Introductory Comparative Studies | HSC English

Introductory Comparative Studies

Tegan explains about Introductory Comparative Studies.

  • Introductory Comparative Studies

    In the coming term you will begin to work on your next module. This is Module A: Comparative Studies of Texts and Contexts. It is an entirely different kind of study – first, you have to learn how to structure a new kind of essay with integrated paragraphs: the comparative essay.

    Second, you have to make a different kind of argument. Before, you were arguing about the philosophical and thematic importance of discovery. Now, you will be demonstrating two ideas:

    • That through comparing and contrasting, a comparative study helps you get more out of each text than you would have if you had studied each of them separately.
    • That the time and place a text was created in has a huge influence on the text itself.

    Module A is also more complicated in that you will study it in one of two electives: Intertextual Connections or Intertextual Perspectives. The elective provides a third idea that your essay will need to consider. Therefore, this essay is more complex than the discovery essay, which focused on just one argument.

    In your early studies in this topic you will need to research and write study notes on your texts, authors and their time periods, write a general introductory thesis, and begin to identify the large and small connections or perspectives shared between your texts.

    Today we will cover:

    • The Rubric and Electives
    • Module A thesis development
    • Study note structure
    • Research task
  • Module A: Comparative Study of Texts and Context

    This module requires students to compare texts in order to explore them in relation to their contexts. It develops students’ understanding of the effects of context and questions of value.

  • Elective 1: Intertextual Connections

    In this elective, students compare texts in order to develop their understanding of the effects of context, purpose and audience on the shaping of meaning.

    Through exploring the intertextual connections between a pair of texts, students examine the ways in which different social, cultural and historical contexts can influence the composer’s choice of language forms and features and the ideas, values and attitudes conveyed in each text. In their responding and composing, students consider how the implicit and explicit relationship between the texts can deepen our understanding of the values, significance and context of each.

  • Elective 2: Intertextual Perspectives

    In this elective, students compare the content and perspectives in a pair of texts in order to develop their understanding of the effects of context, purpose and audience on the shaping of meaning.

    Through exploring and comparing perspectives offered by a pair of texts, students examine the ways in which particular social, cultural and historical contexts can influence the composer’s choice of language forms and features and the ideas, values and attitudes conveyed in each text.

    In their responding and composing, students consider how the treatment of similar content in a pair of texts can heighten our understanding of the values, significance and context of each.

  • The HSC Prescribed Texts for Intertextual Connections

    Students explore one pair of texts from the following:

    Shakespearean Drama and Film

    • William Shakespeare, King Richard III
    • Al Pacino, Looking for Richard

    or

    Prose Fiction and Film

    • Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
    • Stephen Daldry, The Hours

    or

    Prose Fiction and Nonfiction

    • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
    • Fay Weldon, Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen

    or

    Poetry and Prose Fiction

    • Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘The Lady of Shalott’, ‘Tears, idle tears’, ‘In Memoriam A.H.H.’ – Cantos XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX
    • Jessica Anderson, Tirra Lirra by the River

    or

    Poetry and Drama

    • John Donne, ‘The Sunne Rising’, ‘The Apparition’, ‘A Valediction: forbidding mourning’, ‘The Relique’, ‘This is my playes last scene’, ‘At the round earths imagin’d corners’, ‘If poysonous mineralls’, ‘Death be not proud’, ‘Hymne to God my God, in my sicknesse’
    • Margaret Edson, W;t
  • The HSC Prescribed Texts for Intertextual Perspectives

    Students explore one pair of texts from the following:

    Shakespearean Drama and Nonfiction

    • William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
    • Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (translated by Tim Parks)

    or

    Prose Fiction and Poetry

    • F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
    • Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese – I, XIII, XIV, XXI, XXII, XXVIII, XXXII, XLIII

    or

    • James Joyce, Dubliners
    • Seamus Heaney, ‘Digging’, ‘Blackberry-Picking’, ‘Mid-Term Break’, ‘The Given Note’, ‘The Strand at Lough Beg’, ‘Casualty’, ‘Granite Chip’, ‘Clearances III’

    or

    Prose Fiction and Film

    • George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
    • Fritz Lang, Metropolis
  • What should a Module A thesis look like?

    Your Module A thesis is not just expressing your philosophical opinion, like the Discovery thesis. It has to ‘set up’ the basis for comparing these two texts and their contexts in the first place, and explain what value we might get out of analysing theses connections or different perspectives today. You are basically justifying the essay we are asking you to write.

    Ideally, for the ‘Intertextual Connections’ elective, the connections between texts should point out that the same content can have very different portrayals in different contexts based on their values. For ‘Intertextual Perspectives’ you should suggest that the difference between texts indicates that society’s values have changed or drifted over time.

    Some example thesis statements might be:

    Examining literary texts as artefacts that can reflect the contextual values of their time period not only allows a deeper, intertextual understanding of the texts, and their relationship, to be developed, but also makes contemporary responders cognizant of the likely influence of the 21st century upon their own personal beliefs and values.

    Comparing the values and beliefs of certain moments in history through an intertextual study reveals that similar, brutal ideas or positions have been justified by individuals for a multitude of purposes. This perhaps suggests that contextual values don’t so much influence core human behaviour but rather, how we defend that behaviour.

  • ‘What Why Fact How’ Study Notes

    Integrated paragraphs can be tricky to write because you need to address several ideas at once and still argue clearly. It is best for a comparative study to have integrated paragraphs – meaning, that you discuss one connection/perspective, but both texts in the one paragraph.

    Each paragraph should quote not only the texts, but an historical fact from each of their respective time periods too. So it helps to set up your study notes as ‘What Why Fact How’ blocks of information which are easy to combine into bigger paragraphs later.

    ‘What Why Fact How’, means:

    • What is the contextual value about this connection/perspective held by this time period?
    • Why does this society hold this contextual value?
    • What fact, historical event, publication, or influential leader can you cite as evidence of this value?
    • How is this value evident in the text – provide a lengthy quote, perhaps a sentence or two, and a language technique.

    Each study note should have a heading for easy reference, for example: ‘The Perception of Propaganda in Nineteen Eighty-Four’. This title should make the linking perception or connection clear, identify the idea at play, and name the text.

    Then, all the information you have about ‘propaganda’ in Nineteen Eighty-Four should be analysed, from most relevant point to least relevant point. You should include all relevant techniques and quotes in this analysis – and should end up with one or even several paragraphs which you might be able to use later in an exam.

    Keep reviewing these paragraphs and adding more quotes to them as you learn more, refining them as you go. The act of continually writing these notes is what is ‘teaching’ you this subject, and so this process is just as important as the permanent record of your study that these paragraphs provide.

  • Researching History:

    You should know the major political and social events, world leaders, language and religions, and cultural practices that make up the general historical context of your prescribed text. There are many different possible sources of information for this information, including hand outs from school, websites, encyclopaedias, nonfiction books and academic essays. You should begin to explore as many of these as possible right away.

    • Write general notes with headings like ‘religion in 1920s America’, ‘politics in 1920s America’, ‘rights of women in 1920s America’ and so forth, as well as special events like ‘The 1532 Fall of the Florentine Republic’. Every fact, or relevant historical persons, books or artworks should be mentioned in these notes.
    • Try to identify the value or values created by this historical fact. An event may be influenced by old values, or if it is significant enough, create new values for a social group. Try to identify the sorts of values represented by this historical fact. For example, the string of invasions and leadership changes in Florence in the early 1500s may have led to a contextual value for national pride, or political stability.
    • Create your own time-line of important events to chart social developments and changing contextual values. Include events and dates (the precise year is usually good enough).
  • Researching the Author:

    You should really research the life of the author for every one of your prescribed texts, but it is especially important for Module A:

    • Write Biographical Study Notes about the composer.
      Since most texts are made because the author thought they had a message that society needed to hear, it is much easier to understand the text if you understand the values of the author. For example, Shakespeare was interested in democracy, rather than monarchy, because as a Catholic, he hated Protestant Queen Elizabeth I, who had become a bit tyrannical in her later rule.
    •  Identify places in texts where authors may have drawn from their own life experiences – for example F. Scott Fitzgerald used much material from his wife, Zelda’s diary to furnish his literary characters – and it’ s important to recognise this and point it out in your analysis.

Try our Comprehensive English Courses!