In Part 2 of the Year 12 English Study Guide, we explain the purpose of Module A: Textual Conversations. We explain how to address the expectations of the NESA rubric so you can write Band 6 comparative responses.
In this post, we’ll explore the new Module A: Textual Conversations and give you a detailed breakdown of what the Module requirements are and what the Syllabus outline really means.
For Module A: Textual Conversations, you will study a pair of texts. These texts will share a direct intertextual relationship.
This Module is a comparative study of texts.
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A comparative study is when you study two texts together and compare them. You will examine what they have in common and also how they differ.
In a comparative study, you explore the content, themes, and construction of the texts. You will also consider the contexts of both texts and the effect this has on the texts meaning and possibly on its construction.
‘Textual Conversation’ is a metaphor for texts sharing a relationship made up of themes, ideas, intertextuality and context.
This “textual conversation” is facilitated by the very direct relationship between the texts.
Each pairing is made of an earlier text and a more recent text that is either a retelling of, commentary on, or engagement with the older text.
For example, two of the prescribed combinations are Shakespearean plays and contemporary engagements with them:
Both of these combinations present texts that have a direct connection between them.
They have a conversation, of sorts, because the more recent text is commenting on aspects of the older texts. It goes without saying that this very much a one-way conversation as the older text cannot comment on the more recent one.
While you do need to consider the context of texts, it is not the sole focus. Context encompasses the circumstances surrounding the creation of a text.
Unlike previous iterations of Module A, in this Module, the focus is more on the commonalities and differences between the texts, and how this was informed by different contexts at the time of writing.
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To prepare you for studying this Module and your pair of texts, we’ll take a detailed look at the Module A rubric.
Looking at the Rubric is important as it will tell you exactly what you need to focus on as you study your prescribed texts.
Let’s see what the rubric says.
In this module, students explore the ways in which the comparative study of texts can reveal resonances and dissonances between and within texts. Students consider the ways that a reimagining or reframing of an aspect of a text might mirror, align or collide with the details of another text. In their textual studies, they also explore common or disparate issues, values, assumptions or perspectives and how these are depicted. By comparing two texts students understand how composers (authors, poets, playwrights, directors, designers and so on) are influenced by other texts, contexts and values, and how this shapes meaning.
Students identify, interpret, analyse and evaluate the textual features, conventions, contexts, values and purpose of two prescribed texts. As students engage with the texts they consider how their understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of both texts has been enhanced through the comparative study and how the personal, social, cultural and historical contextual knowledge that they bring to the texts influences their perspectives and shapes their own compositions.
By responding imaginatively, interpretively and critically students explore and evaluate individual and common textual features, concepts and values. They further develop skills in analysing the ways that various language concepts, for example motif, allusion and intertextuality, connect and distinguish texts and how innovating with language concepts, form and style can shape new meaning. They develop appropriate analytical and evaluative language required to compose informed, cohesive responses using appropriate terminology, grammar, syntax and structure.
By composing critical and creative texts in a range of modes and media, students develop the confidence, skills and appreciation to express a considered personal perspective.
Source: Module A Rubric from NESA website
Did you struggle to completely understand what this document is asking you? Don’t worry if you didn’t, it’s written with some complex language and terms you may not have encountered.
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To ensure that you get to grips with what the Module A Rubric demands of statements, we’ve broken it into 9 Rubric statements.
Let’s have a look at those statements and unpack them into plain English.
“In this module, students explore the ways in which the comparative study of texts can reveal resonances and dissonances between and within texts.”
The central focus of “Textual Conversations” is what the two texts share in common and how they differ. Remember, this is a comparative study, so you will be comparing two texts to see these similarities and differences and how they develop meaning.
A ‘resonance‘ is a reflection or reverberation of something else. In terms of sound, resonance is when something agrees harmonically. We can take this as an analogy for sharing a theme or idea.
When we talk of resonance we mean that it is “re-sounding”, that is echoing. When texts have a resonance, something from an earlier text is appearing or being referenced in a more recent text.
For example, the Disney cartoon The Lion King has many resonances with Shakespeare’s Hamlet which it retells.
A ‘dissonance‘ is an absence of agreement between two things. Or to return to the auditory metaphor of “resonance” it is a harsh clash of sounds.
This is a way of suggesting that to texts present different perspectives on an idea, or that a specific theme or idea is entirely absent from one of the texts.
What you will do when you study these your pair of texts is to see how the more recent text comments upon the ideas in the older text.
By studying the texts together, the differences between the two texts should be more prominent.
These differences will allow you to see how the composer is commenting on the earlier text.
“Students consider the ways that a reimagining or reframing of an aspect of a text might mirror, align or collide with the details of another text.”
The pairs of texts set for study all have direct relationships. That is, the texts either retell an earlier narrative or comment directly on the earlier text.
Your job is to consider how composers reframe the ideas or concerns of the earlier text in the latter text.
You need to explore whether this relationship works as an affirmation which “mirrors” or “aligns” with the ideas from the earlier text, or whether there is a more adversarial relationship.
For example, some retellings are deeply critical of the earlier text and the ideas present in it.
Robert Stromberg’s Maleficent is a good example of this, it retells Sleeping Beauty in such a way as to critique the patriarchal values embedded in the original fairy tale.
“In their textual studies, they also explore common or disparate issues, values, assumptions or perspectives and how these are depicted.”
As part of the process of studying a text you need to examine and discuss the following commonalities or differences:
You will need to explore these ideas, and then engage with how these various concepts are represented by the composers.
For example, in Maleficent the evil queen from sleeping beauty is reframed as an anti-hero rather than a villain reflecting contemporary values and moving away and maturing from the “evil woman” trope of fairy-tales.
“By comparing two texts students understand how composers (authors, poets, playwrights, directors, designers and so on) are influenced by other texts, contexts and values, and how this shapes meaning.”
This point is asking you to contemplate the influences on the composers of texts.
When engaging in a comparative study you need to consider the potential influences on composers.
This rubric point is asking you to explore the overt influences that other texts, social and cultural values, and beliefs can have on the meaning composers place in texts.
To return to the example of Maleficent, you would want to consider what 20th and 21st Century influences have compelled Stromberg to retell and rewrite a classic fairytale.
These influences could be 20th Century values of equality, but also other texts such as Angela Carter and Neil Jordan’s retelling of Little Red Riding Hood – The 1984 film The Company of Wolves.
“Students identify, interpret, analyse and evaluate the textual features, conventions, contexts, values and purpose of two prescribed texts.”
This point is telling you what you need to focus on in your study of the two texts and how you need to do it.
Let’s take a closer look at these terms:
“As students engage with the texts they consider how their understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of both texts has been enhanced through the comparative study and how the personal, social, cultural and historical contextual knowledge that they bring to the texts influences their perspectives and shapes their own compositions.”
This syllabus point is asking you to be self-reflective on your learning process throughout the Module.
You need to think about how your understanding and enjoyment of the texts has been shaped by the process of comparative study. In addition, you want to think about how your understanding of the text has been shaped.
When we read a text, we tend to flesh out the details of the text with our own knowledge and experiences.
You need to consider how your knowledge shapes the meaning you find in texts.
For example, how might your preconceptions about Evil Queens have been shaped by the Disney fairy-tale Sleeping Beauty and then been reshaped by your understanding of how attitudes towards female stereotypes have changed over time.
“By responding imaginatively, interpretively and critically students explore and evaluate individual and common textual features, concepts and values.”
This point is telling you how you will need to respond to the texts and what you will need to explore in them.
For Module A, you will have to write a comparative essay. But you can also be asked to respond with an imaginative text, such as an imaginative recreation, or a presentation where you present your interpretation of one or both texts.
In your responses, you may be asked to explore aspects of the texts independent of one another or comparatively.
You can be asked to explore concepts (themes and ideas), textual features (such as structures and techniques), as well as the values and attitudes present in the texts.
“They further develop skills in analysing the ways that various language concepts, for example motif, allusion and intertextuality, connect and distinguish texts and how innovating with language concepts, form and style can shape new meaning.”
This point is assessing your ability to analyse texts.
You need to be able to identify the various techniques that composers use to develop meaning. You need to pay particular attention to higher order techniques of representation like motif, allusion, and allegory which allow composers to convey ideas that have direct connections with the earlier texts.
Intertextuality is the technique of referencing another text, either overtly or implicitly.
Intertextuality can come in the form of quotation, allusion, the use of symbols and motifs, or even the appropriation of structural aspects of the text.
This is a common method of forging links between a pair of texts, but also commenting on or criticising the text that is being referenced.
“By composing critical and creative texts in a range of modes and media, students develop the confidence, skills and appreciation to express a considered personal perspective.
The key idea is having “a considered personal perspective.”
Year 12 is a period where you need to be developing and demonstrating your critical thinking abilities and the process of independent thought.
In your responses, you need to express your interpretation and evaluation of these texts.
While it may not always feel this way, Year 12 is a time when teachers and markers want you to express your view on the texts that you study.
First and foremost you need to have a good grasp on how to read and analyse texts. If you are unsure of how to do this, you must read Part 2 of our Beginner’s Guide to English: How to Read and Analyze Your Text.
You want to approach the pair of texts set for study by reading the earlier text first.
You want to approach the earlier text with an unbiased or unprejudiced view, so you can make your own initial judgement of it.
Only after you’ve read the older text should you read the more recent adaptation of, or engagement with, the older text.
As you work through your comparative study, you need to ask yourself questions such as:
As an independent and thinking human being, you need to start developing confidence in developing your own ideas about the texts that you’re studying as well as confidence in expressing these perspectives to others!
A good practice to develop is to take notes about the texts as you study them. If you want to learn how to write the best study notes, take a read of our Ultimate Guide to Writing Study Notes.
Consider the questions above, and then write down your interpretations as they develop.
You will then be in a position to reflect upon how your interpretation of the texts developed or how your perspective on the earlier text has been reshaped by the latter one.
There are seven pairings that can be studied for Module A. They are:
|Texts set for study. (Source: NESA)|
|Text 1||Text 2||Themes for Textual Conversation|
|Shakespeare, William, King Richard III||Pacino, Al, Looking for Richard||
|Shakespeare, William, The Tempest||Atwood, Margaret, Hag-Seed||
|Woolf, Virginia, Mrs Dalloway||Daldry, Stephen, The Hours||
|Camus, Albert, The Stranger||Daoud, Kamel, The Meursault Investigation||
|Donne, John, John Donne: A Selection of His Poetry||Edson, Margaret, W;t||
|Keats, John, The Complete Poems||Campion, Jane, Bright Star||
|Plath, Sylvia, Ariel||Hughes, Ted, Birthday Letters||
You can have one internal (that is, in-school) assessment specifically on this Module.
As there is a cap of 4 internal assessments for Year 12 including the Trial HSC Exam, only 3 Modules will have assessments attached to them. This means that you may not have a formal essay assessment for Module A before the HSC Trial exam.
In addition to this limit, there is a cap of one formal written assessment for Year 12.
The potential forms for a Module A: Textual Conversation assessment are:
In your Trial HSC Exam, you will be set a comparative essay question.
During Paper 2 of the HSC, you will have a comparative essay question.
More information about the assessment types for the 2019 syllabus can be found in this post on The New Year 11 Year 12 English Assessments.
To help you practice and prepare for your Module A exam, we’ve put together this list of 25 challenging questions.
If you are looking for detailed analysis on some of these pairings, please check out our articles on:
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