Module B De-Mystified

Module B – Critical Study of Text was easy – so incredibly simple and linear from 2003 – 2008 that many of my students gave it no thought bar a 1000 word memory test. The problem today (2009 – 2012) however lies in the fact that there is considerable change to this module in recent years. The words written below in text boxes are not mine, but merely appropriated from Dr Wendy Michaels – an acclaimed independent Education researcher.

“Many students appear to have stumbled at this point, and grabbed at predigested, commodified readings in categories such as The Feminist, The Marxist, The Existential and, The personal growth reading.

The idiocy of this last apparently escaped the writer of a document circulated to teachers and absorbed, without a skerrick of real comprehension, by students. In reality, there is no such thing as The Feminist Reading. There are many feminisms and as many readings as there are feminisms and feminists. The oversimplification in this categorising approach has resulted in students ingesting some horrible howlers.

With the key words “predigested, skerrick, oversimplification, horrible…” in mind, lets take a look at Module B as it is today.

The following is taken from 2006 syllabus and 2009 syllabus.

Old Rubric
1. Demonstrates understanding of the ideas expressed in the text.
2. Evaluates the text’s reception in different contexts.
3. Organises, develops and expresses ideas using language appropriate to audience and purpose.

New Rubric
1. Demonstrates an informed understanding of ideas expressed in text.
2. Evaluates the text’s language, content and construction.
3. Organises and develops ideas using language appropriate to audience and purpose.

A few words read differently but otherwise the same right? Wrong! There is a huge difference in what the course demands from the individual student! What the new rubric wants from students is not a reading or a verbatim response from someone else, but their own personalized response to what the text represents – to them. Lets put this into simple colloquial for you punters out there.

Students are required to be INFORMED: Meaning you should be doing critical reading from individual sources such as philosophers, literary theorists, or critics/commentators (published, literary journal).

Students are required to EVALUATE: As in have an actual opinion! Don’t just say “The writer has successfully engaged with the themes presented by the text…” Say it like you mean it! Say it like you are passionate about the text itself.
For Hamlet, say something like “Hamlet is a coward, but he is no fool. His inaction are not a result of his personal insecurities but rather, of his status as the Philosopher prince, the only character in the entire play that seems to have an idea that actions have an consequence!
For Winton you need to write something like “Despite an idealized vision of the Australian battler striving to do better in a urban outback, Winton still remained trapped in the overt masculine ethos of Aussie stereotypes – his female leads who strive to be better than their male failures all seem to meet with an almost supernatural turn of grotesque consequences…
For Orwell say something like “Orwell’s sardonic humour and dry wit is an attempt at perceiving his subjects by borrowing upon the greatness of past writer, riding their waves and elevating his own rhetoric by divorcing the connection between reader and writer – as if all reader of these texts would be as astounded or astitute as Orwell himself…”

Language, Construction are just TEEMs, lots and lots of TEEM slotted like so much hundreds and thousands on your delicious cupcake (Body paragraphs).

Teems are like toppings to a Cup Cake - Necessary and Utterly Delightful for the Marker

Lets expand on this awesomeness.

Typical Essay Errors and Misinterpretations of Module B – Critical Study of Text:

One – Guy who does a reading instead:

The irony behind this form of essay is that until 2009 it worked perfectly well. People who rely on doing past papers and looking at essays written by their relatives or friends in senior years will find themselves confused and befuddled. This road is permissible, but do not expect to get within a mile of Band 5 or 6 (14 – 20). This approach, also called the empirical approach means that you have done some research and read up on a whole bunch of “isms” such as Imperialism, Feminism, Capitalism, Marxism, New Historicism, but truly you have no idea what these Context-isms are. This is because these are just fashionable category words that major historical movements have been pigeonholed into. Feminism for example most students believe is any scene or sentence where a chick gets beaten, raped, molested, attacked, or otherwise redeems herself. In actual truth Feminism almost defies definition, but is philosophically the inability of women to gain equal rights within a male social cultural discourse. My suggestion is abandon you context-isms and redo your readings. This is easy but it will kill your Module B.

Two – Guy who Googled the words Marxists and Hamlet and clicked first 5 links:

This is when you read about some broad theory proposed by some guy in a university that was hot listed by Google so you decide to use him. This can either get you into the correct procedure, or it can completely mislead you. What the markers are looking for is LITERARY THEORY – they are not looking for some guy who has 5 – 6 quotes about Hamlet, and you have appropriated these quotes word for word and labelled them “Critical Study”. The critical element most come from YOU – the student, the theory comes from these Google searches – when you find a theorists, research what the hell they are saying and don’t ever borrow their words and pretend it’s yours. Their’s is a comment using a theory – yours is merely plagiarism.

Three – Finally having found theories you understand, you digest the text in question:

This is  the best way to do Module B Critical Study. The relationship between Text, Theory and YOU is what Module B is all about at the end of the day, even if the questions seems retarded and simple. (How does Relationship Define Hamlet?) Heres some words from Dr Michaels again.

“This conception of the subject English – sometimes referred to as the cultural heritage model – with its pedagogy based on the close study of canonical or classical English works, dominated the syllabuses of Australian schools for the best part of last century.

It was underpinned by an ideology that saw the study of such literature as morally and spiritually transformative, both for the individual, since it would heal and restore the soul, and for society at large, since it would bring light to the darkling plain inhabited by popular culture and the mass media”.

She means to say that the Study of English has been corrupted by HSC tradition – kids just don’t seem to digest words anymore, they just regurgitate them. Module B is newly designed so that you have to like a cow, chew, digest, spit back out, then go for another three tours into your literary cow tripe. Its about how you interpret the text – from simple (some guy ranting on about how he thought about text) to intermediate (some general theories backing up persona opinion) to excellent (individual theories and interpretation that show great understanding of text).

When I have time, I will write up a collection of theorists you guys can use. Until then do your research and find your niche!

I sure as hope yo understood what I had written, because if you do not, what you need is to get someone to teach you English Literary Jargon. If you find yourself utterly and totally unable to digest anything related to English, you are either in the wrong section (try the standard Close Study of Text Section) or you need to either get a Tutor, read literary theory or consult your teacher ASAP.

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