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Workshop 01 — a theme unit in four different text types: senior English Studies

This was a very long series on Tripod. I hope to make it more concise here. Relevant links may be found on the Links Page, especially under Media and Film studies, writing, and English studies.

There was a module in Year 11 at Sydney Boys High School called Images of Men. Students examined a number of texts in order to determine the ideas and values each text embodies and how the concept of “masculinity” is represented in each text. They could then draw some conclusions about how gender is constructed by composers and responders as they create and engage with texts in historical and cultural contexts. It is a very good introduction to ideas and methods needed in Year 12.

In the examination, students were asked to write a speech discussing how masculinity is represented in texts they studied.

The essay below was emailed to me after the 2003 Year 11 exams. The student was very worried and wanted comments on what went wrong and how to do better in future. This is a very conscientious student who had also done what he should and discussed the issue with his English teacher. The more I looked at this essay, the more difficult it became to say something really useful in a quick email reply, or even in the thorough analysis and rewriting found in the usual Writing. The other thing is there is nothing very unusual about this essay in Year 11. This is a time when greater demands are being made on your language, and you must be prepared to fall short sometimes as you adjust and expand your skills and personal language resources.

Good morning. Today we’re talking about how images of men can be represented. There are numerous techniques used for representation, and we’re going to look at a few used in your current text, A Street Car Named Desire.

The first technique occurs on the first page, where the stage direction states Stanley comes home with a red stained package from the butcher’s. This presents Stanley as an animal, a caveman who brings home the catch of the day. Through this use of imagery, we get a vivid picture of what Stanley, and stereotypical men, are like.

To complement this caveman image, other imageries [images] , such as “he acts like an animal” and “ape like”, are also used. This enforces the original picture.

Stanley is also portrayed through the language he uses. These are [It is] often monosyllabic and unsophisticated. This presents an uneducated, unintelligent person, following the stereotypical view of men as physically dominated animals.

For the character Mitch, symbolism is used. The statue of Mae West is a “price [prize?] won” by Mitch, which works well in effect with the line “men don’t even admit your existence unless they are making love to you”.

There are other language techniques. In this article from a newspaper [You need to say a lot more than that about the article. What article? Where was it from? Briefly, what point did it make? How good was it?] , juxtaposition, which is placing two things together, is deployed: “woman talk, men grunt”. This suggests men do not talk which in itself is meaningless but when placed next to a contrast is quite effective. This continues to the hyperbole that the five most dreaded words to a man are “Honey, we have to talk”.

This [these] techniques and many others will help you represent what you want, and by just using a few will help presenting your version of masculinity, no matter what it is.

Comments

An examiner would very much doubt your depth of engagement with the texts and the issues and values to be found in them. He/she would also wonder how well you have understood the key concepts of gender and representation. The essay is also at least one hundred words too short, depending on whether it is an answer in a Module (Paper 2) in which case it may be three to five hundred words too short, or a section of Paper 1.

HSC Answer Books are twenty lines per page. If a student in English Paper 2 writes ten words a line, that is 200 words per page. Many good students write at least five pages. You do the Maths…

Also, while you have made improvements in the direction of making this read as a speech, perhaps more could be done. The conclusion is also a bit weak; you would try to end a speech with something a bit more memorable.

Here is an overview of what you need to succeed Grade Level = Year 11-12 Age Level 16+

1. Know your texts. For this exercise I have made a new set of texts to talk about. You will find them on these pages.

2. Understand the issue: gender, representation. There are relevant links on the right under Media and Film Studies, Boys Education, and Equity.

3. Improve exam writing skills. See the links on the right under Writing and Study Skills.

4. Know the text type you want to write. See the links on the right under Writing and Student Help.

5. Study the models. The same content (or close to it) has been done as a speech, as a feature article, as an argument essay, and as a dialogue. The idea is to show what happens when you move from one text type and context to another. Please don’t think these are perfect examples! Many of you could do better, I am sure.

The Question

On the next pages I will be presenting four model answers. That means there must have been a question! Let’s look at it now.

This question, in its four varieties, is similar to, but not the same as, the one this FAQ began with, which that Year 11 student answered in his yearly English Exam. My aim is to answer each variation on the question in approximately 800-1000 words, referring to each of the Texts One, Two and Three.

Length My word limit is based on HSC answer books which are twenty lines per page. At ten words per line (average to small writing) you would then write 200 words per page. I am therefore aiming at four or five pages for each answer. Five hundred words (two and a half pages) would be an absolute minimum in a forty-minutes-per-question exam situation.

Rubric This part of the question gives some idea what the examiners will be looking for. I have taken a Paper 2 Module 3 HSC rubric as my model.

In your answer you will be assessed on how well you:

evaluate and show understanding of the relationship between representation and meaning
organise, develop and express ideas using language appropriate to audience, purpose and form.

Question A

A character in the film The Fight Club laments: “We are the middle children of history, with no purpose or place. We have no great war, or great depression. The great war is a spiritual war. The great depression is our lives. We were raised by television to believe that we’d be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars–but we won’t. And we’re learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” Would the representations of men you have encountered in the texts you have studied support or inhibit a healthy concept of masculinity? How are these representations created in your texts, and how should a responder regard them?

You should compose your answer as a speech to be delivered to your class in the course of their study of Images of Men.

Question B

A character in the film The Fight Club laments: “We are the middle children of history, with no purpose or place. We have no great war, or great depression. The great war is a spiritual war. The great depression is our lives. We were raised by television to believe that we’d be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars–but we won’t. And we’re learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” Would the representations of men you have encountered in the texts you have studied support or inhibit a healthy concept of masculinity? How are these representations created in your texts, and how should a responder regard them?

Write a feature article for a popular newspaper exploring these issues in a fairly personal way, with clear reference to the texts you have studied.

Question C

A character in the film The Fight Club laments: “We are the middle children of history, with no purpose or place. We have no great war, or great depression. The great war is a spiritual war. The great depression is our lives. We were raised by television to believe that we’d be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars–but we won’t. And we’re learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” Would the representations of men you have encountered in the texts you have studied support or inhibit a healthy concept of masculinity? How are these representations created in your texts, and how should a responder regard them?

Write a radio discussion for a quality program on, for example, ABC Radio National between a presenter and a student of media and literature entitled: “Toxic Manhood? Gendered Images in Literature and the Media.”

Question D

A character in the film The Fight Club laments: “We are the middle children of history, with no purpose or place. We have no great war, or great depression. The great war is a spiritual war. The great depression is our lives. We were raised by television to believe that we’d be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars–but we won’t. And we’re learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” Would the representations of men you have encountered in the texts you have studied support or inhibit a healthy concept of masculinity? How are these representations created in your texts, and how should a responder regard them?

In your argument, refer to images of men found in the texts you have studied.

Now look at:

the texts and then the essays.

 

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