Posts Tagged ‘nonfiction’

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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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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Module C: The Smithsonian September 11 Website

The subtitle, “Bearing Witness to History” is interesting. It suggests, to me, that History is like a trial, where the facts need to be presented in evidence. It also suggests that History is something to be argued over and fought for; perhaps that historians are adversarial.This site certainly presents a particular view of one day in history, a view that is comfortable for us in the Western World. This day, according to the site, had its bad guys and its heroes and, in spite of the immensity of the losses, the ultimate victor is the American Spirit.

History is a story we tell ourselves about who we are.

CLICK: a black slip on sandal. I chose this image to the right of the screen because my mother wears shoes like those in summer.

The screen now presents me with four objects: a uniform, a missing person poster, a police helmet, some melted coins. All personal objects, all symbols. These tell me that people who died were from different backgrounds and that they had family and friends, just like me. Here, history is personalised.

CLICK: a portrait of a police officer.

Isaac Ho’oopi’i, a police officer at the pentagon. The picture was taken by a fashion photographer after the attacks to be included in a Heroes series in USA Today. It was donated to the Smithsonian by the photographer. This picture seems to be less personal than the objects on the previous page. It is posed and formal, different from the images of police officers and fireman heroically doing their jobs on the day. The story that goes with it is about the object, not the person.

The objects in this site are set out very much like a multidimensional museum: each object–clearly labeled with its provenance–placed carefully within the collection. This reminds me of a mneumonic device called the Roman Room, where individual memories are stored in objects in imagined but familiar rooms. This museum exhibit is a storeroom for collective as well as individual memories.

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Section One of Paper One is a great opportunity to gain marks quickly for a small amount of writing. Knowing how to address questions quickly and accurately can really save you precious exam time and save your poor writing hand as well. The best way to get good at these types of questions is to practise.

A few tips before you start:

  1. Tone is usually an emotion. The tone of a piece is NEVER “depressing” but it might be meloncholy or even just sad. The other way to think of tone is in terms of tone of voice. If the piece was to be read aloud, what kind of voice would the reader use?
  2. The word HOW in a question is asking you to identify a technique. EG Q: How does the composer create this tone? A: The composer creates a nostalgic tone through the use of the garden seat as a metaphor for the old man’s life <insert supporting quote here>.
  3. Each mark in a question equals one thing that the question wants. If it’s a three mark question it wants three things, it’s up to you to identify what those three things are. The exception is the last question which is usually worth five or six marks. This should be a mini essay.

Non-Fiction: Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
It may be asked how far I extend the doctrine of the modification of species. The question is difficult to answer, because the more distinct the forms are which we consider, by so much the arguments in favour of community of descent become fewer in number and less in force. But some arguments of the greatest weight extend very far. All the members of whole classes are connected together by a chain of affinities, and all can be classed on the same principle, in groups subordinate to groups. Fossil remains sometimes tend to fill up very wide intervals between existing orders.
Organs in a rudimentary condition plainly show that an early progenitor had the organ in a fully developed condition; and this in some cases implies an enormous amount of modification in the descendants. Throughout whole classes various structures are formed on the same pattern, and at a very early age the embryos closely resemble each other. Therefore I cannot doubt that the theory of descent with modification embraces all the members of the same great class or kingdom. I believe that animals are descended from at most only four or five progenitors, and plants from an equal or lesser number.


  1. What is the purpose of this extract? (1 mark)
  2. Which aspect of Belonging is being discussed? (2 marks)
  3. What are the connotations of Darwin’s ideas for human communities? (3 marks)

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