Monthly Archives: February 2007

New writing workshop page

I am building a new page in the Writing Workshop and you can join in. See Creative writing Year 10 age level, six months in Australia.

You may for the next little while read the original essay and make comments or suggestions. In a week or two I will complete the workshop with an annotated version of the essay and a final draft. If any of your suggestions have helped, you will be acknowledged.

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Posted by on February 26, 2007 in esl for students, esl for teachers, student help, writing



Revenge Tragedy

One of the options in NSW English Extension 1 for the HSC is Revenge Tragedy; you will see an outline of the course there. From Euripides to High Noon is quite a jump, isn’t it, but I am glad to see that students have the chance to look at all those texts listed.

Revenge tragedy usually concerns an individual faced with the duty of revenge in a society where the law is unreliable and within the control of the powerful and protected.

In this elective students are required to study at least three of the prescribed texts as well as other texts of their own choosing. In their responding and composing they explore, analyse, experiment with and critically evaluate their prescribed texts and a range of other examples of this genre, which may include texts that extend or challenge the traditional conventions of revenge tragedy. Texts should be drawn from a range of contexts and media.

Given you can look up Wikipedia or for yourselves, and should for “Revenge Tragedy” and for each text, here are a few other suggestions.


The Literary Encyclopedia allows non-subscribers the first few paragraphs only, but it is still worth reading it.
The BBC’s Guide to Life, The Universe and Everything has a somewhat tongue-in-cheek account of tragedy, but there are some quotes there that could be good essay or discussion starters.
Is there such a genre? — Michael Bywater asks that subversive question, so look at his notes there. [July 2007: This site is being rebuilt. I will check later on to see if this excellent resource is restored.]
Rewriting Revenge by Gordon Carver reviews a production of Cyril Tourner’s The Revenger’s Tragedy.

The whoops and hollers of the dancers, the flashes of muscled legs, bare torsos, bare buttocks, and gold lamé thongs introduced the animalistic, highly exhibitionist, more-than-a-little homoerotic theatrical environment.

Sounds like a fun production!
Murder Will Out: Animated Tongues, Middling Values, and Elizabethan Urban Legend by Doré Ripley is a somewhat Marxist and historicist reading of the genre, focusing especially on Hamlet, The Spanish Tragedy, and Titus Andronicus. Worth a look.
Richard Keys, Curator Emeritus at Screensound Australia, has an interesting page on High Noon: “The year 2002 was the silver anniversary of the release of 1952’s High Noon. In this essay I will try to do justice to what is in my opinion one of the greatest American films.”
Theatre of Blood by Gary Kamiya is controversial and political, but it does indicate something of the place of revenge tragedy in our cultural heritage. You may or may not agree with him, but will find him interesting. Bush wanted his Iraq war to be a lofty Shakespearean history. He got a vicious, corpse-strewn revenge tragedy.

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Posted by on February 15, 2007 in English studies, HSC, literature genres, Media/Film studies, student help


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Indigenous Australia

I have a page on my personal site called Indigenous Australians. One of my Chinatown coachees is currently studying this topic in Year 11 English (ESL) so this is partly for him, but also for any of you interested in this amazing, and sometimes troubled, part of Australian culture and society.

Here are three YouTube videos for you, also posted in some recent entries on my personal site.

The story behind that song is here.

The 2000 Olympics seem just yesterday to a grumpy old man like me. I bring you, courtesy of YouTube and mswanson88 who posted it, Christine Anu singing “My Island Home” at the closing ceremony:

And meet from the next-door suburb of Newtown Anthony Hill, Aboriginal story-teller and artist. The video is French, which tests my school French, but Anthony speaks in English. You get an authentic voice here from right in the centre of Sydney Australia. Thanks to celoudin who posted this.

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Posted by on February 14, 2007 in Australian, diversity, multiculturalism


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Tutoring, reality, and results

I have written on coaching before. As you will see if you check the “About” page, I do tuition in Chinatown here in Sydney — one-to-one only — and have for some time. Tuition is meant, in my opinion, to supplement what the school might be doing; it certainly does not substitute for the school, nor does it circumvent the student’s own work. There is no magic about it. The tutor tries to tune into where the student currently sits, tests formally or informally for the student’s weaknesses, and attempts to lift the student’s performance accordingly through carefully chosen practices and explanations. “Anything happening at school you are not sure about?” is always a good opening question. I have sometimes been in the happy position of being able to coordinate my tuition with what the student is doing at school because I have been able to talk to the student’s teacher.

What tutoring must never do is replace the student’s own authentic efforts. Doing a student’s homework for them or drafting their essays is not tuition: it is cheating.

The outcomes of tutoring therefore vary. Without wishing to appear rude, no tutor can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but a tutor can enable a student to progress more than he or she may have done without tuition.

Last year I had five HSC candidates, and currently know the results of three of them. The fourth, I imagine, got a respectable result in Standard English: I must try to find out. The fifth dropped out of tuition after August; the problem there was doing the wrong course — forced to do Standard when ESL was the most viable option. One candidate I do know about would have been disappointed as the band result was not the hoped for outcome, although only one or two marks short. In that case tuition began a bit too late. It is always best to begin at least in Year 11. Nonetheless, that student did make substantial improvements, but was not what I would call a natural humanities student. The student’s approach tended to rely too much on memorisation, and consequently lacked the flexibility needed to rework what was known to suit new circumstances. The other two, by contrast, did really well. In one case the aim was to achieve Band 6 (the top range) and that was achieved (92%). Of course the student had the potential already, but tuition helped to ensure that Band 6 as the student was able to develop examination and study skills more effectively through the practices and through our reflections together on how the system works. The other was an interesting case, as the student’s language skills were behind the one who ended up disappointed. This student achieved Band 5 (and a UAI of around 93), but would almost certainly have attained Band 4 or even less without tuition. However, the student was a more natural humanities student, able to make the necessary adjustments and critical decisions. As a tutor I can enhance that, but I can never teach it.

So I am afraid that paying the money does not in itself guarantee a result, but then that extends to all private education, doesn’t it? Students are not blank slates on which anything may be written.

I should add that all my students are of East Asian background, mostly Chinese, and English is their second language.

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Posted by on February 12, 2007 in diversity, esl for teachers, for teachers, HSC, pedagogy


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Studying the Gothic, or Emily Bronte?

I have had coachees doing this interesting genre, and I know others are. So here are a few good sites, once you have been sensible and checked or Wikipedia.


Online Edgar Allan Poe Exhibition from Cornell University: Nevermore: The Edgar Allan Poe Collection of Susan Jaffe Tane, source of the picture above.
The Literary Gothic ‘is a Web guide to all things concerned with literary Gothicism, which includes ghost stories, “classic” Gothic novels and Gothic fiction (1764-1820), and related pre- and post-Gothic and supernaturalist literature written prior to the mid-C20. Its target audience is all students and fans of the Gothic, regardless of age, academic level, profession, or just about anything else.’
The Gothic: Materials for Study: “With this question in mind, we have assembled this compilation of Gothic “materials for study.” We imagine the project as a course reader for an undergraduate college course on the Gothic. The primary texts for the course include nine novels that we feel represent the”canonized Gothic”; novels whose popularity in both their time and ours attests to their appeal and longevity.” (University of Virginia).
The Victorian Web ‘is the WWW translation of Brown University’s Context 61, which serves as a resource for courses in Victorian literature.’ It is excellent.
Touched by the Hand of Goth: Classics of Gothic Horror Cinema, a good introductory essay by a Finnish student.
GOTHIC/HORROR FICTION QUIZ by Sara Martin. The answers are here.


Emily Bronte from CUNY Brooklyn is concise and very relevant to the kind of study required here in NSW. Follow the links there.

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Posted by on February 9, 2007 in English studies, HSC, literature genres, questions asked, student help, works/authors


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War Poetry

Some HSC students read Wilfred Owen’s poetry, and at SBHS there was a unit in Year 9 or 10 on war poetry. This post was first prepared for that SBHS unit.

Resources for a study on how war poems from different ages and cultures embody diverse values and attitudes. Here are a few starting points to look at:

  • National Public Radio in the USA had a series in 2003 called The Poetry of War: Poems Inspired by Past Conflicts. There is much to read and hear there, ranging from ancient times to the present.
  • Lancaster Royal Grammar School has a page devoted to Attitudes to War, including much reference to poetry. The page is part of a Transnational Learning Network, the Comenius Project.
  • The Reliability of War Poetry. “These activities are designed to analyse the War poetry of a variety of poets, including the famous Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke, alongside less well known poetry from other Allied and German servicemen of the First World War.”
  • The First World War: Prose & Poetry.

    “…throughout the history of poetry-making, poems have provided a commentary – often critical – on what people, communities and nations do. And in the 20th century, the horrors and irreversible changes created by modern warfare changed poetry for good.

    “The thirty or so poems in this selection [written between 1914 and 1998] demonstrate – among many other things – this change. After the First World War it was clear that the subject of war could no longer be treated as though its slaughter was solemn and glorious. But how could war now be written about by poets? The following poems illustrate the diversity of answers to that question, in a variety of ways expressing the fundamental unacceptability of war. They also show that poets have not found the subject easy…”

  • A small but good collection of War Poems
  • Poet Links on Professor Eiichi Hishikawa’s websites, Kobe University, Japan, has many of the main 20th century English language poets.
  • A fascinating page that gives the original of a Han dynasty Chinese poem, “At Fifteen I Went to War”, together with five different English translations.
  • War Poetry (UK) – War poetry of the First World War. War poetry and anti-war poetry about Vietnam, the Falklands War, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Iraq.
  • Trinity College Perth – P L Duffy Resource Centre – more resources on War Poetry.
  • Poetry – the argument essay is very good. It includes this opening paragraph for an essay:

    In Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and Tennyson’s ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, both poets show clear attitudes to war. Owen’s poem centres around an horrific gas attack he suffered with a group of soldiers so tired they were ‘drunk with fatigue’. Owen leaves us in no doubt his attitude is anti-war but Tennyson’s poem is more generally thought to portray war as glorious and soldiers as heroes, ‘When can their glory fade?’ yet I believe that Tennyson shows an attitude that is far closer to Owen than might at first be realised…’

    The Poetry of War by John Stringer. “War, or battles, have been a subject for poetry since the earliest times. The Iliad, after all, is a war poem; and much of the message is concerned with the individual heroism and the ultimate overall pointlessness of it all…”


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