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The-Cambridge-Student

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Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« on: March 15, 2015, 05:31:09 pm »
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Hey!

I know half yearly exams are coming up for a lot of people, so for the next few weeks I’ll be posting about how to write essays for specific modules. First up on the agenda: English Advanced Module A: Comparative Study of Texts and Context.

To write a successful Mod A, essay you will have to show your marker that you are able to analyse nuanced interplay between the context of a text and the values that its author or characters engage with. In addition, you will have to make comparisons between two different texts by extrapolating points of similarity and difference. In order to receive top marks, you should keep in mind the value of a comparative study. Ask yourself, how can studying one particular text enrich your understanding of the context and values of another (and vice versa)?

When you are given a practice essay question, the best thing that you can do is to immediately identify the key words that have been put forward. From here, you need to develop a strong ‘thesis’ that you will be able to return to throughout the essay when you link your paragraphs and write your conclusion. Below, I have included an example of one such question and introduction for the texts Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Letters to Alice by Fay Weldon:

Texts on their own are interesting but when you compare them to other texts they become illuminating and dynamic'. Discuss.

Texts read independently are interesting, nevertheless, when comparatively studied, Jane Austen’s 1813 regency social satire Pride and Prejudice and Fay Weldon’s 1984 postmodern epistolary work Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen, become illuminating and dynamic. Weldon’s assertion that “writers create houses of Imagination, from which whose doors generations greet each other…by such discussion…we understand ourselves…our pasts and our futures” encapsulates the notion that interpretation of texts is not static. Imbued, according to academic D.G Myers, which “plurality of meaning”, both works engage with dominant and emerging discourses in their respective contexts. In light of shared authorial desire to examine relationships and the significance of education, comparative reappraisal mutually elucidates new insights.

I’ve put half of the last line of this introduction in bold, as the notion expressed here is representative of what you need to argue throughout your comparative essay. Even if texts are seemingly unrelated, by reading or watching them in conjunction with each other your study of them will be enhanced through the act of comparison.

From the copy of the BOS syllabus provide online, I have pulled out the two most essential chunks of information regarding Module A:

(1) This module requires students to compare texts in order to explore them in relation to their historical or cultural contexts. It develops students’ understanding of the effects of context and questions of value.

(2) Students examine ways in which social, cultural and historical context influences aspects of texts, or the ways in which changes in context lead to changed values being reflected in texts. This includes study and use of the language of texts, consideration of purposes and audiences, and analysis of the content, values and attitudes conveyed through a range of readings.


To give you an idea of what my own comparative essays looked like, I’ve included the next two paragraphs that follow the introduction above for you to take a look at:

Examination of relationships undertaken by Austen, in conjunction with Weldon’s scrutiny of Regency, feminist, and post-feminist concerns, enhances the reader’s understanding of contextual and authorial values regarding the function and experience of the institution of marriage. Influenced by the sentiment of Regency thinkers John Locke and David Hume who valued epistemological development, Austen’s exploration of various marriages in Pride and Prejudice promulgates the sentiment that a union between two people should progress towards a balance between love and rationality. Austen acknowledges the essentiality of mercenary unions for middle class women despite confining the content of her novel to a particular social milieu, marriage being “the only provision for well-educated young women of small fortune…however uncertain of giving happiness”. Circumscribed by expectation, Charlotte Lucas (a foil for Elizabeth Bennett who seeks to marry on her “own terms”) accepts Mr Collins’ marriage proposal and pragmatically states that she only desires a “comfortable home”. By capitalising Elizabeth’s emotive response, “in every view it is unaccountable!” Austen, the omniscient narrator, critiques the reality of marital opportunities in her world. Reflecting the concerns of contemporary thinker Mary Wollstonecraft, who warned that women  “taught to please will soon find that (their) charms are oblique sunbeams”, Austen further characterises marriages such as that of Mr and Mrs Bennett or Lydia and Mr Wickham, in which participants are not mutually attuned, as unfavourable. Through use of balanced sentences, Austen places emphasis upon the moral, epistemological journey of both Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, who emphatically states “(Elizabeth) shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased”. Ultimately, by highlighting the essentiality of introspection to the success of this union, Austen is able to advocate for marriages ruled by reason and love, in which both parties have “excellent understanding” of each other and share a deep bond of friendship.

Fay Weldon utilises Letters to Alice to reappraise the fundamental significance placed upon marriage during the Regency Period, thus prompting the responder to reflect upon the reality of modern female emancipation and martial opportunities. Influenced by the writings Betty Freidan, whose novel “The Feminine Mystique” was adopted as a manifesto by many second wave feminists, Weldon notes that marital relationships are not the sole preoccupation of women in the 1980s. Examination of female freedom to travel, peruse a career and attend university fosters an enhanced appreciation of the restrictions placed upon Regency women. Nevertheless, via analogy, Weldon comments upon the trivialisation of marriage as “the stuff of women’s magazines” in Alice’s post-modern context. Illustrating the constraints of primogeniture and conditions under which women lived with factual detail that “only 30%...married”, the persona of Aunt Fay seeks to revise the responder’s understanding of Mrs Bennett’s “anxiety for her five unmarried daughters”. Though Aunt Fay admits that she is “looking at society from the outside in, not the inside out”, by taking a self professed “tender” view of this character she is able to effectively elicit pathos from the responder. Furthermore, Weldon encourages reconsideration of Charlotte Lucas’ entry into marriage (a metaphoric “prize”) by highlighting the position of disenfranchised women in contemporary society. Stating that “now the pretty girl from Java marries the rancher from Australia…to escape hunger and poverty” Weldon lays bare the paradox of having come so far and yet, in some parts of the world, having gained so little.


From reading these samples, here are a couple of essential points about Module A that I hope you take away and apply to your own writing:

1)   A comparative study allows the responder to appreciate the contiguity of context and values and encourages the responder to reflect upon their own society’s preoccupations and concerns.
2)   A comparative study of a text from a bygone era and a relatively modern text prompts the responder to consider the extent of societal progress and the importance of perspective when analysing texts (as well as the notion that the responder’s context becomes an important determiner of meaning.)
3)   The act of comparison can deepen analysis.
4)   Context and questions of value have a significant impact upon literary and authorial intentions.

Finally, as with all Modules, Mod A asks you to consider the language of a text and its impact upon an audience. What this means it that in order to write a band 6 essay you will need to include extensive close textual analysis and demonstrate your understanding of the ways in which literary techniques and authorial ideas are employed to elicit a response from the responder.

Although Mod A essays can be difficult, with a little bit of practice, you can master the act of comparison ;)

Good luck to everyone with half yearlies soon! Please feel free to ask as many questions as you like :)

Other Guides:
How to Write a Module C Essay
How to Write a Module B Essay
How to Write an Area of Study Essay
Creative Writing - Advice from a Cambridge Uni Student
How to Write an English Extension Ways of Thinking Essay
« Last Edit: June 11, 2015, 05:47:34 pm by Ned Nerb »
18, going to Cambridge University in October to study History :) received a 99.7 ATAR in the 2014 HSC.

anishka

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Re: Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2016, 02:40:27 pm »
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 :) :)

conic curve

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Re: Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2016, 09:23:19 pm »
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What are some of the themes which surround Module A and it's rubric?

elysepopplewell

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Re: Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2016, 10:03:30 pm »
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What are some of the themes which surround Module A and it's rubric?

A little bit about Module A can be found on page 30 of this huge document written by BOSTES :)

The module is about comparing texts, so you'll find the themes in the next. Usually, themes cross over the two studied texts with some alterations :)
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conic curve

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Re: Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2016, 10:58:58 am »
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A little bit about Module A can be found on page 30 of this huge document written by BOSTES :)

The module is about comparing texts, so you'll find the themes in the next. Usually, themes cross over the two studied texts with some alterations :)

I meant what other themes can they assess you on in Module A? Historical, social and cultural context or what?

jamonwindeyer

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Re: Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2016, 11:20:45 am »
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I meant what other themes can they assess you on in Module A? Historical, social and cultural context or what?

All of the above and many more; the options are really limitless in Module A because as Elyse said: The themes they assess you on in Module A come from the texts you are studying.

For example, look at the variety of questions asked last year for Module A:

  • Does Looking for Richard offer new insights about deceit or simply affirm those offered in King Richard III?
  • Does Tirra Lirra by the River offer new insights on isolation or simply affirm those
    offered in Tennyson’s poetry?
  • Does the treatment of personal loss in Dubliners and Heaney’s poetry reveal similarities or reinforce the texts’ distinctive qualities?

You can see how the questions vary based on the texts and their main themes. They can and will blend in historical/social/cultural context stuff as you mentioned, and more stuff found in the syllabus. The number of combinations possible is really large, but as Elyse said, all will ask for a comparison between the texts' themes and/or how they are explored.

elysepopplewell

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Re: Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2016, 11:26:59 am »
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I meant what other themes can they assess you on in Module A? Historical, social and cultural context or what?

Your knowledge of all of those contexts (historical, social and cultural) are extremely important in Module A, because you need to appreciate two texts in their respective contexts. However, this is only one aspect of your analysis! Your understanding of textual manipulation, as well as literary themes, will also be assessed.
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conic curve

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Re: Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2016, 01:38:50 pm »
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If I were to talk about historical context in a film, would I have to talk about say like the music used and the background of the film and how it is related to its time frame it was made in?

jamonwindeyer

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Re: Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2016, 01:43:15 pm »
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If I were to talk about historical context in a film, would I have to talk about say like the music used and the background of the film and how it is related to its time frame it was made in?

It would definitely be worth including! In relation to the themes. EG:

The use of jazz music, typical of 1950's film noir, resonates with the contextual audience, thus accentuating audience interest in the exploration of _______.

Essentially, any historical detail is great as long as you can relate it to a theme or something else relevant to the essay  :D

conic curve

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Re: Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2016, 02:02:40 pm »
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It would definitely be worth including! In relation to the themes. EG:

The use of jazz music, typical of 1950's film noir, resonates with the contextual audience, thus accentuating audience interest in the exploration of _______.

Essentially, any historical detail is great as long as you can relate it to a theme or something else relevant to the essay  :D

Great, if it was historical context in a book, would I have to talk about the language used in the book and how it reflected on the time frame in the story, e.g. the derogatory term "wog"

jamonwindeyer

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Re: Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2016, 02:27:08 pm »
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Great, if it was historical context in a book, would I have to talk about the language used in the book and how it reflected on the time frame in the story, e.g. the derogatory term "wog"

Yeah absolutely! Definitely worth including, anything similar to that is a great thing to have ready to use  :D

dreamdog10

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Re: Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2016, 03:20:13 pm »
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Hi! Im doing Richard III and Looking for Richard for my Module A essay and i wanted to do 3 integrated paragraphs but im finding it hard to have 3 separate ideas that don't completely overlap each other, any ideas?
HSC 2016: 3U english: 44, english: 88, 3U maths: 44, maths: 91 ancient history: 90, biology: 86 and VA: 95

brenden

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Re: Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2016, 10:19:37 pm »
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Hi! Im doing Richard III and Looking for Richard for my Module A essay and i wanted to do 3 integrated paragraphs but im finding it hard to have 3 separate ideas that don't completely overlap each other, any ideas?
Hey, do you mean your difficulty is like...

a) you want to integrate the paragraphs
but
b) you want the paragraphs to be distinct from one another

and you're struggling to achieve a) and b) at the same time? is that the issue at the moment?
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ssarahj

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Re: Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2016, 10:30:44 pm »
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Hi! Im doing Richard III and Looking for Richard for my Module A essay and i wanted to do 3 integrated paragraphs but im finding it hard to have 3 separate ideas that don't completely overlap each other, any ideas?

just a lil side note for later when you've figured out your paragraphs:
the little connections and ideas that overlap can be helpful for when you're creating your thesis and making sure your essay has a clear trajectory/flow, so don't let that stuff go to waste!!  :)

« Last Edit: July 12, 2016, 10:38:50 pm by ssarahj »
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dreamdog10

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Re: Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2016, 07:55:10 pm »
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Hey, do you mean your difficulty is like...

a) you want to integrate the paragraphs
but
b) you want the paragraphs to be distinct from one another

and you're struggling to achieve a) and b) at the same time? is that the issue at the moment?

Yep! but im not even sure if integrated paragraphs is the way i should be going.
HSC 2016: 3U english: 44, english: 88, 3U maths: 44, maths: 91 ancient history: 90, biology: 86 and VA: 95