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Author Topic: How to Write a Module B Essay  (Read 83110 times)

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The-Cambridge-Student

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How to Write a Module B Essay
« on: March 29, 2015, 04:45:33 pm »
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How to Write a Module B Essay

How is meaning shaped in a text? What does a close and critical study require? How can I best show my understanding in my analysis? These are just a few of the questions this guide and sample essay will explore.

Breaking down the Syllabus:

For English lovers, Module B is a fantastic topic, which, in my opinion, provides students with an important opportunity to distinguish themselves from their peers. When reading your Mod B text, think about your understanding of its themes, enduring truths and authorial messages. You will be marked on how well you are able to articulate and maintain this personal response throughout your essay.

Perhaps one of the most important tips I can give in relation to a Mod B essay is the fact that you must analyse a text in its entirety and in doing explain how a composer employs language, content, features and construction to develop meaning. In essence, you must write about the whole novel, play or film you have been set, paying particular attention to the ways in which character development contributes to an author’s message and the integrity of the text. 

Furthermore, as BOSTES state on their website, “Discussing and evaluating notions of context and the perspectives of others amplifies the exploration of the ideas in the text, enabling a deeper and richer understanding.” What this means is that a discussion of context – when skilfully integrated – will greatly enhance the quality of your essay and will allow you to extrapolate your personal response. As the syllabus asks you to explore the reception of a text, you should include reference to a composer’s contemporary audience, a modern audience and any other periods of time you see fit.

Ultimately, to achieve a band six, you need to consistently and thoroughly explore questions of textual integrity and significance in relation to your text by using pertinent evidence and insightful analysis.

What kind of questions could you be asked and how should you respond?

Module B Questions will be written so as to encourage you to develop a personal response. Often, they will be a statement regarding a theme such as loss, alienation, power, gender, the human condition, loyalty or societal tensions. This list is by no means all encompassing; nevertheless, scanning the themes I have mentioned should give you some idea of what might be put forward. No matter what, you must answer the question, even if you feel that the ideas it raises do not ‘fit’ with what you have prepared. For this reason, it is often useful to practice writing ‘conceptual’ paragraphs.

I should also note that although themes such as, for example, loyalty might seem quite specific, your ideas can be adapted to answer a question. For example, there are many different types of loyalty, including loyalty to self, loyalty to friends, loyalty to ideas and societal structure, religious loyalty etc. If you find that you are really stuck, you can also brainstorm more ‘figurative’ interpretations of the ideas raised.

Should I use Critics?

Including the opinion of critics can be useful but is not necessary, and should only be done if such information strengthens your thesis. If you do include quotes from critics, you need to articulate your response to their position and engage with their ideas.

An example of my own Mod B Writing for Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

Below, I have included one of my full marks Hamlet essays to show you how to structure a band 6 response.

The inevitable tensions between the individual and society are the foundations for the most engaging moments in Hamlet.

Through an introspective dialogue of binary oppositions, in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet Prince of Denmark, individuals seek to reconcile their identity and moral conscience with a variety of competing societal expectations. Confronted by the disparities of a world in figurative decay, characters experience internal conflict as they search, largely in vain, for definitive answers to questions of duty, authenticity and mortality. By portraying the human experience as a series of tensions between the individual and society, Shakespeare explores his protagonist’s tragic self-awareness. In doing so, he lays the foundations for scenes of moral uncertainty and metaphysical anguish that I believe are the most universally engaging moments in Hamlet.

The desire of Shakespeare’s protagonist Hamlet to forge or elucidate a personal identity, independent of societal definitions, is fundamentally problematised amidst spreading ‘corruption’. Living within a metaphorical “prison” of perennial surveillance that Shakespeare employs to mirror the Elizabethan Court at the turn of 17th century, Hamlet perceives that, in light of his father’s “foul’ murder, Denmark has been rendered “rotten”. For this reason, Shakespeare personifies the State as the body of old King Hamlet with the synecdochic images of Denmark’s “ear” “Rankly abused” (1.5.38). Incorporating mythological and biblical allusions, Shakespeare further juxtaposes old Hamlet – a “Hyperion” and a “stallion like the herald Mercury” (3.4.57) – with Claudius, a “serpent that did sting thy father’s life/Now wears his crown” (1.5.39). Honour “bound to hear” the testament of the “apparition” that purports to be his father, Hamlet’s humanist ideals that place mankind below angels in a Renaissance conception of ‘Great Chain of Being’ are severely undermined upon hearing of Claudius’ murderous act. Nevertheless, Hamlet cannot passively endure Denmark’s corruption, as he asserts that he has been “born to set it right”. In this way, by highlighting Hamlet’s acute consciousness of his social responsibility, Shakespeare establishes the foundations for his protagonist’s timelessly engaging crisis of identity.   

Exposed to Renaissance discourse, yet disillusioned by the expectations of a corrupted society, Hamlet’s consideration of humanist philosophy places him in conflict with medieval notions of ‘Duty’. In Hamlet’s soliloquy (1.5.91-112) “O all you host of heaven”, Shakespeare utilises tautological repetition of phrases such as “Remember thee!” alongside comparisons of the “heart” and the head – a “distracted globe” – to establish a dichotomy between dutiful, impassioned revenge and rational action. Employing the foil of young Fortinbras, a ‘medieval’ figure, Shakespeare deepens Hamlet’s sense of divided duty, while heightening the dramatic tension between ‘action’ and ‘inaction’, by illustrating an alternative young man’s pursuit of “foresaid lands” and vengeance for his father. The code of chivalry that Fortinbras upholds values brutal vengeance, and is linked through Shakespeare’s classical allusion to “the mightiest Julius” with a violent Roman past that preoccupied the medieval imagination. In contrast, as A.C Swinburne rightly affirms, Hamlet’s innermost nature is subject to a “strong conflux of contending forces”. This can be seen when Hamlet asks his father’s ‘spirit’, if he brings “airs from heaven or blasts from hell”. By utilising antithesis, Shakespeare elucidates Hamlet’s uncertainty regarding the origin of the ghost, an “apparition” that asks him to forsake Christian morality through enacting revenge. Thus, torn between the expectations of filial duty and societal notions of God’s divine justice, Hamlet attempts to proceed in the manner of a rational Renaissance man, asserting, “I’ll have grounds more relative than this”. Ultimately, in moments such as these, Shakespeare problematizes conventions of the revenge tragedy form by making his protagonist introspective, thus elucidating competing perceptions of ‘Duty’ that appeal to his responder as compelling explorations of moral uncertainty.

Tensions between the individual’s struggle for authenticity and widespread societal deception extend Hamlet’s anguished questions of duty and morality. Caught between ‘authentic’ and ‘responsible’ action, Hamlet remains “unpregnant” of his cause and thus unable to achieve self-definition within societal expectations. As a consequence, Hamlet’s paradoxical decision to seek authenticity in deception by putting on an “antic disposition” is emblematic of the entire play - juxtaposition of ‘appearance’ and ‘reality’ being crucial to its structure. In accordance with Polonius’ maxim “The apparel oft proclaims the man” (1.3.72), clothing becomes a powerful image of disguise. Thus Hamlet’s assumption of a ‘costume’ (“doublet unbraced, No hat upon his head” (2.1.78), symbolises his outward show of madness. For this reason, Hamlet’s soliloquy “O what a rogue and peasant slave I am” (2.2.501-558) provides an engaging moment of private introspection that, in the context of Hamlet’s ‘pretence’, elucidates the intensity of his private struggle. Reinforcing the motif of theatrical “show”, Hamlet’s soliloquy resembles a play within a play. The accusations that Hamlet hurls at himself reflect roles that an actor might adopt:  “villain,” “rogue,” “rascal,” “coward”. Furthermore, as the soliloquy proceeds, Hamlet moves from being a self-flagellant questioner, to the role of a scheming playwright. By employing alliteration when Hamlet states “What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba?” Shakespeare achieves fluidity of Hamlet’s dialogue with a sonorous quality that, in the manner of a player, effectively cleaves “the general ear”. Nevertheless, unable to act upon his filial duty, Hamlet is appalled that a player, “But in a fiction, in a dream of passion” can “force his soul” so that “his whole function” is committed to his role, “And all for nothing”. In this way, Shakespeare’s responder is captivated by Hamlet’s inability to actualise his ‘duty’ to avenge.

Comparatively, when ambitious individuals reject societal expectations, resultant internal conflict forms the foundation for moments of dramatically engaging theological anguish and moral questioning. A complex villain, Hamlet’s uncle Claudius is not a static character, but rather a Machiavellian man who takes Renaissance humanism (with its focus on individualism) to its logical extreme. Though Claudius is an adept statesman whose rehearsed, antithetical statement “With mirth in funeral and dirge in marriage” embodies his diplomatic skill, Shakespeare employs the extended metaphor of “plastering art” upon the “harlot’s cheek” to emphasise the ugly “burden” upon Claudius’ conscience. For this reason, Claudius’ confessional soliloquy “O, my offence is rank it smells to heaven” (3.3.36-72), is an engaging moment in which he concedes that he cannot seek absolution for misdoings when still “possessed/Of those effects for which I did the murder/ My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.” Claudius’ tragic self-awareness is dramatically emphasised by his physical isolation and by his repetition of the inarticulate sound “O” which breaks the pattern of intensive verbal design that has, until this point, characterised his speech. Invoking references to “heaven”, Shakespeare reinforces Claudius’ “rank”, unnatural offense with biblical allusion to “the primal eldest curse”, Cain’s murder of Abel. Furthermore, Claudius’ imperative self-command “Bow stubborn knees, be soft as the sinews of a new-born babe” evokes an image of vulnerability that unsuccessfully attempts to mimic contrition. Ultimately, though Claudius takes responsibility for his violation of fraternal duty, his theological questions remain unanswered, words flying “up to heaven”, thoughts remaining “below”.

Dramatic tension between societal duty and the individual’s conception of mortality is the foundation for universally engaging moments of paralysis or empowerment for Hamlet as he confronts the metaphysical paradoxes of an ambiguous world. Shakespeare’s preferred form in which to explore ‘tragic self-awareness’ central to the play’s structure – the soliloquy – is once again employed for Hamlet’s  “To be or not to be” speech. Use of the opening rhetorical question “That is the question” betrays Hamlet’s deep existential scepticism towards the notion of traditional duty in the face of unalterable human weakness and the certainty of death, described with the metaphor “a thousand natural shocks”. Shakespeare’s further use of cataloguing and chain syllogism in Hamlet’s discussion with Claudius, “a man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king and eat of the fish that fed of that worm”, subverts the paradigm of divinely imposed duty and the traditional Elizabethan perception of a King as an ‘immortal’ figure.  To a large extent, Hamlet is paralysed by his inability to achieve definitive metaphysical answers, thus espousing the nihilistic statement “What piece of work is man!/And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust”. As an extension of Hamlet’s obsession with the physicality of death, this motif of dust is reiterated when, as he contemplates the skull of Yorik, Hamlet alludes to Alexander the great as an indomitable human figure who  “returneth into dust” and might now “stop a beer-barrel”. Yet as he stares into the twin abyss of Yorrik’s hollow eyes, Hamlet symbolically confronts the very face of death. For this reason, it is only when Hamlet grasps the fragile nature of human life and the return of history’s greatest men such as Caesar to “clay” that he can he stoically accept death’s consequence and allow himself to be guided by an intuitive sense of duty. In this way, Hamlet’s reconciliation of his metaphysical anxiety and society’s competing demands with his sense of personal identity enables him to take dutiful action in Shakespeare’s final scene.

Shakespeare’s examination of his protagonists’ tragic self-awareness makes Hamlet an extraordinarily alluring play.  While characters vacillate between action and inaction, appearance and reality, introspection and careless disregard, ultimately, tensions between the individual and society manifest in scenes of metaphysical and moral anguish that remain the most engaging moments of this play.


That’s all for this week! Happy writing :P

Other Guides:
How to Write a Module C Essay
How to Write an Area of Study Essay
Writing an English Advanced Module A Essay
Creative Writing - Advice from a Cambridge Uni Student
How to Write an English Extension Ways of Thinking Essay
« Last Edit: June 11, 2015, 05:46:24 pm by Ned Nerb »
18, going to Cambridge University in October to study History :) received a 99.7 ATAR in the 2014 HSC.

zhamka

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Re: How to Write a Module B Essay
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2015, 06:59:55 pm »
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What Other Subjects did you do?

The-Cambridge-Student

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Re: How to Write a Module B Essay
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2015, 10:50:33 pm »
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What Other Subjects did you do?

I did four units of english, modern history, ancient history, extension history and legal studies :)
18, going to Cambridge University in October to study History :) received a 99.7 ATAR in the 2014 HSC.

Ziggsy

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Re: How to Write a Module B Essay
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2016, 01:58:39 pm »
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That was really insightful, thanks! Do you have any advice for answering questions that ask about specific scenes?

Ziggsy

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Re: How to Write a Module B Essay
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2016, 01:59:37 pm »
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Found an article that walks you through how to answer the 2014 exam question which asks for a specific scene: https://sleightofpen.com/2016/07/04/how-to-write-a-band-6-thesis-statement-hsc-module-b-hamlet/

elysepopplewell

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Re: How to Write a Module B Essay
« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2016, 05:44:16 pm »
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That was really insightful, thanks! Do you have any advice for answering questions that ask about specific scenes?

I think if you are asked about a scene (or poem, if you are studying poetry) that you aren't strong in, it is important to focus on the key themes supported in that scene, and then if you have nothing at all to say about that scene in terms of analysis, then link the themes present to the other scenes you are more comfortable analysing. This is incase you get into the exam with NOTHING to say! Let's hope that doesn't happen! It's really hard to study every scene in depth, particularly when certain ones will stand out to you as being more outstanding than others. It's important to know the text widely. There's nothing stopping the exam from asking you about the very last scene. This is the kind of thing that would catch out a lot of people who never got to the end!
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conic curve

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Re: How to Write a Module B Essay
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2016, 09:22:52 pm »
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What are all the themes/ideas that surround module B and it's rubric?

elysepopplewell

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Re: How to Write a Module B Essay
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2016, 10:00:08 pm »
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What are all the themes/ideas that surround module B and it's rubric?

You can find a bunch of Module B related documents here!

As for themes, you discover them yourself through studying the text. Past papers will give you a good direction about the themes that may arise! :)

Moderator Action by Jamon: Fixed Link
« Last Edit: July 07, 2016, 12:24:09 am by jamonwindeyer »
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Aliceyyy98

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Re: How to Write a Module B Essay
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2016, 05:21:45 pm »
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Hi!

I am quite stuck writing an introduction for Module, since it's only one text we are focusing one, what other things do I need to talk about apart from my thesis?

Thanks!

jamonwindeyer

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Re: How to Write a Module B Essay
« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2016, 11:38:02 pm »
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Hi!

I am quite stuck writing an introduction for Module, since it's only one text we are focusing one, what other things do I need to talk about apart from my thesis?

Thanks!

Hey!! A Module B introduction should go something like this:

- Thesis
- Amplification (Extra Detail on Thesis)
- Introduce the Text and Composer
- Introduce themes to be discussed in the essay
- Link the composers use of techniques to the audience (both universal and contextual)
- Make your judgement about the effectiveness of these techniques in portraying the themes

That is the general mould I follow  ;D

Aliceyyy98

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Re: How to Write a Module B Essay
« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2016, 12:33:41 am »
+1
thanks heaps! That helped a lot!!!!!


Hey!! A Module B introduction should go something like this:

- Thesis
- Amplification (Extra Detail on Thesis)
- Introduce the Text and Composer
- Introduce themes to be discussed in the essay
- Link the composers use of techniques to the audience (both universal and contextual)
- Make your judgement about the effectiveness of these techniques in portraying the themes

That is the general mould I follow  ;D

elysepopplewell

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Re: How to Write a Module B Essay
« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2016, 10:43:35 pm »
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Hi!

I am quite stuck writing an introduction for Module, since it's only one text we are focusing one, what other things do I need to talk about apart from my thesis?

Thanks!

and don't forget to use adverbs for Module B! You're talking about a personal response to the texts, so adverbs (sophisticated ones!) are more appropriate here than they are in any other module. :)
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senara

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Re: How to Write a Module B Essay
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2016, 01:48:16 pm »
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When using critiques do we just state who they are by or do we have to state where it was published?

elysepopplewell

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Re: How to Write a Module B Essay
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2016, 02:15:21 pm »
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When using critiques do we just state who they are by or do we have to state where it was published?

Are you referring to scholarly opinions and quotes? I tried to embed my quotes by saying something like, "As Professor Green of UNSW has observed, "***>>>##^$*#"

If you aren't embedding them (and sometimes you just can't!) then I wouldn't stress about where it was published if it sounds too long and awkward, but perhaps a year when they said it.
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conic curve

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Re: How to Write a Module B Essay
« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2016, 05:04:24 pm »
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This is a sample essay paragraph I found (on hamlet) and I'm stuggling to understand the structure of a body paragraph (what you have to write in a body paragraph)

The use of delay to create a play which happens outside of ‘reality’ and thus remains internalised and wrought with anaphasia is most evident in the characterisation of Hamlet. Hamlet’s diction is littered with binary oppositions, such as in his opening line “a little more than kin and less than kind”, indicating that he inhabits and speaks within a space where the constant state of flux has rendered ideas without opposition unpalatable. Hamlet’s inability to speak without binary oppositions is directly related to his inability to act, and this is shown in his soliloquy, “to be or not to be, that is the question”, where the binary oppositions of existence and selfhood are placed in the sphere of movement, only to cause further inaction, adding to the overall delay of the play. It is this delay in the action which causes Act 5 Scene 2 to erupt with such bloodshed, as shown through the repetitious stage directions: “He dies”, and “dies” are repeated four times in the scene. And yet, even in the single scene of action in this play, these deaths, too, are delayed. Laertes, Gertrude, Claudius and Hamlet all speak between receiving their final wounds and dying, indicating that it is the loss of speech, rather than loss of life, that is the most crucial part of mankind, and will be lost in death. In addition to this, despite the question of whether or not to kill Claudius functioning within the play as a metaphor for the question of whether or not existence is worthwhile, it is Claudius who is the last to die (barring Hamlet), delaying resolution even in a moment of confrontation. This delay and its cause has been widely attributed to the Elizabethan guilt complex, and obsession with “the functions of conscience and especially its morbid preoccupation with past sins and omissions” (Reed, 1958). By obsessing over the dangers of inaction, Hamlet creates further delay for himself, ultimately halting any action or resolution that the play could come to.


Could someone here please explain to be this body paragraph and the structure of it because I can't seem to understand the structure of these things

Thanks