Login

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

February 22, 2024, 07:51:16 pm

Author Topic: How I achieved a raw 50 in Literature  (Read 17603 times)  Share 

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

a.l.y.2017

  • Adventurer
  • *
  • Posts: 13
  • Respect: +24
How I achieved a raw 50 in Literature
« on: December 24, 2017, 04:46:51 pm »
+30
Background information/story time
   Flashback to the middle of Year Eleven. I had been doing fairly well in English at the time, and was consistently managing 17-19s out of 20 for my essays, though I was yet to full mark a single assessment. One day, however, we had a new English teacher come in to grade our most recent outcome- and I received my first C-.
   Not to be melodramatic or anything, but I was devastated- and confused. My points were pretty logical, the vocabulary sophisticated, the characters, themes and language thoroughly analysed. Why then, had I been given such a harsh mark?
   It was only after some extensive research and self-reflection that I realised my problem- I simply wasn’t following the VCE method. Writing well, I discovered, wasn’t enough. I had to write accurately, in the right way, about the right things to get my marks.
I then proceeded to do two things:

1) I created formulas for essay-writing. I picked up the exact words and phrases my English    teacher was using in class and incorporated them into my own writing. I dissected model essays and mirrored them closely. And I managed to full-mark every single essay for the rest of the year.
2) I decided to drop English and pick up Literature in Year Twelve instead. Jumping into Literature 3/4 without having done the 1/2 and without any other English subjects as a ‘backup’ for my primary four… I was advised against it. But I realised that, even though I had proved to myself I was capable of following the ‘English formula’ all the way, it didn’t offer me the freedom I wanted. I assume this is why many of you chose Literature as well- for the freedom, the intellectual stimulation, the originality of ideas, the depth and richness of content… And while all those stand true, I came to find that the VCE method was integral to succeeding in VCE Literature as well.

Perhaps this is why it’s so hard to do well in Literature- it forces the poets and creatives and romantics to sacrifice beautiful prose for sharp, criteria-specific points. But it also shows no mercy for those reliant on the same formulas as English to see them through the final exam- not without that indefinable writing ‘oomph’ that separates the 30s and the 40s.

And so, in short, here are the tricks and tips that will allow you to find that precarious, glorious middle ground- the same tricks that ultimately got me from a low C in English to a raw 50 in Literature:
Analyse other people’s work. Before the school year had even started, I printed out over 30 pages worth of model essays from past VCE examination reports and the ATAR Notes thread to not only read but analyse. Analysis is the key word here- you’re not just glancing at an essay and going ‘wow, this is so well-written!’. You’re examining how these students are starting their essays- with a quote? with contextualisation? with an idea?, what words/adjectives/techniques are coming up often, how often quotes are being embedded and at what length, how much emphasis is given to the author’s intentions… Annotate these essays. Highlight them. Steal phrases from them. Harvest words. Find a few styles that you’re comfortable with and that are similar to your own and aim to develop your work in that direction.

Read your texts actively. What matters is not necessarily the number of times you read a book, but what you take away from it each time. I read my texts four times in total throughout the year, and I would always do so with the goal in mind- that is, to find either evidence to include in my essays, or plausible interpretations. I would take note of specific symbols and significant moments that were not from the ‘typical key scenes’. This gives the impression that you know your text inside out and will also help you develop original, insightful points. Also, try to keep a highlighter, pen and a few sticky notes handy when you’re reading- take note of anything you find interesting/baffling/might want to go to back to.

Keep thinking outside the classroom. In terms of actual study hours, I didn’t do any more for Literature than my other subjects. What I did do, however, was frequently keep my texts at the back of my mind. The philosophical side of Literature is extremely applicable to everyday life. I found myself constantly linking different scenarios, conversations or even random musings to whatever novel or play we had been studying. My best ideas came not from sitting at a desk, but halfway during dinner (this was admittedly quite annoying for my parents), in the car, before falling asleep- and I always made sure to jot these ideas down somewhere for later development.

Debate and discuss. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and opinions with the class as it’ll likely benefit both you and your classmates. If you’re feeling a little shy, however, find a lit study buddy to talk to. I had a friend who I’d frequently message (sometimes on a daily basis) whenever I had an idea and she’d either challenge it or build another idea on top of it- by the end of it, we’d have a much more complex interpretation as a whole.

Go to different teachers for feedback. Literature is simply too subjective a subject to rely on one teacher’s feedback alone. Always try to get a second pair of eyes- preferably a tutor, another Lit teacher at your school, or experienced assessor- to read through your essays, whether it be your practice responses or mock exams. For me, my teacher had a very dense, elaborate style of writing, so she never called me out on my equally dense essays. However, another teacher quickly pointed out that my sentences were far too long, and it was compromising my clarity of expression. Note that it’s particularly important to take note of suggestions if they’re coming up more than once from separate examiners.

Develop a relevant vocabulary. Blindly aiming to ‘improve your vocabulary’ within the short space of a year can prove a little unrealistic. It’s a common mistake to pick up random 15 letter words that sound impressive and attempt to shove it in a sentence for the sake of it. Yet, the result is usually an awkwardly-phrased sentence that impedes, rather than enhances meaning. Instead, try to build a list of words that are closely related to the concepts of your texts. For example, when studying Rhinoceros by Ionesco, I had a whole bank of synonyms for the noun ‘rhinoceros’- pachyderms, quadrupeds, perissodactyl etc. It was easy to use these words frequently and accurately throughout my essays. Other words like ‘eponymous’ and ‘titular’ also featured regularly in my essays on Heart of Darkness. The ‘eponymous darkness’ makes for a pretty neat intro, and is something you can use regardless of the topic.

Set up an essay blackmarket (not literally). As I’ve already mentioned, it’s absolutely crucial that you read other people’s writing. Not only will it inform your own interpretations, but it’ll do also do wonders for your writing. Try to set up a system with your classmates so that you email out every practice essay you do, and even offer feedback to one another. As you’ll all be doing the same texts, this can prove extremely advantageous and can strengthen your cohort as a whole.

Research. The political and historical context of your texts, the author’s views and background, symbols and religious connotations… you’re expected to know all these things before you start writing your essay. It’s absolutely crucial that you consider and clearly show in your introduction, conclusion and sparingly throughout the body paragraphs, how the time/place your text was set in has contributed to its message.

Don’t overdo it. Literature isn’t one of those subjects where you can cram intensely for a few days and expect to see a dramatic change in results. In fact, I’ve found that the SACs which I spent more time preparing for didn’t go half as well as I hoped. I think this is due to the fact that Literature relies on originality of thinking and sharp writing- regurgitated ideas and over-preparation will cause your writing to go stale when it actually counts. Instead, make sure that you have a comprehensive understanding of your texts and learn to trust yourself to perform well on the spot.

Be specific. This turned out to be what was keeping me from scoring full marks on most of my SACs. Never underestimate the importance of mentioning stage direction, stagecraft (for plays), narrative framework, poetic techniques in your essay. I always neglected these or would only refer to them in really loose terms as I was concerned it’d make my writing look too ‘stiff’. Ultimately, however, it’s impossible to get a perfect score without clear, explicit references to the above at least three-four times throughout. For my final exam, I even dedicated an entire paragraph of my close analysis on Rhinoceros to purely stagecraft and its significance, and another on the effects of humour- both worked quite effectively.

Remember that the final exam is what counts. Do not allow yourself to be discouraged by a bad SAC mark as it’s quite insignificant in the larger picture. I was ranked second or third in a class of five, yet contrary to what I believed, this didn't impact my final study score at all. VCE is as much a psychological battle as it is an academic one, so it’s absolutely crucial that you don't give up along the way.

Control your expression. Remember at the end of the day that before anything else, you’re a student- not a poet (at least not in the VCE exam room). Your Lit exam also isn’t the time and place for super flowery, experimental styles and purple prose. Many students doing Lit are phenomenal writers, but you have to bear in mind that your aim is to effectively convey your ideas and convince the examiner that you know what you’re doing- not necessarily to make them cry with the beauty of your words. My go-to strategy is to reduce sentence length whenever possible (without it sounding too choppy) and always express complex ideas in simple terms. Don’t let a brilliant idea be lost in a haze of seemingly endless sentences and redundant language. Often, you’ll find that simplicity can make a thought sound much more profound- it adds a certain conviction to it, and it’ll make your contention stand out.

I could actually go on for quite a while, but I think this should be enough for now. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me. I’m also offering private tutoring starting from January 2018, so shoot me an email if you’re interested! ([email protected])

Literature is certainly not an easy subject, but I promise you that it’s a rewarding one. Try not to focus too much on the end product, and simply try to do what you can with what’s in front of you.
Best of luck to everyone for next year!
« Last Edit: January 31, 2018, 10:08:09 pm by K888 »
ATAR: 99.70

Literature [50], History: Revolutions [50] + Premier's Award 2017, Chinese SLA [47], Psychology [43]

Selling notes + essays for Literature and Revolutions. Contact: [email protected]

cookiedream

  • Forum Obsessive
  • ***
  • Posts: 296
  • Respect: +410
Re: HOW I ACHIEVED A RAW 50 IN LITERATURE
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2017, 05:36:56 pm »
+4
Awesome stuff!!! Although I didn't do Lit myself, this comprehensive guide will definitely help future Lit students!
Are you planning on writing one for the rest of your subjects? :)  join the AN guide writing team plz
VCE: (click the links below to view my guides)
2016: Methods [44], Psych [48]
2017: Bio [50], Eng Lang, Chem, Spec
ATAR: 99.75 | UMAT: 88th
2018-2022: Bachelor of Medical Science/Doctor of Medicine @ Monash University

! No longer offering tutoring !

lovelyperson

  • Trendsetter
  • **
  • Posts: 136
  • Respect: +31
Re: HOW I ACHIEVED A RAW 50 IN LITERATURE
« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2017, 06:12:51 pm »
+1
wow this is amazing :o by any chance could you post one of your essays up online?

a.l.y.2017

  • Adventurer
  • *
  • Posts: 13
  • Respect: +24
Re: HOW I ACHIEVED A RAW 50 IN LITERATURE
« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2017, 07:28:43 pm »
+5
Awesome stuff!!! Although I didn't do Lit myself, this comprehensive guide will definitely help future Lit students!
Are you planning on writing one for the rest of your subjects? :)  join the AN guide writing team plz


Thank you so much! I was planning on doing one for History and Chinese :)
And I certainly wouldn't mind joining hahah
ATAR: 99.70

Literature [50], History: Revolutions [50] + Premier's Award 2017, Chinese SLA [47], Psychology [43]

Selling notes + essays for Literature and Revolutions. Contact: [email protected]

a.l.y.2017

  • Adventurer
  • *
  • Posts: 13
  • Respect: +24
Re: HOW I ACHIEVED A RAW 50 IN LITERATURE
« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2017, 07:32:29 pm »
+9
wow this is amazing :o by any chance could you post one of your essays up online?

Thank you!! I can definitely try to post a few essays sometime soon. Here's something I dug up just now though:

Close Analysis: Rhinoceros, Ionesco
The inherent inability of the practical and theoretical to reconcile in an absurdist world order is made explicit against the backdrop of intensifying "rhinoceros noises". In Ionesco's assault on the futility of 'civilized' structures to uphold meaningful thought and action, Rhinoceros stands as a 20th century critique of the "mass opinion and dogmatism" particularly rife during WWII. Indeed, by equating the detrimental human tendency to conform with the domineering pachyderms, Ionesco invites his audience to explore the elusive nature of "normality and abnormality" once stripped of its societal context.
 
The dehumanising, irrational aspects of conventional human behaviour are severely rebuked in the first act. Following the bizarre appearance of the first rhinoceros, that the Housewife and Old Gentleman's primary concern is with "pick(ing) up her things" as opposed to addressing the actual crisis conveys the sheer absurdity and ignorance of human reaction . The emphasis placed on meaningless, quotidian details and banal numbers- "two pastis", "hundred francs a litre"- as mere constructs of society only furthers the characters' detachment from genuine issues (the rhinoceros stampede). Similarly, the recurring motifs of the "bottle of wine' and "basket" indicate the immense value placed upon mere objects, whereby its contents appear to take precedence over the "extraordinary" rhinoceros sighting. Furthermore, the Grocer's exploitative action of "taking money" and urging- "buy from me," "you wouldn't run the risk of these accidents" evidence the deeply selfish tendency to capitalise on disasters for personal gain. Yet, whilst the Grocer, Housewife and Jean are seen to recover from the rhinoceros incident with varying attitudes of "delight" and apathy, there is a veritable lack of concern for the true implications of the quadruped sightings. As such, that Berenger doesn't "know what to say" and can only think to comment on the temporary, inconsequential aftermath of the "dust" again suggests an erroneous inability to properly comprehend "extraordinary" events. Hence, Ionesco articulates his frustrations with the "incorrigible" ways of humans and our failure to navigate a productive course of action- other than the aloof "it shouldn't be allowed!"- once a fanaticism or tragedy takes hold.
 
The illogicality of logic penetrates Ionesco's play. Mounting conflict between the unfeeling, rigid nature of "theoretic(s)" and the arbitrary forces of life "in practice" acts as a vehicle to exploring true meaning. In Act One, the Logician's focus on defining a "syllogism" as consisting of a "main proposition… a conclusion" is ultimately irrelevant in light of the initial rhinoceros's appearance. The Old Gentleman's response- "what conclusion?"- further draws attention to the Logician's seemingly intellectual diction as being "just words", ironically devoid of the meaning a "conclusion" should contain. That logic is seen to confound, rather than clarify or create meaning as it's supposed to, is further reflected in the third act. Whilst Dudard's proposition- "what could be more natural than a rhinoceros?"- is scientifically viable, his failure to consider the rhinoceros in the context of "man turn(ing) into a rhinoceros" reveals the precarious and exclusionary nature of logical reasoning. Whilst both the binaries of "medical" and "philosophical" theory seek to establish the outbreak of Rhinoceritis as either an epidemic or a "veritable mutation" (Ionesco) of the mind, neither prove capable of "resolv(ing)… the problem". More significantly, the continuous attempts of Dudard and Berenger to rationalise a thoroughly irrational scenario with "science" and "Galileo's case" only exacerbates their struggle to "solve" their initial question. The ultimate result of their reasoning is the vague categorisation of the rhinoceroses as "both… practice (and) theory", creating yet another "debatable point" that is neither decipherable nor beneficial to their situation.
 
Compounding the futility of logic are the alienating features of intellectualism and language. Berenger's seemingly self-prescribed sense of inferiority in admitting "I've never studied", "I'm not very well up in philosophy" indicates the societal emphasis on individual value as being congruous with intellectual competence. Yet, the fact that Dudard's supposed "superiority" over Berenger or "ease in discussion" is substantiated by what's essentially just paper- or "all sorts of diplomas"- amplifies Ionesco's derision of intellectualism as being a mere farce. The technical and literary jargon which typifies Dudard's speech of "mass opinion" and "dogmatism" is debunked by Berenger's exclamation that "it's all gibberish, utter lunacy!". Indeed, the hollow ostentatiousness of the language of academia- "the history of thought and science"- rather than contributing to genuine discourse merely obstructs it. Berenger is left "quite lost" by Dudard's almost patronizing delivery of what should be a clear explanation of how to not "confuse the issue". Hence, like Sartre and Camus, Ionesco identifies the insufficiency of language once wielded incorrectly. The tendency for intellectuals such as Dudard to resort to only metaphorical patterns of speech- "who can say where the normal stops and abnormal begins?"- only serves to distance Berenger from their "discussion". Moreover, a moral callousness may be identified in Dudard's insistence that he "doesn't believe in seeing evil in everything". By philosophising an issue of "good" and "evil", as opposed to simply "feel(ing) it…intuitively", Dudard is seen to display an "excessive tolerance" for "evil" by removing the human and emotional qualities from such a notion. In contrast, Berenger's linguistic expression appears "clumsy" and inadequate when compared to Dudard's verbal dexterity and "ease in discussion", resorting even to the movement of "walking up and down the room" to physically transcend the barriers of language. The ellipses cast in his speech- "intuitively means… well, just like that!"- further underline his intellectual inferiority. Yet, it is "feel(ing)… you're in the wrong" rather than purely, objectively thinking which arguably preserves Berenger's humanity; what sustains his defiant assertion of "I'm not capitulating!" by the play's denouement is not the "medical" or "philosophical", but rather a feeling- "just like that".
 
Primarily characterised by existential fears, Ionesco's Rhinoceros exemplifies the defining elements of the Theatre of the Absurd. In response to the human calamity of WWII- a war founded on inhumane principles of "medical" and "philosophical" "theoretics"- Ionesco urges his audience to attack the confounding structures of language, logic and societal standards, and perhaps defend an "intuitive" moralism instead.
ATAR: 99.70

Literature [50], History: Revolutions [50] + Premier's Award 2017, Chinese SLA [47], Psychology [43]

Selling notes + essays for Literature and Revolutions. Contact: [email protected]

Ceeramist

  • Adventurer
  • *
  • Posts: 9
  • Respect: +8
Re: HOW I ACHIEVED A RAW 50 IN LITERATURE
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2018, 11:57:21 pm »
+2
Would just like to reiterate firstly how great a guide this is, and secondly how excellent a tutor OP is, I owe a lot of my study score to them :) If you're looking for lit tutoring, highly reccommend OP :D
Graduated 2017
ATAR: 98.55
2016: History: Revolutions [42]
2017: German [42] Literature [43] Further Maths [44] Japanese [39] Chemistry [36]

Offering tutoring!
Contact: [email protected]

s.essen

  • Fresh Poster
  • *
  • Posts: 2
  • Respect: 0
Re: HOW I ACHIEVED A RAW 50 IN LITERATURE
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2018, 09:59:54 pm »
0
Wow this is amazing!!! Thanks so much for posting  :)
Also please check PM for tutoring enquiry!

a.l.y.2017

  • Adventurer
  • *
  • Posts: 13
  • Respect: +24
Re: How I achieved a raw 50 in Literature
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2018, 12:11:51 am »
+6
Hey all, as exams draw nearer I thought I'd upload another one of my essays (awarded full marks) on literary perspectives! hopefully this comes in handy :)
(I'm also selling a 20+ page collection of all my literature essays at the moment so feel free to message me if you're interested!)

How does HOD show how the forces of nature control man?
In Conrad's polemic against the moral corruption and savagery inherent in the Western mission civilisatrice, the notion that "the earth is unearthly" is made explicit throughout the novella. In dismantling the constructs of civilisation as a mere artifice and the human will as insubstantial once confronted with greater universal forces, Conrad seeks to subvert the fixed binaries espoused by the West that civilisation is more natural than nature itself. Thus, despite man's futile and patronizing efforts to seemingly insulate the 'progressive' Western colonialists from the "mysterious life of the wilderness", the omnipresence of an "immense darkness" nonetheless indicates the natural world as overpowering the societal constructs of man.

Crucially, the moral absolutism espoused by imperialists and fixed dichotomies of the "darkness" of nature supposedly penetrated by the "light" of Western ideals are effectively inverted by Conrad. As Achebe contends in an Image of Africa, "it is the desire in Western psychology to set Africa up as a foil to Europe". Indeed, the emphasis in language on "an impenetrable darkness" as being synonymous with both the "dark human shapes" of African natives and the river itself conveniently paints Western civilisation- a "pulsating stream of light"- as the antithesis of the "beastly dark" Congo. Similarly, Marlow's description of the "sandbanks, marshes, forests, savages" not only serves to render the geographical landscape of the Belgian Congo as a primitive and backward "prehistoric earth" to "be subdued", but also an "earth" inextricably connected to the animalistic, dehumanised savages who "lap out of (their) hands". The narrative framework of Heart of Darkness itself, in actively distancing the readers from the "gigantic tale", furthers the traditional interplay of good and evil to justify white man's colonizing mission, whereby the natural world is painted as a "monster" to be "conquered", or a "blank space of delightful mystery" eagerly awaiting the invasion of the West. Thus, through Marlow's retelling of their descent into the "heart of darkness", one is inevitably left with the impression that the imperialists not only righteously seek to "shackle" and civilise the native people, but also to somehow civilize nature itself. This is supported by Achebe's claims to the "deep anxieties" suffered by the West about the "precariousness of its civilisation" and its "need for constant reassurance... by comparison with Africa", whereby the only means of upholding its fragile ideologies is to simultaneously denounce and exert control over the wilderness that blooms in the African lands. Yet, Conrad identifies the impossibility of such a self-assigned, "heavenly mission"- rather than successfully "throwing a kind of light" onto the native "savages" and their land, the "darkness" and "immensity of earth, sky and water" are seen to invade the imperialists instead. The looming "overcast sky" and metaphorical attacks of nature- "as if the mist itself had screamed"- on Marlow and the crew indeed elucidate the perpetual, unyielding forces of our natural world as the only true 'absolute' on earth.

The triumph of nature in its struggle against mankind is further reinforced in the "remarkable man" Kurtz, as the ultimate personification of the colonizing mission. Extolled in "all the tones of jealousy and admiration" for having "collected, bartered... or stole more ivory than all the other agents together", it is not merely the material acquisitions and imperialist profits which delineate Kurtz as the seeming epitome of the human race itself for a considerable duration of the novella, but rather the "gift of expression". Starkly contrasted to the "complaining clamour" "modulated in savage discords" which typifies the unintelligible sounds of the Congo, the "unbounded power of eloquence" and enlightened thought embodied by Kurtz serve to cement his- and the cultured white man's- superiority over the natives. Certainly, the West's "fantastic invasion" was geared towards not only the physical conquest of "the forests, the jungles... the wild men" but also a deeply ideological one, whereby the "luminous", progressive philosophies of men such as Kurtz were expected to overpower an 'uncultured' nature, and transcend the 'savage' self. Yet, despite the laudatory lexicon adopted to describe Kurtz as a "prodigy", "an emissary of pity and progress", of "higher intelligence", the language he is so fervently recognised for is reduced to only the ambiguous whisper of "The horror! The horror!". Thus, it is evident that once confronted with the natural elements of the universe, of human existence- such as death itself- the manmade structures of civilisation, enlightened thought and theory are all rendered blatantly fallible, giving way to the forces of "an intense and hopeless despair" engrained in humanity's most "prehistoric" character.

Furthermore, while nature is continuously presented as an "impenetrable", "immense" or formidable force, civilisation remains a mere artifice; a "mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose". From the onset of the novella, the "biggest, and greatest town on earth"- and, ostensibly, inhabited by the 'civilized' only- is nonetheless recognized by Marlow as "one of the dark places of the earth". That the river Thames should bear the same "darkness" as the Congo, a land "monstrous and free", reveals that the concept of civilisation is, in itself, hollow and absurd- nothing more than a "preservation of appearances". Furthermore, the term "whited sepulchre" stands as almost a microcosm of Western civilisation; whilst the exterior is "whited" or polished by a superficial "cloak" of "fine sentiments" that supposedly distinguish the civilized from the savages, the interior is a figurative 'tomb' for the humanity absent from these artificial societal structures. In contrast to this lifeless civilisation, however, the Congolese river is described as a "snake", alive and filled with a "wild vitality", "an intense energy of movement" that is "natural" and "true". Thus, upon the conclusion of Marlow's "inconclusive experiences", it is evident that the "decaying machinery" of civilisation is ultimately arrested by the overpowering, inescapable, "triumphant darkness" of nature.

In the final analysis, at the very heart of Joseph Conrad's novella is the bitter, divisive, historically potent struggle between not only man and man, but between the opposing forces of nature and civilisation; forces impossible to reconcile, yet forced into an uneasy coexistence with the "swelling" of scientific thought and social 'progress' at the turn of the 19th century. Yet, whilst no fundamental truth in regards to humanity is unveiled by Marlow's journey to the core of the Congo, nature as an unequivocal force of the universe is certainly revealed to be inescapable- through Kurtz's demise, the ubiquitous "unseen presence" of the wild, and pervasive "darkness", the colonialists are evidently unable to harness, subdue or "colonize" such a wilderness with the truly "precarious" civilisation. Rather, imperialists are seen to succumb to the nature they belittle and degrade, a nature that inherently dictates all the living and dead, that traces back to the "beginnings of time itself", whereby all paths navigated by men shall inevitably lead to "the heart of an immense darkness".
ATAR: 99.70

Literature [50], History: Revolutions [50] + Premier's Award 2017, Chinese SLA [47], Psychology [43]

Selling notes + essays for Literature and Revolutions. Contact: [email protected]

darthnucleus

  • Adventurer
  • *
  • Posts: 8
  • Respect: 0
Re: How I achieved a raw 50 in Literature
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2018, 07:35:31 pm »
0
Background information/story time
   Flashback to the middle of Year Eleven. I had been doing fairly well in English at the time, and was consistently managing 17-19s out of 20 for my essays, though I was yet to full mark a single assessment. One day, however, we had a new English teacher come in to grade our most recent outcome- and I received my first C-.
   Not to be melodramatic or anything, but I was devastated- and confused. My points were pretty logical, the vocabulary sophisticated, the characters, themes and language thoroughly analysed. Why then, had I been given such a harsh mark?
   It was only after some extensive research and self-reflection that I realised my problem- I simply wasn’t following the VCE method. Writing well, I discovered, wasn’t enough. I had to write accurately, in the right way, about the right things to get my marks.
I then proceeded to do two things:

1) I created formulas for essay-writing. I picked up the exact words and phrases my English    teacher was using in class and incorporated them into my own writing. I dissected model essays and mirrored them closely. And I managed to full-mark every single essay for the rest of the year.
2) I decided to drop English and pick up Literature in Year Twelve instead. Jumping into Literature 3/4 without having done the 1/2 and without any other English subjects as a ‘backup’ for my primary four… I was advised against it. But I realised that, even though I had proved to myself I was capable of following the ‘English formula’ all the way, it didn’t offer me the freedom I wanted. I assume this is why many of you chose Literature as well- for the freedom, the intellectual stimulation, the originality of ideas, the depth and richness of content… And while all those stand true, I came to find that the VCE method was integral to succeeding in VCE Literature as well.

Perhaps this is why it’s so hard to do well in Literature- it forces the poets and creatives and romantics to sacrifice beautiful prose for sharp, criteria-specific points. But it also shows no mercy for those reliant on the same formulas as English to see them through the final exam- not without that indefinable writing ‘oomph’ that separates the 30s and the 40s.

And so, in short, here are the tricks and tips that will allow you to find that precarious, glorious middle ground- the same tricks that ultimately got me from a low C in English to a raw 50 in Literature:
Analyse other people’s work. Before the school year had even started, I printed out over 30 pages worth of model essays from past VCE examination reports and the ATAR Notes thread to not only read but analyse. Analysis is the key word here- you’re not just glancing at an essay and going ‘wow, this is so well-written!’. You’re examining how these students are starting their essays- with a quote? with contextualisation? with an idea?, what words/adjectives/techniques are coming up often, how often quotes are being embedded and at what length, how much emphasis is given to the author’s intentions… Annotate these essays. Highlight them. Steal phrases from them. Harvest words. Find a few styles that you’re comfortable with and that are similar to your own and aim to develop your work in that direction.

Read your texts actively. What matters is not necessarily the number of times you read a book, but what you take away from it each time. I read my texts four times in total throughout the year, and I would always do so with the goal in mind- that is, to find either evidence to include in my essays, or plausible interpretations. I would take note of specific symbols and significant moments that were not from the ‘typical key scenes’. This gives the impression that you know your text inside out and will also help you develop original, insightful points. Also, try to keep a highlighter, pen and a few sticky notes handy when you’re reading- take note of anything you find interesting/baffling/might want to go to back to.

Keep thinking outside the classroom. In terms of actual study hours, I didn’t do any more for Literature than my other subjects. What I did do, however, was frequently keep my texts at the back of my mind. The philosophical side of Literature is extremely applicable to everyday life. I found myself constantly linking different scenarios, conversations or even random musings to whatever novel or play we had been studying. My best ideas came not from sitting at a desk, but halfway during dinner (this was admittedly quite annoying for my parents), in the car, before falling asleep- and I always made sure to jot these ideas down somewhere for later development.

Debate and discuss. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and opinions with the class as it’ll likely benefit both you and your classmates. If you’re feeling a little shy, however, find a lit study buddy to talk to. I had a friend who I’d frequently message (sometimes on a daily basis) whenever I had an idea and she’d either challenge it or build another idea on top of it- by the end of it, we’d have a much more complex interpretation as a whole.

Go to different teachers for feedback. Literature is simply too subjective a subject to rely on one teacher’s feedback alone. Always try to get a second pair of eyes- preferably a tutor, another Lit teacher at your school, or experienced assessor- to read through your essays, whether it be your practice responses or mock exams. For me, my teacher had a very dense, elaborate style of writing, so she never called me out on my equally dense essays. However, another teacher quickly pointed out that my sentences were far too long, and it was compromising my clarity of expression. Note that it’s particularly important to take note of suggestions if they’re coming up more than once from separate examiners.

Develop a relevant vocabulary. Blindly aiming to ‘improve your vocabulary’ within the short space of a year can prove a little unrealistic. It’s a common mistake to pick up random 15 letter words that sound impressive and attempt to shove it in a sentence for the sake of it. Yet, the result is usually an awkwardly-phrased sentence that impedes, rather than enhances meaning. Instead, try to build a list of words that are closely related to the concepts of your texts. For example, when studying Rhinoceros by Ionesco, I had a whole bank of synonyms for the noun ‘rhinoceros’- pachyderms, quadrupeds, perissodactyl etc. It was easy to use these words frequently and accurately throughout my essays. Other words like ‘eponymous’ and ‘titular’ also featured regularly in my essays on Heart of Darkness. The ‘eponymous darkness’ makes for a pretty neat intro, and is something you can use regardless of the topic.

Set up an essay blackmarket (not literally). As I’ve already mentioned, it’s absolutely crucial that you read other people’s writing. Not only will it inform your own interpretations, but it’ll do also do wonders for your writing. Try to set up a system with your classmates so that you email out every practice essay you do, and even offer feedback to one another. As you’ll all be doing the same texts, this can prove extremely advantageous and can strengthen your cohort as a whole.

Research. The political and historical context of your texts, the author’s views and background, symbols and religious connotations… you’re expected to know all these things before you start writing your essay. It’s absolutely crucial that you consider and clearly show in your introduction, conclusion and sparingly throughout the body paragraphs, how the time/place your text was set in has contributed to its message.

Don’t overdo it. Literature isn’t one of those subjects where you can cram intensely for a few days and expect to see a dramatic change in results. In fact, I’ve found that the SACs which I spent more time preparing for didn’t go half as well as I hoped. I think this is due to the fact that Literature relies on originality of thinking and sharp writing- regurgitated ideas and over-preparation will cause your writing to go stale when it actually counts. Instead, make sure that you have a comprehensive understanding of your texts and learn to trust yourself to perform well on the spot.

Be specific. This turned out to be what was keeping me from scoring full marks on most of my SACs. Never underestimate the importance of mentioning stage direction, stagecraft (for plays), narrative framework, poetic techniques in your essay. I always neglected these or would only refer to them in really loose terms as I was concerned it’d make my writing look too ‘stiff’. Ultimately, however, it’s impossible to get a perfect score without clear, explicit references to the above at least three-four times throughout. For my final exam, I even dedicated an entire paragraph of my close analysis on Rhinoceros to purely stagecraft and its significance, and another on the effects of humour- both worked quite effectively.

Remember that the final exam is what counts. Do not allow yourself to be discouraged by a bad SAC mark as it’s quite insignificant in the larger picture. I was ranked second or third in a class of five, yet contrary to what I believed, this didn't impact my final study score at all. VCE is as much a psychological battle as it is an academic one, so it’s absolutely crucial that you don't give up along the way.

Control your expression. Remember at the end of the day that before anything else, you’re a student- not a poet (at least not in the VCE exam room). Your Lit exam also isn’t the time and place for super flowery, experimental styles and purple prose. Many students doing Lit are phenomenal writers, but you have to bear in mind that your aim is to effectively convey your ideas and convince the examiner that you know what you’re doing- not necessarily to make them cry with the beauty of your words. My go-to strategy is to reduce sentence length whenever possible (without it sounding too choppy) and always express complex ideas in simple terms. Don’t let a brilliant idea be lost in a haze of seemingly endless sentences and redundant language. Often, you’ll find that simplicity can make a thought sound much more profound- it adds a certain conviction to it, and it’ll make your contention stand out.

I could actually go on for quite a while, but I think this should be enough for now. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me. I’m also offering private tutoring starting from January 2018, so shoot me an email if you’re interested! ([email protected])

Literature is certainly not an easy subject, but I promise you that it’s a rewarding one. Try not to focus too much on the end product, and simply try to do what you can with what’s in front of you.
Best of luck to everyone for next year!

This is amazing advice and is very relevant to the major obstacles one has to get over in order to succeed in literature  :D

cndyngyn

  • Fresh Poster
  • *
  • Posts: 2
  • Respect: 0
Re: HOW I ACHIEVED A RAW 50 IN LITERATURE
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2021, 10:04:02 am »
0
Thank you!! I can definitely try to post a few essays sometime soon. Here's something I dug up just now though:

Close Analysis: Rhinoceros, Ionesco
The inherent inability of the practical and theoretical to reconcile in an absurdist world order is made explicit against the backdrop of intensifying "rhinoceros noises". In Ionesco's assault on the futility of 'civilized' structures to uphold meaningful thought and action, Rhinoceros stands as a 20th century critique of the "mass opinion and dogmatism" particularly rife during WWII. Indeed, by equating the detrimental human tendency to conform with the domineering pachyderms, Ionesco invites his audience to explore the elusive nature of "normality and abnormality" once stripped of its societal context.
 
The dehumanising, irrational aspects of conventional human behaviour are severely rebuked in the first act. Following the bizarre appearance of the first rhinoceros, that the Housewife and Old Gentleman's primary concern is with "pick(ing) up her things" as opposed to addressing the actual crisis conveys the sheer absurdity and ignorance of human reaction . The emphasis placed on meaningless, quotidian details and banal numbers- "two pastis", "hundred francs a litre"- as mere constructs of society only furthers the characters' detachment from genuine issues (the rhinoceros stampede). Similarly, the recurring motifs of the "bottle of wine' and "basket" indicate the immense value placed upon mere objects, whereby its contents appear to take precedence over the "extraordinary" rhinoceros sighting. Furthermore, the Grocer's exploitative action of "taking money" and urging- "buy from me," "you wouldn't run the risk of these accidents" evidence the deeply selfish tendency to capitalise on disasters for personal gain. Yet, whilst the Grocer, Housewife and Jean are seen to recover from the rhinoceros incident with varying attitudes of "delight" and apathy, there is a veritable lack of concern for the true implications of the quadruped sightings. As such, that Berenger doesn't "know what to say" and can only think to comment on the temporary, inconsequential aftermath of the "dust" again suggests an erroneous inability to properly comprehend "extraordinary" events. Hence, Ionesco articulates his frustrations with the "incorrigible" ways of humans and our failure to navigate a productive course of action- other than the aloof "it shouldn't be allowed!"- once a fanaticism or tragedy takes hold.
 
The illogicality of logic penetrates Ionesco's play. Mounting conflict between the unfeeling, rigid nature of "theoretic(s)" and the arbitrary forces of life "in practice" acts as a vehicle to exploring true meaning. In Act One, the Logician's focus on defining a "syllogism" as consisting of a "main proposition… a conclusion" is ultimately irrelevant in light of the initial rhinoceros's appearance. The Old Gentleman's response- "what conclusion?"- further draws attention to the Logician's seemingly intellectual diction as being "just words", ironically devoid of the meaning a "conclusion" should contain. That logic is seen to confound, rather than clarify or create meaning as it's supposed to, is further reflected in the third act. Whilst Dudard's proposition- "what could be more natural than a rhinoceros?"- is scientifically viable, his failure to consider the rhinoceros in the context of "man turn(ing) into a rhinoceros" reveals the precarious and exclusionary nature of logical reasoning. Whilst both the binaries of "medical" and "philosophical" theory seek to establish the outbreak of Rhinoceritis as either an epidemic or a "veritable mutation" (Ionesco) of the mind, neither prove capable of "resolv(ing)… the problem". More significantly, the continuous attempts of Dudard and Berenger to rationalise a thoroughly irrational scenario with "science" and "Galileo's case" only exacerbates their struggle to "solve" their initial question. The ultimate result of their reasoning is the vague categorisation of the rhinoceroses as "both… practice (and) theory", creating yet another "debatable point" that is neither decipherable nor beneficial to their situation.
 
Compounding the futility of logic are the alienating features of intellectualism and language. Berenger's seemingly self-prescribed sense of inferiority in admitting "I've never studied", "I'm not very well up in philosophy" indicates the societal emphasis on individual value as being congruous with intellectual competence. Yet, the fact that Dudard's supposed "superiority" over Berenger or "ease in discussion" is substantiated by what's essentially just paper- or "all sorts of diplomas"- amplifies Ionesco's derision of intellectualism as being a mere farce. The technical and literary jargon which typifies Dudard's speech of "mass opinion" and "dogmatism" is debunked by Berenger's exclamation that "it's all gibberish, utter lunacy!". Indeed, the hollow ostentatiousness of the language of academia- "the history of thought and science"- rather than contributing to genuine discourse merely obstructs it. Berenger is left "quite lost" by Dudard's almost patronizing delivery of what should be a clear explanation of how to not "confuse the issue". Hence, like Sartre and Camus, Ionesco identifies the insufficiency of language once wielded incorrectly. The tendency for intellectuals such as Dudard to resort to only metaphorical patterns of speech- "who can say where the normal stops and abnormal begins?"- only serves to distance Berenger from their "discussion". Moreover, a moral callousness may be identified in Dudard's insistence that he "doesn't believe in seeing evil in everything". By philosophising an issue of "good" and "evil", as opposed to simply "feel(ing) it…intuitively", Dudard is seen to display an "excessive tolerance" for "evil" by removing the human and emotional qualities from such a notion. In contrast, Berenger's linguistic expression appears "clumsy" and inadequate when compared to Dudard's verbal dexterity and "ease in discussion", resorting even to the movement of "walking up and down the room" to physically transcend the barriers of language. The ellipses cast in his speech- "intuitively means… well, just like that!"- further underline his intellectual inferiority. Yet, it is "feel(ing)… you're in the wrong" rather than purely, objectively thinking which arguably preserves Berenger's humanity; what sustains his defiant assertion of "I'm not capitulating!" by the play's denouement is not the "medical" or "philosophical", but rather a feeling- "just like that".
 
Primarily characterised by existential fears, Ionesco's Rhinoceros exemplifies the defining elements of the Theatre of the Absurd. In response to the human calamity of WWII- a war founded on inhumane principles of "medical" and "philosophical" "theoretics"- Ionesco urges his audience to attack the confounding structures of language, logic and societal standards, and perhaps defend an "intuitive" moralism instead.
dont know if im gonna get a reply its been like 3 years lol. but your vocab is kinda insane - are they words you already know or are some of them a part of your synonym bank? i've got a whole list of vocab that i'm making an effort to use but i noticed that i'll only use it once before forgetting it

The Cat In The Hat

  • MOTM: NOV 20
  • Forum Leader
  • ****
  • Posts: 991
  • Do all to the glory of God. - 1 Corinthians 10:31
  • Respect: +344
Re: HOW I ACHIEVED A RAW 50 IN LITERATURE
« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2021, 03:47:06 pm »
+2
dont know if im gonna get a reply its been like 3 years lol. but your vocab is kinda insane - are they words you already know or are some of them a part of your synonym bank? i've got a whole list of vocab that i'm making an effort to use but i noticed that i'll only use it once before forgetting it
I'm no incredible Englisher and didn't do Lit, but I do use a reasonably wide vocabulary as part of ordinary speech and writing. I would advise you to pick a word every day, or week, and find some way to use it in conversation and/or in your writing, try and make it normal use for when you sit down to write an essay. Do this every day or week and you should pick up vocabulary reasonably quickly; also reading erudite books helps, for me at least, to remind me such words exist. (I read Lewis, personally, if you like shortish fiction, since his command of language is quite formidable. Or Austen.)
VCE 20
HHD MM Revs (F/R) Eng T&T
ATAR 85
Uni 21-24: BNursing/BMidwifery @ Deakin
Y1T2:
HNM102
HNN122 (double)
HNN114
I hope I don't fail....
Listens to Amira Willighagen and Alma Deutscher and a little Marjolein Acke
~English - PM for P&P/creatives help~
Creative excerpts
Nur/Mid uni journal

For Narnia and for Aslan!

she/her

Basically inactive now. May change. Have a nice day.

cndyngyn

  • Fresh Poster
  • *
  • Posts: 2
  • Respect: 0
Re: HOW I ACHIEVED A RAW 50 IN LITERATURE
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2021, 11:39:48 am »
0
I'm no incredible Englisher and didn't do Lit, but I do use a reasonably wide vocabulary as part of ordinary speech and writing. I would advise you to pick a word every day, or week, and find some way to use it in conversation and/or in your writing, try and make it normal use for when you sit down to write an essay. Do this every day or week and you should pick up vocabulary reasonably quickly; also reading erudite books helps, for me at least, to remind me such words exist. (I read Lewis, personally, if you like shortish fiction, since his command of language is quite formidable. Or Austen.)
thank you!!! i'll keep that in mind next time i find a nice word lol. i'll definitely check out some of those books as well :)