Part 3. Year 12 Module B: Critical Study of Literature

In Part 3 of this Year 12 English Study Guide, we explain what the Year 12 Module B: Critical Study of Literature NESA rubric requires of you. We discuss textual integrity, critical perspectives, and reception so that you have the tools to ace your HSC.

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The Year 12 Module B: Critical Study of Literature is considered the most difficult module in the HSC Advanced English course, and with good reason. It is a complex Module requiring a deep understanding of your text and the ideas it represents! In this post, we’ll break down the Module B: Critical Study of Literature syllabus so you can approach your critical study in a systematic fashion and ace it!

What is HSC English Advanced Module B really about?

HSC English Module B: Critical Study of Literature requires you to closely read or watch your text. There are no surprises here. This is essential, and to be confident in this, you should aim to re-read your set text at least two to three times throughout the HSC year.

You need to explore:

  • How the text is constructed
  • What ideas the text contains
  • Whether the text has a unity of form and ideas (textual integrity)
  • How these ideas reflect the values of its context
  • How these ideas reflect our contemporary values
  • How the text has been received over time.

In short, for Module B you’re a literary critic judging if your set text’s reputation is deserved.

You need to ask, does it live up to the hype? Is it still relevant to us today?

In your Module B responses, you will need to show a deep, sophisticated understanding of the complexities of your prescribed text – substantially more than what is required in other Modules. To perform well in your assessments and exams, you must know your text in detail and be able to discuss it with confidence and insight.

What does it mean to engage with a text?

Engaging with a text can mean a few different things. Let’s take a look:

  • To consider the ideas that it explores
  • To explore and discuss what these ideas mean for you
  • To examine whether you feel the ideas, and values, in the text are still relevant or valid.

This is a challenging process. Some of the texts set for study are difficult and produced in a complex manner.

The English Advanced Module B texts are challenging, and that is okay

Advanced English is about exploring literature concerned with representing the complexities of human experience in profound ways. By its nature, then, Advanced English is all about complex, confronting, and challenging ideas. Often these texts contain abstract concepts or contain obscure ideas, or contain substantial ambiguity.

Adding to this, it’s quite possible that you will not enjoy your Module B text. Engaging with it may be heavy going. You may not understand your text fully on the first, or even the second reading! This is because the composers are often challenging the social or artistic values of their contexts.

Literature that is considered to be “classic” or “important” is often challenging and confronting in both style, structure, and content. But these struggles are normal and are part of the analytical process for Module B.

You will find that while these texts are challenging and confusing and perhaps even unpalatable, studying them will be rewarding.

You need to be prepared to invest a significant amount of time into the study of your Module B text. Once you’ve engaged with the text a couple of times, you will need to discuss your text with your friends, teachers, and others. You will need to research what others think of the text to understand your own perspective, too.

This process will help you develop and clarify your ideas. It may sound like a substantial undertaking – and to be honest, it is! However, engaging in this process will mean that when you do explore the text again, you will find new insights and be able to see clearly how your understanding of the text has developed!

Your hard work will pay off when you discuss these insights in your Band 6 responses.

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To ace Module B: Critical Study of Texts for the HSC, you really need to have a thorough knowledge of the Rubric

To get you ready for the rigours of Module B, we need to take a close look at the Module B rubric.

Being familiar with the Module rubrics is very important. These documents explain how you should study the texts and makes clear what is expected of you as a student of English Advanced.

Okay, let’s see what the Module B rubric states.

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

Students study one prescribed text. Central to this study is the close analysis of the text’s construction, content and language to develop students’ own rich interpretation of the text, basing their judgements on detailed evidence drawn from their research and reading. In doing so, they evaluate notions of context with regard to the text’s composition and reception; investigate and evaluate the perspectives of others; and explore the ideas in the text, further strengthening their informed personal perspective.

Students have opportunities to appreciate and express views about the aesthetic and imaginative aspects of the text by composing creative and critical texts of their own. Through reading, viewing or listening they critically analyse, evaluate and comment on the text’s specific language features and form. They express complex ideas precisely 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 for students to engage deeply with the text as a responder and composer further develops personal and intellectual connections with the text, enabling them to express their considered perspective of its value and meaning.

Source: Module B Course Rubric from NESA website

You may have struggled to understand what this Rubric is asking of you. That’s okay, as most students struggle to get to grips with these documents..

 

Unpacking the Module B Rubric

To do well in Module B, you must understand the Rubric. To help you do this, we’ve broken the Rubric down into 8 Rubric Statements and explained them in plain English.

Let’s take a look at what NESA wants you to do.

 

Rubric Statement #1

“In this module, students develop detailed analytical and critical knowledge, understanding and appreciation of a substantial literary text.”

Analysis of Rubric Statement #1

Essentially, this Module requires you to closely study one text or a series of texts that are part of a collection by one composer. The texts set for study in Module B are considered to be “substantial literary texts.’ That is to say, they are considered by NESA to have important literary significance because of their reputation, ideas, and construction.

You need to develop a thorough understanding of your text. It will take multiple readings, but you need to develop and demonstrate a detailed knowledge of your text and the ideas it conveys.

 

Rubric Statement #2

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

Analysis of Rubric Statement #2

You are not merely studying parts of your text. You must engage with your text as a whole. This means applying your critical thinking skills to see how different aspects of the text fit together to make a cohesive and complete whole.

As you embark on this process, you’ll notice what it is about the text’s construction that makes it distinctive.

Things you must consider include:

  • Structure
  • Register
  • Characters
  • Plot
  • Style and use of language techniques.

Unpacking a text’s construction allows you to understand how a composer has attempted to convey their complex ideas to others successfully (or perhaps you will feel that they have not and argue accordingly!).

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Does your text work as a whole?

Textual integrity

Part of your job as a literary critic for Module B is exploring whether a text displays ‘textual integrity’.

‘Textual integrity’ is a term that scares many students, it is central to Module B, and not as bad as it sounds.

There are a couple different of ways of considering textual integrity. Let’s have a quick look at what they are:

  • Organic Unity: A text can demonstrate textual integrity if the themes and techniques of the text come together to form a unified whole. You will be familiar with the sense that the parts of a text you love, like a film or an album, ‘all fit together.’ One way to approach HSC English Advanced Module B is as if you’re being asked to assess the extent to which your prescribed text has this quality.
  • Universal Themes: A text can be said to have integrity if it contains ideas or themes that are relevant to humans from across time and different communities. For example, themes such as life, death, love, uncertainty, time, and the meaning of life are themes that are relevant to all people.
  • Critical Engagement: A text can demonstrate textual integrity by generating critical discussion. If people debate the meaning or ideas in a text, this suggests that it has an ongoing significance for audiences.

You will find that highly regarded literary texts contain some, if not all of these features.

Textual integrity is something that you will be able to most easily judge once you are familiar with your text and have engaged with the ideas it explores over the course of your HSC year. You are not expected to have a perspective on the textual integrity of your text straight away – your understanding of this will eventually build over time.

For an in-depth explanation, you must read our Essential Guide to Textual Integrity.

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Significant artefacts stand out and have meaning for societies.

 

The significance of a text

The other thing that you need to decide is whether the text is a significant text.

A significant text is one that holds importance for audiences in a particular context, either as an example of aesthetics or because it contains powerful ideas.

The significance of a text is not necessarily static, it can change over time. Texts fall into and out of critical favour throughout time.

Composer’s such as Emily Bronte and John Donne have fallen out of and then back into critical favour.

Just because you are told a text is significant, does not mean that it actually is significant within your context. You need to be the judge of that.

You need to use your critical thinking skills and understanding of the text and context to assess whether your text is still relevant and significant. You will then need to argue this position throughout your responses as a literary critic would.

If you would like to learn more about significance, read our post on Module B: Critical Reception, Context, and Significance.

 

Rubric Statement #4

“Central to this study is the close analysis of the text’s construction, content and language to develop students’ own rich interpretation of the text, basing their judgements on detailed evidence drawn from their research and reading. In doing so, they evaluate notions of context with regard to the text’s composition and reception; investigate and evaluate the perspectives of others; and explore the ideas in the text, further strengthening their informed personal perspective.”

Analysis of Rubric Statement #4

Through your multiple readings, you need to develop your own interpretation of the text. The idea is that you first develop your own understanding of the text and its concerns and then you can explore the different perspectives that others have.

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The same thing can look markedly different from different perspectives.

Your own interpretation

It is important that you first come to your own interpretation so that your initial judgement of the text is not swayed by others. This will allow you to see how your interpretation and understanding of the text develops over time. This reflective practice – reflecting on your own learning and understanding -is an important component of the Module.

Context

Context refers to the circumstances surrounding the production of a text – for example, the social, cultural, historical, geographical, and economic conditions. Context has a significant effect on the production of texts and the reception.

The ideas and values of a period will influence what a composer produces as they either support or challenge the attitudes and values of that time. Similarly, context will shape an audience’s critical reception of a text.

To evaluate notions of context, you need to do a few things:

    • As you research the perspective of other scholars, note down when they published their ideas. You’re interested in how the interpretation of your text has changed over time
    • You need to then have a look at their contexts, and see how the periods when they lived, may have shaped their perspectives on things.

Central to HSC Advanced English Module B is your consideration of how these different interpretations are influenced by context and then considering how your own interpretation is influenced by your context.

Once you have your own interpretation of the text, you are then in a position to compare your ideas with others: your teacher, your peers, and other literary critics. This process will allow you to reflect on your own understanding of the text and the way that you arrived at it.

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“Scholars often argue about the meaning of a text!”

The perspectives of others

Your study of Module B is not limited to your own take on your text. You need to see what others think.

What have other scholars said about your text? Has it had a positive or negative reception? Why? You must aim to find reputable sources – ask your teachers for pointers in the right direction – and consider the ideas that others have had about your text.

Test out the ideas of scholars by returning to your text and considering:

  • Do their interpretations seem reasonable given your own understanding?
  • Do you disagree with points in their interpretations?

Make sure that you add quotations from other scholars to your study notes.

It demonstrates critical thinking and research to cite a scholar in your Module B essay whose perspective you find persuasive or even disagree with!

Remember, seeking out the perspectives of others will allow you to develop the depth of your own perspective. Researching a text in this manner may change your own interpretation of the text or may vindicate your perspective.

Changing your perspective is not a bad thing as it allows you to understand how an informed personal interpretation of a text develops. But by the same token, you don’t need to reformulate your reading of the text if you feel that others’ perspectives aren’t accurate or adequately supported.

Academics and literary critics disagree all the time, that is a crucial part of the critical process!

If you would like to learn more about significance, read our post on Module B: Critical Reception, Context, and Significance.

 

Rubric Statement #5

“They express complex ideas precisely and cohesively using appropriate register, structure and modality. Students have opportunities to appreciate and express views about the aesthetic and imaginative aspects of the text by composing creative and critical texts of their own.”

Analysis of Rubric Statement #5

This rubric point refers to how you will respond in your assessments. The nature of the new Year 12 syllabus is that there is now less of a focus on traditional persuasive essays. Instead, you may have to respond in a variety of different ways.

You may be asked to produce a multimodal presentation. If you are studying Module B concurrently with Module C, you may be asked to write an imaginative recreation of the text. It is possible that you have an assessment task with multiple parts.

For example, you may be asked to write an imaginative recreation of the text and then produce a multimodal presentation that discusses your choices. In addition, you might be asked to write a reflection that evaluates your presentation against some of your peers’ presentations.

Each of these different tasks would require you to demonstrate different registers, structures, and modalities in your writing and speaking (if you want more information about this, read our post on the new Module C: The Craft of Writing).

 

Rubric Statement #6

“Through reading, viewing or listening they critically analyse, evaluate and comment on the text’s specific language features and form.”

Analysis of Rubric Statement #6

This syllabus point refers to the process of critical analysis. If you need help with this, you should read Part 2 of our Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English: How to Analyse Your Texts.

 

Rubric Statement #7

“They draft, appraise and refine their own texts, applying the conventions of syntax, spelling and grammar appropriately.”

Analysis of Rubric Statement #7

In you responding, be it a piece of fiction or non-fiction writing, you will need to engage in the drafting process. You must produce various iterations of your essays and creatives to ensure that you produce a refined piece of work that is free from errors.

 

Rubric Statement #8

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

Analysis of Rubric Statement #8

This final point discusses the aim of Module B: Critical Study of Literature. NESA wants you to engage deeply with a text so you can evaluate it and discuss your perspective on it and whether you feel it holds value for contemporary audiences within our context.

What texts are studied for HSC English Advanced Module B: Critical Study of Literature?

Text Type Text
Table: 2019-2023 English Advanced Module B Text Prescriptions
Shakespearean Drama William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part 1
Drama Henrik Isben, A Doll’s House
Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood
Poetry The Poetry of TS Eliot
The Poetry of David Malouf
Prose Fiction Kazuo Ishiguro, An Artist of the Floating World
Jane Austen, Emma
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Prose Nonfiction Vladimir Nabokov, Speak Memory
Edmund de Waal, The Hare With The Amber Eyes
Film George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck
Nonfiction Film Gillian Armstrong, Unfolding Florence
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What does all of this mean for you?

  1. Your informed personal understanding of the text going into your assessment or final exam is a combination of everything you’ve learnt.
  2. Your close reading and engagement with the text is the first step in building a solid knowledge basis for Module B and should not be rushed.
  3. As you read your text, discuss the ideas it raises with your friends, your teachers, and family – this expands your understanding and means you’re engaging with your text.
  4. Build your study notes by exploring the text in detail and asking how well the text achieves complex characterisation, the degree to which there is a compelling evolution of ideas across the text, and the ways in which the text is still relevant today.
  5. Expand your personal perspective by reading the scholarship of others on your text. How are their ideas influenced by their context? How are your ideas influenced by your context?

A systematic approach to Module B is the key to performing well.

So, What do you need to start doing, now?

Make it a priority to read the text – everything else depends upon this step.

  1. Build study notes early and clarify your ideas as you go.
  2. Discuss your text with others and review your notes and re-read your text in order to feel confident.
  3. Your ideas about the text can only be generated by reading the text yourself.
  4. If you want a guide to this process, read our Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English!

Now you have got an understanding of the Module, you should expand your knowledge further.

Need help with writing the Module B Essay?

Gain an in-depth textual understanding, explanations of critical analysis, and essay writing skills with Text-Based English classes at Matrix.

Learn more about our 9 Week Term Course which starts in April.

 

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

 

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