RSS

Monthly Archives: June 2009

Essay writing: Module C “Conflicting Perspectives” – the introduction

Any guide to essay writing will tell you what an introduction should do. For example:

What is an introduction paragraph?

The introduction paragraph is the first paragraph of your essay.

What does it do?

It introduces the main idea of your essay. A good opening paragraph captures the interest of your reader and tells why your topic is important.

How do I write one?

1. Write the thesis statement. The main idea of the essay is stated in a single sentence called the thesis statement. You must limit your entire essay to the topic you have introduced in your thesis statement.
2. Provide some background information about your topic. You can use interesting facts, quotations, or definitions of important terms you will use later in the essay.

In exams you need to analyse the question very carefully and decide what your major points are going to be. Then you can write a good introduction.

Outside exams, I have found, things may work a little differently. You still need to analyse the question. How else can you be sure your essay is relevant? On the other hand you can begin a draft anywhere – a middle section for example, if that has material you are confident about. The whole essay may grow, like a movie being made, out of order. Later you can fit it all together, edit for cohesion and flow, and write an introduction to fit what evolved. Or you might draft straight through from beginning to end. I have in the past done it both ways, or written an introduction first and then jumped to various sections. I almost invariably find myself revising the introduction very heavily as it sometimes contains more than it should, or your actual writing may have changed the order the introduction outlines.

In exams you can’t afford too many second thoughts! (Exams really are a rotten venue for good writing!)

I have been foolish enough to promise a “model essay” for Module C. Now beware of model essays. They are just what they say they are – suggestions. They are not one size fits all perfect essays, and they should never be learned off by heart. They may even, with the best intentions, be bad models. So read them critically and learn from them, but your essay must be YOUR essay, not mine!

The question

“When composers embed conflicting perspectives in their work they are simply reflecting the way we process events, personalities and situations in real life. To study how composers do this enhances our own responses.”  Has this been the case with the texts you have studied for Conflicting Perspectives?  Refer to your set text and TWO texts of your own choosing.

What a nasty question, but I have no-one to blame but myself. 😉

Intro 1: for Julius Caesar

It is often said that conflict of some kind is at the heart of every narrative, especially in the tight narratives needed in a play like Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. There are certainly conflicting perspectives on situations, events and characters in that play. Referring to three key scenes we will find how Shakespeare has created those perspectives. In a very different genre, the short story, a conflict of perspectives is at the heart of Ding Xaoxi’s “The Angry Kettle” (in Maidenhome, Melbourne 1993). This story shows that conflicting perspectives are not always matters of power or life and death but may create humour, which may also be seen in the conflicting perspectives embodied in the film Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. In all these examples studying how the perspectives are created does make the texts richer and  sharpens awareness of how such conflicts play out in life.

According to Janne Schill (Deconstructing Perspectives 2003) a perspective is “an impression that is given by viewing something from a certain position. This position, in a specific context, acts as a vantage point from which a particular issue is seen, heard, felt, or otherwise understood.” In the first scene of Julius Caesar…

Intro 2: for Ted Hughes Birthday Letters

It is often said that conflict of some kind is at the heart of every narrative, and behind and within the poems in Birthday  Letter Ted Hughes grapples with a range of conflicting perspectives, some of them internal, on the tragic outcome of his marriage to the poet Sylvia Plath. There are certainly conflicting perspectives on situations, events and characters in these poems. Referring to two poems, “Fulbright Scholars” and “Your Paris”, we will find how Hughes has created those perspectives. The movie Sylvia (2003) is especially interesting as it draws on the same situation, but the perspectives are different and the way they are created is very different. In quite another genre, the short story, a conflict of perspectives is at the heart of Ding Xaoxi’s “The Angry Kettle” (in Maidenhome, Melbourne 1993). This story shows that conflicting perspectives are not always matters of life and death but may create humour. In all these examples studying how the perspectives are created does make the texts richer and  sharpens awareness of how such conflicts play out in life.

According to Janne Schill (Deconstructing Perspectives 2003) a perspective is “an impression that is given by viewing something from a certain position. This position, in a specific context, acts as a vantage point from which a particular issue is seen, heard, felt, or otherwise understood.” In “Fulbright Scholars”…

Intro 3: for Snow Falling on Cedars

It is often said that conflict of some kind is at the heart of every narrative. This is true of David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars. There are certainly conflicting perspectives on situations, events and characters in this novel. Referring to three key episodes we will find how Guterson has created those perspectives. In a tighter genre, the short story, a conflict of perspectives is at the heart of Ding Xaoxi’s “The Angry Kettle” (in Maidenhome, Melbourne 1993). This story shows that conflicting perspectives are not always matters of power or life and death but may create humour, which may also be seen in the conflicting perspectives embodied in the film Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. In all these examples studying how the perspectives are created does make the texts richer and  sharpens awareness of how such conflicts play out in life.

According to Janne Schill (Deconstructing Perspectives 2003) a perspective is “an impression that is given by viewing something from a certain position. This position, in a specific context, acts as a vantage point from which a particular issue is seen, heard, felt, or otherwise understood.” Very early in Snow Falling on Cedars Guterson sets up one of the principal conflicting perspectives in his novel. It concerns …

 

Tags:

The hidden power of language

The idea that language shapes (if not determines) our perspectives, indeed what we may think, has been around for a long time. I have encountered examples of the phenomenon in teaching ESL and EFL (English as a Foreign Language). For example, some Chinese students and I once disputed the colour of something we were all looking at only to discover that our mother tongues cut the spectrum into somewhat different arbitrary bits in the blue/green section. The “real” spectrum has no divisions; our language imposes or constructs divisions.

So I am drawn (via the Arts & Letters Daily) to HOW DOES OUR LANGUAGE SHAPE THE WAY WE THINK? [6.12.09] by Lera Boroditsky.

For a long time, the idea that language might shape thought was considered at best untestable and more often simply wrong. Research in my labs at Stanford University and at MIT has helped reopen this question. We have collected data around the world: from China, Greece, Chile, Indonesia, Russia, and Aboriginal Australia. What we have learned is that people who speak different languages do indeed think differently and that even flukes of grammar can profoundly affect how we see the world. Language is a uniquely human gift, central to our experience of being human. Appreciating its role in constructing our mental lives brings us one step closer to understanding the very nature of humanity…

Scholars on the other side of the debate don’t find the differences in how people talk convincing. All our linguistic utterances are sparse, encoding only a small part of the information we have available. Just because English speakers don’t include the same information in their verbs that Russian and Turkish speakers do doesn’t mean that English speakers aren’t paying attention to the same things; all it means is that they’re not talking about them. It’s possible that everyone thinks the same way, notices the same things, but just talks differently.

Believers in cross-linguistic differences counter that everyone does not pay attention to the same things: if everyone did, one might think it would be easy to learn to speak other languages. Unfortunately, learning a new language (especially one not closely related to those you know) is never easy; it seems to require paying attention to a new set of distinctions. Whether it’s distinguishing modes of being in Spanish, evidentiality in Turkish, or aspect in Russian, learning to speak these languages requires something more than just learning vocabulary: it requires paying attention to the right things in the world so that you have the correct information to include in what you say.

Such a priori arguments about whether or not language shapes thought have gone in circles for centuries, with some arguing that it’s impossible for language to shape thought and others arguing that it’s impossible for language not to shape thought. Recently my group and others have figured out ways to empirically test some of the key questions in this ancient debate, with fascinating results. So instead of arguing about what must be true or what can’t be true, let’s find out what is true…

 
4 Comments

Posted by on June 30, 2009 in challenge, English language, for teachers

 

English/ESL nominated

Last year English/ESL came in at #75 in the Top 100 Language Blogs 2008 on Lexiophiles. I have just been informed that English/ESL has been nominated for the Top 100 of 2009.

Phase 2: Public Voting (July 8 – July 27)

At the end of the nomination phase, we will prescreen every blog and put it into one of the four categories (see below). In each category 100 blogs will be included for voting. If your blog is on the list you can ask your readers, friends, family and whoever comes to mind to vote for you. We will provide a voting button for your convenience before the voting starts. Every person can only vote once the voting of the top 100 blogs for each category.

top100blog-logo09  Go to the link on that icon for more information.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 30, 2009 in blogs, ESL, site news

 

Tags:

“Sylvia” (2004)

sylvia

star30 star30star30star30star30a  I watched this partly out of HSC-related duty, but also out of interest. I have to say I was very impressed by its accuracy and fairness. The lead review (at the moment) on IMDb pretty much sums up my reaction.

In 1998, "Hilary and Jackie" explored alleged episodes in the short life of cellist Jacqueline Du Pre and her pianist, now also conductor, husband, Daniel Barenboim. Despite very very good acting the film was largely a descent into the basement of scurrilous storytelling by relatives of the dead musician. Whatever the truth of the claim that she bedded her sister’s husband, the movie said nothing about the couple’s meteorically brilliant early careers. It was slanted voyeurism writ large.

Director Christine Wells has taken a very different and insightful tack in exploring the life of poet Sylvia Plath and her marriage to Ted Hughes, a poet with laurels garnered while Ms. Plath was still starting up a not very steady ladder to recognition.

Plath, an American, met Hughes in England. A short courtship was followed by marriage and then two children. The relationship was tumultuous and eventually it foundered because of Sylvia’s underlying emotional instability followed by her husband’s desertion to another woman…

Wells takes a sympathetic view of Ted and Sylvia, not joining in the political debate over feminism and Sylvia’s supposed maltreatment by Ted. Sylvia in this film is brilliant but also terribly brittle and her inner demons are not caused by a brutish or callous husband. As Platrow portrays her, I believe accurately, Sylvia was seriously and chronically depressed with life events worsening but in no regard initiating a downward spiral. Today she would probably thrive and be both prolific as a poet and happy as a person if successfully maintained on an effective anti-depressant.

Ted, played by Daniel Craig, is a bit transparent – loving but somewhat distanced by his own quest for fame. He hectors Sylvia to write more, annoyed that she bakes instead of composing verse while on a seaside vacation. He’s supportive but also blind to the deepening reality that he is dealing with a woman who needs help, not critical comments about non-productivity.

The supporting cast is fine but this is Paltrow and Craig’s film. She has a strong affinity for England and its culture (I believe she has moved there) and she gives the role deep conviction and understanding. It happens that she somewhat resembles Sylvia but the true recognition is internal and intellectual. And emotional, let’s not omit that…

"Sylvia" sets the record straight as Paltrow acts the part of a woman – mother as well as poet – who slowly loses control of her life while her husband reacts first with confusion and later with the self-protective armor of withdrawal.

Hughes went on to publish many fine poems and he became poet laureate of England, a post he definitely wanted and enjoyed (Hughes was one of the very few modern and relatively young intellectuals who was a convinced monarchist).

Not long before succumbing to cancer, Hughes published "Birthday Letters," an attempt to show through years of verse the nature of his relationship with Sylvia. Whether viewed as an apologia or a last record – and chance – to give his side, it’s an impressive work. And "Ariel’s Gift" by Erica Wagner is must reading for those who want more than a film and sometimes potted articles can provide. It analyzes the poets’ relationship through the prism of Hughes’s writings, most unpublished before "Birthday Letters." A recent book, "Her Husband: Hughes and Plath, Portrait of a Marriage," by Diane Middlebrook, is also recommended…

The movie is M15+ in Australia.

It would also perhaps be a good supplementary for “Belonging”.

Adapted from a post on my personal blog.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

On not seeing the wood for the trees – HSC Advanced 2009-12 Module C

People, I really have had a problem interpreting the rubric for Module C Elective 1.

This module requires students to explore various representations of events, personalities or situations. They evaluate how medium of production, textual form, perspective and choice of language influence meaning. The study develops students’ understanding of the relationships between representation and meaning…

In their responding and composing, students consider the ways in which conflicting perspectives on events, personalities or situations are represented in their prescribed text and other related texts of their own choosing. Students analyse and evaluate how acts of representation, such as the choice of textual forms, features and language, shape meaning and influence responses.

I even emailed an ex-student who is now a young (and thus up-to-date) English teacher in Sydney’s south-west.

A serious question, which I hope you respond to. I am at the moment tutoring 3 Advanced students and we have reached Module C, and I am having a problem getting my head around the implications of the rubric for "Changing Perspectives". I did not have a problem with the previous options on "Telling the Truth" and "Powerplay" — which are clearly thematic, making relevant issues and possiblities for supplementary texts straightforward enough . My life is further complicated by the fact each student has a different text: "Julius Caesar"; "Snow Falling on Cedars"; Ted Hughes.

I have seen what HSC Online offers. I have also in mind Janne Schill’s "Deconstructing Perspectives" (Sydney, Sapientia 2003) which is excellent in many ways but goes very deep into theory. (She is or was a teacher at Sydney Girls; maybe the text is in your school resources.)

Now in practice I will try to zero in on whatever approach my coachees’ teachers are taking…

But it helps if I have a clear view myself, and at the moment I don’t — at least not to my own satisfaction. (Secretly, or not so secretly, I curse the whole enterprise and wish we were just studying the texts for their own sakes; I would quite happily pursue all manner of contextual, thematic, structural and language issues then.)

Do you have any ideas? Are you doing this option? I would really like to know…

Unfortunately he isn’t currently doing this option, so I asked other practitioners and now I think I have my answer.

Two issues perplexed me:

  1. How deeply to go into the theory behind the concept of perspectives?
  2. Should “related texts of their own choosing” relate directly to the set text, or only to the concept of “conflicting perspectives”?

One Head of English saw the same problem and consulted the Board of Studies. The answer to (1) is to judge what elements of theory actually help students discuss “conflicting perspectives” but to beware of being led too far from specific, concrete discussion of text and how it works. The answer to (2) is that the additional texts do not have to relate directly to the set text.

I was also helped by the material on Mel McGuinness’s blog. Mel is “presently employed in Catholic Education as an English co-ordinator.”

 

Tags: ,

Someone has posted on Ted Hughes (HSC Module C)

And I am very grateful, for one. See Fulbright Scholars some notes. Thanks to Mel McGuinness, who has in turn kindly referred students to this blog for Frankenstein and Blade Runner.

melmcg

I propose to say something about Module C myself shortly.

Update 24 June

Some references I have found.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

These posts are really popular!

According to WordPress, since this blog moved here from Tripod in December 2006 there have been 48 posts and pages read more than 1,000 times each. Here are the top five:

  1. Studying the Gothic, or Emily Bronte? 19,627 reads
  2. Physical journeys and Peter Skrzynecki’s poems 18,963
  3. How should I write up a Science experiment? 16,686
  4. Workshop 02 — NSW HSC: Area Study: Imaginative Journeys 8,609
  5. Mary Shelley, "Frankenstein" — and "Blade Runner" 5,956

Thursday, October 16, 2008 was the busiest day ever, with 1,497 views, while the total for the blog stands at 239,898 since December 2006 with 55,524 so far this year – a daily average this year of 349 (last year it was 324). At the moment there are 220 posts.

Sitemeter measures differently and has been monitoring since November 2002, thus including my earlier addresses. It tells me that there have been since 2002 206,154 visitors reading 300,816 pages.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 9, 2009 in site news