Posts Tagged ‘history and memory’

A reading journal is a useful tool for all students and an essential one for student undertaking Extension 1 and Extension 2. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Read Widely this includes reading fiction and non-fiction, newspaper and journal articles, blogs, short stories, novels, and poetry. It also includes viewing films and television, looking at paintings and photographs, and listening to music. Let each text lead you to the next one. For example, reading a Neil Gaiman novel might lead you to reading his graphic novels and picture books, you might also find the music of Amanda Palmer, his wife and, through their Twitter feeds, the novels, music, and films they admire. If you’re stuck, Amazon Lists and GoodReads might help.
Explore Form and Genre one of the complaints that I’ve heard repeatedly from the Extension 2 co-ordinators at school is that students are intending to write a short story but all they read is novels. Acknowledge that textual forms differ in their structure, not just their length. Here’s a list of short story writers I recommend: Archie Weller, Roald Dahl, Isaac Asimov, O. Henry, Saki, William Gibson, Arthur C. Clarke, Joanne Harris, Philip K. Dick, Brian Caswell, Tim Winton, Nam Le, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Angela Carter, Chinua Achebe, Graham Greene, Henry Lawson, and Susannah Clarke. Similarly, if you’re writing free form poetry or putting together a short film, make sure the form and genre within which you’re working is a focus of your reading and viewing.
Make Predictions Don’t read passively; be active. If you think you’ve worked out whodunnit, write your idea in your reading journal; if you think you know what will (or should) happen next, write it down. This is particularly important if you’re doing a genre study. Make predictions based on your knowledge of the genre and highlight texts that subvert the conventions.
Make Connections Connections between texts are at the heart of HSC English, whether they be thematic (Belonging, History and Memory, Conflicting Perspectives), chronological (Texts in Time, Exploring Connections, Romanticism, After the Bomb, Navigating the Global) or generic (Crime Fiction, Science Fiction, Life Writing). While reading, look out for connections between what you’re reading and other texts you have read or studied. Don’t limit yourself to what you’re reading for – an article about Life Writing could become a related text for History and Memory. Look out for connections between what you’re reading and your own experiences as well. Note these down.
Respond Creatively Your reading journal shouldn’t just be a series of “I read this and this is what I thought about it.” Rewrite endings, use interesting quotes as stimulus for poems, short stories, and other short pieces, draw diagrams and pictures, find images to illustrate ideas; argue with your texts, put their characters (or authors) on trial – interrogate them. Write what you feel as well as what you think. Try this exercise to get you started: choose a text then, using each of the five senses, describe it: what does it look, smell, taste, sound, feel like?
Respond Analytically Your reading journal is another opportunity to practise your structure response writing. Using the key ideas in the syllabus for your course/module/elective, compose structured integrated paragraphs using the texts you’re currently reading. Writing explications (linear explanations of techniques and meanings) is another good strategy for engaging analytically with texts.

Avoid Recounting This list was originally going to be divided into dos and don’ts but there’s really only one don’t: don’t recount the plot of what you’re reading. There are two reasons for this. The first is that it’s boring. Plot recounts are boring to write and even more boring to read. The second reason is that it’s a bad habit. If you practise recounting the plot in your journal, chances are you’ll replicate that practice in your responses and exams.



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Here is how I would approach Paper 2:

Tactic Time (mins) Count Down Clock
Reading Time
Read the questions for Modules A, B, and C. Make sure you check that you read the correct questionfor your elective/text. 5 2h
Writing Time
Annotate the question for Module A and plan your response, including a strong thesis statement and between two and four main supporting points. Remember the focus of this module is CONTEXT. 5 1h55m
Write your Module A essay. 35 1h20m
Annotate the question for Module B and plan your response, including a strong thesis statement and between two and four main supporting points. Remember the focus of this module is RECEPTION. 5 1h15m
Write your Module B essay. 35 40m
Annotate the question for Module C and plan your response, including a strong thesis statement and between two and four main supporting points. Remember the focus of this module is REPRESENTATION. 5 35m
Write your Module C essay. 35 0

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There are, as I have said in previous posts, a couple of different ways to approach the selection of related material for Module C. This is true also for Peter Carey’s The True History of the Kelly Gang (which, by the way, I think is quite a difficult text) in the History and Memory elective.

Approach One: Stick to Ned, his gang and 19th Century Victoria

Some other texts that would work for this approach are:

Gregor Jordan’s 2003 film Ned Kelly. It has Heath Ledger, it has Orlando Bloom and it opens with a scene which it represents as being Ned Kelly’s personal memory. What more could you want?

The Jerilderie Letter. This link is to the State Library of Victoria page on this artefact/text. You can find the full text of the letter (I think this is also reproduced in the novel). There are some other text links from this page that also look interesting.

Stringybark Creek. Ballads are interesting because they have the status of being oral history but are actually usually quite recent. This one supposedly comes from the Kelly era and the story goes that people caught singing it could be fined up to five pounds.

And while we’re on songs:

For a broader approach, I suggest looking at the National Museum of Australia’s webpage about their current exhibition Not Just Ned: A True History of the Irish in Australia. Its appropriation of Carey’s title is deliberate. Like the Smithsonian site (another core text for this module and elective) this site includes personal stories as well as official history. Websites are brilliant to analyse because of their multimodal nature.

Approach Two: Explore other Historical Personalities, Events and Situations

For example:
Constitutional Crisis 1975

Situation: The Whitlam government was elected in 1972 with a small majority in the House while the Senate was controlled by the Opposition. In 1975 the Opposition used its Senate majority to block supply, effectively shutting down the government and causing a constitutional crisis.

Personalities: Gough Whitlam, Prime Minister; Sir John Kerr, Governor General; Malcolm Fraser, leader of the Opposition.

Event: The sacking of Gough Whitlam by Sir John Kerr on November 11 1975.


Whitlam’s Speech This link to an audio extract of the speech at Australian Screen Online  includes curators notes and links to other visual and audio texts.

Whitlam Dismissal Online This site contains links to songs, official documents and new clippings about the situation, event and personalities. There is also a sound and picture archives.

Jeff’s Cartoons Political cartoons from 1975.

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The focus of Birthday Letters (or at least the poems selected for study) is on the following personalities, events and situations:

Personalities: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and, to a lesser extent, Otto Plath

Situations: The marriage between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath and its subsequent breakdown.

Events: Seeing a photograph, eating a peach, destroying an heirloom sideboard, a trip to Paris, a wild ride on a runaway horse, Plath’s eventual suicide.

There have been other literary marriages and relationships that have been personality driven and tumultuous. Exploring some texts that portray conflicting perspectives about these relationships could be an interesting approach to this module.

Personalities: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, writers, expatriots and icons of the roaring twenties.

Situations: Their whirlwind courtship, acrimonious marriage, F. Scott’s alcoholism, their literary careers, Zelda’s obsession with ballet, her struggle with mental illness.

Events: Zelda being admitted to a sanitorium and diagnosed with schizophrenia, F. Scott’s affair with Sheilah Graham, his death in Hollywood, Zelda’s death in a fire.


Nancy Milford’s fascinating biography of Zelda Fitzgerald. Well researched and, although sympathetic towards its subject, inclusive of other perspectives.

The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Allegedly Fitzgerald stole excerpts from his wife’s diaries and included them, verbatim, in this and other novels. When Zelda Fitzgerald drew on their relationship for her writing, F. Scott became enraged.

Article: Would you swap places with Zelda Fitzgerald? from The Guardian

A visual biography of the couple, which was created drawing on their individual albums and scrapbooks.

The Collected Writings of Zelda Fitzgerald, includes her novel Save Me the Waltz as well as semi-autobiographical short stories and magazine articles.

Given the theme of conflicting perspectives, these texts could also work for The Justice Game, Julius Caesar, Snow Falling on Cedars or the other core texts. I think they could also work for History and Memory, particularly The Woman Warrior or The Queen.

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Module C is about the REPRESENTATION of events, personalities and situations. The Smithsonian website, September 11: Bearing Witness to History, represents an event: the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

A different approach to selecting related material for this text is to choose an historical event–or situation, or personality–that has been represented in an interesting way in texts that include personal memory as well as documented history. I like multimodal texts for this module because they are rich in techniques.

The best way to go about this selection is to follow your own interests but here are some suggestions to get you started.

Event: The Apollo 11 Moon Landing 20 July, 1969

The first moonlanding (video)

Television was still a relatively new medium. Look at how it is used, consciously and deliberately, to represent this historic moment.

Apollo 11 Mission Report (declassified)

Focus on the cover page and the way in which NASA represents the mission objectives and its crew (page 91)

Satellite of Solitude (Article) by Buzz Aldrin

Beautiful article by Buzz Aldrin recounting his personal memories of his experiences in space.

Buzz Aldrin’s memoir. Beautifully written and a lovely combination of historical fact and personal recount.

 Event: The Atomic Bomb attack on Hiroshima August 4, 1945

An Unrecognized Loss (film)

This is a documentary film from the UN, representing life in Hiroshima before the dropping of the atomic bomb.

Hiroshima Peace Museum (website)

A very moving site with beautiful animations. This text would work well as a complement to the Smithsonian site.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Remembered (website)

This site focuses on the historical facts of the attack but also includes personal accounts under the heading “Hibakush Stories”.

Although I always advise students to prepare more than one related text each module, any one of these texts would work by itself as they all explore the interplay between history and memory.

More ideas: significant historic personalities

  • Julius Caesar
  • Hatshepsut
  • Eric the Red
  • Elizabeth I
  • Albert Einstein

Significant historical situations

  • Cambodia’s Killing Fields
  • The Black Plague
  • The American Civil War
  • The Enlightenment
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis

Some resources to get you started:

Iconic Photos Blog

This site is particularly useful as many of the photos are connected to articles and news videos.


I know it’s shocking that a teacher is suggesting using wikipedia but it can be a great starting place. Once you’ve found the event, personality or situation you’re interested in, scroll immediately to the bottom of the page and start working through the links.

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As much as I enjoyed teaching both Birthday Letters and The Justice Game for Conflicting Perspectives, I have to confess that I found the Smithsonian site more interesting than either. A website is a rich and varied text to explore, the Smithsonian site doubly so as it resists providing the same reading path more than once so that each visit is a unique experience. And however much I loved the drama of the Plath/Hughes relationship as a teenager and however much the trials of Robertson’s career are seminal and important, September 11, 2001 is a day that has shaped the history of the 21st Century, my century, and a day that will live on in my memory.

There are a few different ways to approach the selection of related material for this text and module. The first, and easiest, is to choose texts that portray the same event: the attack on the World Trade Center. There are a number of interesting texts out there, here are a couple of suggestions:

Michael Moore’s vitriolic (and quite entertaining) rant against the Bush administration’s response to the attack on the World Trade Center. This documentary, like the website, contains different media and a mixture of historical and personal sources. Moore’s purpose in questioning official history and trying to make his own is very clear.

This beautiful book focuses on the idea of heroes, whose bravery was revealed during the events of September 11. Like the website, it tells the stories of real people but using a traditionally fictional form: the graphic novel.

This documentary is fascinating and deeply moving. The insights into the American psyche, particularly regarding the (photographic) representation of the fall (or jump). I have rarely had more interesting discussions in the classroom than I had after viewing this documentary.

There are also a large number of articles and essays about the event. This year is the ten year anniversary so there’s likely to be a proliferation of media responses coming out soon.

Part Two of this post will be published this week.

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This post is in response to last week’s poll.  I was a little surprised to find a vote for this particular module so early in the year, as I assumed that most schools would be tackling either the AoS or Module A this term. The voter didn’t specify a text so I’ll focus on general approaches to the module. If you would like a more detailed approach to any of the following three texts, let me know in the comments:

Smithsonian September 11 Website

Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes

The Justice Game by Geoffrey Robertson

The key words for this module are right there in the title: REPRESENTATION and TEXT. In many ways, Module C is very similar to the Area of Study. We have a concept (either History and Memory or Conflicting Perspectives) and we’re looking at how it is represented in and through our core text and texts of our own choosing.

This is more challenging that it first appears for two reasons:

1. We are looking at how the concept is represented in the texts, not how an example of the concept is represented. So if we’re tackling the Smithsonian’s September 11 website, we need to focus on what the site can tell us about the idea of history, the idea of memory and the relationship between these two ideas rather than simply looking at how the site presents this memorable and historical event.

2. Remember that HOW means techniques. This is always true in HSC English. So not only do you need to work out WHAT the message about the concept is from your texts but also exactly HOW this message is conveyed through poetic, literary and visual techniques.

If you are able to grasp these two points then this is not, in my opinion, a difficult module. A colleague at my last school said that if students were going to “faff” in an essay, then this module was the one in which to do it. What she meant was that, again like the AoS, Module C is concept based. This means that your responses should focus on the idea (either history and memory or conflicting perspectives) and that there is room for personal reflection alongside textual evidence.

So ask yourself these questions to clarify your own opinions before you get into close analysis of your texts:

History and Memory

What is history? What is memory? What is the relationship between them? Is one more valid than the other? How are history and memory represented in the media?

Conflicting Perspectives

What is a perspective? Why do people have different perspectives and what can cause them to conflict? How are conflicting perspectives represented in the media?

When thinking about related material for this module it’s important to remember one last point: the concept needs to be represented within, between and among texts. This means you can’t have a “history” related text and a “memory” related text. Each text needs to highlight something about both ideas. Similarly, a text that only provides a single perspective isn’t really going to work. Related texts for that elective need to represent conflicting perspectives within a single text.

There’s one final, important, distinction that is relevant to both this module and to the AoS. There is a difference between what a text is about and its message. The Smithsonian’s September 11 website is about history but its message (intentionally or not) is that history is selective and constructed. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes portrays some conflicting perspectives but one of its messages is that perspective is shaped through and by language. Similarly, The Justice Game portrays conflict within the formal setting of the court; however, one message is that the dominant perspective tends to be the one that is most effectively represented in the “game”.

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