing their judgements on evidence drawn from their research and reading, enabling the development of a deeper and richer understanding of the text.”

Analysis of Rubric Statement #4

Module B requires you to take on the role of a literary critic.

The first step of literary criticism is developing your own interpretation of what a text is about and why. To do this, you want to read through the text a couple of times before you start researching it.

It is important that you have a clear interpretation of what you think the text is about before you become influenced by others.

Once you’ve developed a critical perspective on the text, you need to start researching the text and its context to see if your initial reading of the text still holds up. It is quite possible that your interpretation of the text will change (and that’s okay!), in which case you want to document and discuss:

  1. How it has changed; and
  2. What influenced this change.


Rubric Statement #5

“[Students] consider notions of contexts with regard to the text’s composition and reception;”

Analysis of Rubric Statement #5

As part of your research, you need to look at the context of the text’s publication. You also want to look at how the text has been received – this is a text’s “critical reception”.

We’ll look at “critical reception” in a bit more detail later in this post, suffice to say that a text’s critical reception is not static. A text’s critical reception often changes over time to reflect changes in context.

While some texts are consistently considered “classics” others fall in and out of favour.


Rubric Statement #6

“[Students] investigate the perspectives of others;”

Analysis of Rubric Statement #6

As part of a critical study, you need to see how your interpretation and ideas stack up against other critics’ interpretations and ideas.

You don’t need to agree with their take on the text, but you do need to consider why you have different perspectives. This is an important part of the academic process where different critics compare and debate their positions. As part of this process, you should use evidence to back up why you feel your reading of the text, or their reading of the text, seems more plausible.


Rubric Statement #7

“[Students] explore the ideas in the text, further strengthening their personal perspective on the text.”

Analysis of Rubric Statement #7

You need to do more than just read and analyse the text, you need to engage with, and carefully consider, the ideas presented in it.

The texts set for Module B are critically acclaimed or considered to be significant texts.

This means that they contain ideas deemed important or profound to society or humanity. To better understand the text and develop your reading of it, you’ll need to research and explore these ideas. Once you have a better idea of the concepts explored in the text, you can incorporate this learning into your interpretation and knowledge of the text.

Once you’ve completed your analysis, research, and critical thinking you might come to decide that the text is definitely a classic and a “must read/view”. Or you may conclude that it is no longer significant or important to a current society of readers.


Rubric Statement #8

“Opportunities to engage deeply with the text as a responder and composer further develops personal and intellectual connections with this text, enabling students to express their informed personal view of its meaning and value.”

Analysis of Rubric Statement #8

This statement explains the rationale behind the Module and what NESA hopes you will take away from your study.

Module B wants you to become an engaged reader who uses their critical thinking abilities when considering texts.

For this reason, it is important to remember that you don’t want to take a text’s standing and reputation as evidence of its importance or relevance.

Engaged students will appraise the texts that they are set and see if the text still has relevance or is still deserving of critical acclaim.



Textual Integrity requires you to figure out how a text works as a whole.

What is “Textual Integrity,” exactly?

This is a tricky question that gets debated a lot. In short, “textual integrity” is a means of evaluating the qualities of a text. Some critics, and NESA, feel that textual integrity is a quality held by significant texts.

Where things get tricky is nailing down exactly what textual integrity is. There are 3 popular ways of thinking about it. Let’s take a quick look at them:


Universal Themes

These are themes that appeal to all audiences across time. These are themes like “love” and “fate”.

Texts with universal themes tend to appeal to broad audiences and offer insights into what it means to be human (The Human Condition).


Audience Reception

How audiences receive and respond to texts can tell us a lot about the text. If audiences don’t remark much on a text, they likely haven’t been wowed by it. If audiences universally celebrate it (or, in some instances, universally pan it), this suggests it is a significant text of sorts.

Things get really interesting if some audiences love the text and others detest it. This kind of critical reception means that the text is doing something unique that provokes wide-ranging discussion. This is a marker of a significant text.


Organic Unity

This is a more complex concept. The idea behind organic unity is that all aspects of a text are constructed to develop an idea or group of ideas. For example, a well-discussed example of this is Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the theme of “Indecision”.

In the play, the lead character struggles to make decisions and procrastinates a lot. The theme of indecision is conveyed through the plot, through Hamlet’s habit of asking lots of unanswered questions, and the play’s structure. The first 3 acts take a very long time. Events eventuate gradually, but after Hamlet makes his first irrevocable decision, events unfold quickly in the final two acts culminating in much death.

This holistic approach to representing “indecision” is an example of organic unity. Crafting a text in this way is incredibly difficult and marks it as a significant text.


Do I really need to understand textual integrity?

As part of Module B, you need to assess whether the text you are studying can be said to demonstrate textual integrity. So it is important that you consider the three qualities when engaging with your text.

If you are still unsure what textual integrity is and need a more detailed explanation, you must read our Essential Guide to Textual Integrity.




Thomas Chatterton took criticism too personally. Don’t be like Tom!



What’s “Critical Reception” and why’s it Important?

Critical reception refers to how audiences receive, or respond, to a text. For instance, do they discuss the text positively or negatively?

Critical reception allows us to understand what others think about the text. We can use this to test our own ideas about a text – for example, what it means and its effectiveness.

Just as people don’t agree with each other, you don’t have to agree with what other critics say about a text. But you do need to be able to argue, with evidence, about why you agree or disagree with their findings on the text in question.

In addition, critical reception allows us to gauge whether a text has been consistently valued or if it has slipped in and out of critical acclaim.

For example, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights received mixed reviews when it was released and went on to be considered one of the greatest novels written and the best novel penned by a Brontë.

Similarly, Citizen Kane by Orson Welles was a box office flop and received a critical drubbing on release. Yet now it is widely considered one of the best films ever made.

If texts become popular or unpopular at different points of time then we can deduce that there is a culture relevance between the context and text that is driving it. Something during that period of time is occurring to make the text relevant to audiences.

Now you know what Module B requires you to do, you need to get out there and analyse and research your text!

If you’re still unsure about critical reception, you must read our post: Understanding Module B: Critical reception, context, and significance.


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