Stage 2 | Subject Outline | Version control

English Literary Studies Stage 2
Subject outline

Version 1.0
For teaching in 2021. Accredited in May 2015 for teaching at Stage 2 from 2017.

Stage 2 | Subject outline | Content | Responding to texts

Responding to texts

Through their study of literary texts, students understand how readers are influenced to respond to their own and others’ cultural experiences, and how the expectations of audiences shape perceptions of texts and their significance. Students make comparisons between texts in different literary forms and mediums and from different traditions. Students observe ways in which Australian authors represent culture, place, and identity as well as ways in which perspectives in texts from other times and cultures may be read and interpreted by a contemporary Australian audience. Students observe how interpretations of texts may vary over time, and develop an understanding of literary texts in their historical and cultural contexts.

There is a particular focus on how ideas, perspectives, values, attitudes, and emotions are conveyed in literary texts. Students develop an understanding of how literary conventions and stylistic features are used in texts to create meaning and effect. Through a close study of techniques in texts, students develop an understanding of ways in which language, structural, and stylistic choices communicate values and attitudes and may shed new light on familiar ideas. Students are supported to appreciate the aesthetic qualities of literary texts.

Critical perspectives

Students consider factors that affect different readers’ interpretations of a text. They develop an understanding that a text may be interpreted from a range of critical perspectives and that each may emphasise different textual features. Students become familiar with a number of critical perspectives and develop an understanding that the position adopted in a critical perspective reflects a particular interpretation of a text, shaped by an understanding of how the text is seen to represent society and culture. By exploring a range of critical interpretations students understand that a single text may be interpreted in a number of different ways.

By considering the critical perspectives on a particular text, students deepen their knowledge of the text and are challenged to develop and support their own interpretations. Contrasting critical interpretations may emphasise the role of the author or the role of the reader in shaping the ‘meaning’ of the text, or students may focus on the text as a sociocultural product or as an artefact or icon that stands apart from its historical context.

Some critical interpretations present a blend of such emphases and others adopt one as the primary lens through which a text may be read. Through their study of texts and interpretations of texts, students develop an understanding of the assumptions that shape critical analysis. Such assumptions may, for example, be about the virtues of particular forms and styles, cultural and personal values and beliefs, or perceptions about the status of the author. By understanding different critical perspectives, students expand the number of meanings that they are able to read in a particular text.

In English Literary Studies, students compose analytical texts in response to their text studies. They present informed and sustained interpretations of texts, supported by close textual analysis. In their analytical texts, students use appropriate critical terminology to evaluate texts and justify interpretations. They develop skills in critically evaluating their own and others’ justifications, evidence, and points of view.

Responding to texts consists of:

  • shared studies
  • comparative text study.

Shared studies

Among the texts chosen for shared study there must be a:

  • study of three texts
    • one extended prose text
    • one film text
    • one drama text
  • study of poetry
  • study of a range of short texts.

The shared studies must include the work of at least one Australian author. (The author may be a poet, playwright, prose writer, or film director).

Study of three texts

This study focuses on the role of the author in creating a text and the part played by the reader in making meaning of the text. The study is designed to address the ideas, values, and emotions explored in the texts. It entails a focus on the role of language techniques and stylistic features in achieving a variety of possible purposes. In this study, students develop an understanding of the ways in which different critical perspectives can shape interpretations of texts.

The study of three texts is a shared activity based on texts chosen by the teacher. There must be one extended prose text, one film text, and one drama text. Two of the texts must be from the text list (on pp. 18–20). The third may be from this list but is not required to be.

Study of poetry

This study is designed to explore and evaluate ways in which poets influence readers to respond to their own and others’ cultural experiences, and how ideas, perspectives, and values are conveyed through a range of language techniques and stylistic features. Students become familiar with ways in which specific poetic elements and forms shape meaning and influence responses, and develop an awareness of how various poetic conventions have been employed within and across historical and cultural contexts. In developing their own independent and informed interpretations of poetic texts, students learn to apply appropriate critical terminology to evaluate and support their interpretations.

The study of poetry is a shared activity in which teachers choose poems that focus on the works of at least three poets. At least one of the poets must be chosen from the poets on the text list (on p. 20); the remaining poet or poets are not required to be chosen from the list.

The selection must allow students to consider and compare the works of the chosen poets, but could also include a wider range of poems to cover students’ individual interests and choices, particularly if the teacher organises the study of poetry around a theme.

Study of a range of short texts

This study involves the reading of a range of short texts that may include prose fiction and non-fiction, poetry, and texts with graphic or visual elements. Students use close textual analysis to support and develop an informed and sustained interpretation of a range of short texts. The interpretation should take into account the relationship between authors, texts, audiences, and contexts, by analysing aspects such as the power of language to represent ideas, events, and people in particular ways. The study should include consideration of comparisons between short texts. Students develop and apply their understanding of ways in which ideas, perspectives, and values are communicated through language and stylistic features in texts. Students develop skills to communicate their analysis and evaluation of texts, using appropriate critical terminology.

Comparative text study

This study involves the comparative study of two texts: one from the shared studies and the other independently chosen by the student.

Text from the shared studies

The text from the shared studies may be:

  • an extended prose text
  • a film text
  • a drama text
  • poetry texts.

This text may be the same one for the whole class but is not required to be.

Independently chosen text

The second text in the comparative text study is selected by the student in consultation with the teacher. It is advisable for the teacher to discuss ideas for pairings during the study of the shared texts. The most appropriate pairings are those likely to produce ample scope for establishing both similarities and differences, and may focus on:

  • work by the same author
  • a common theme, idea, or topic
  • the same or a contrasting historical or literary period (either of text production or setting)
  • work that is similar or different in form or medium
  • work from similar or different cultural perspectives
  • an interpretation from a particular critical perspective.

The text or texts chosen by the student may be drawn from the similarly wide range of options governing the teacher’s selection of the shared texts, but this second text must not be another text from the shared studies. This second text must be studied in comparison with the initial text. Although the study is undertaken independently, teachers have a key role in supervising and advising students.

In their comparative study, students could focus, for example, on one or more of:

  • the ideas and perspectives explored in the text
  • the sociocultural context in which the text was generated
  • the assumptions and bias in the text
  • the form, medium, and mode of the text
  • the language and stylistic techniques used by the author
  • the context in which the text is being read or viewed
  • a range of critical interpretations of the text.

Studying two texts in relation to each other allows students to broaden their understanding of the constructed nature of texts and to gain a better understanding of the influence of sociocultural contexts on both the text and the response of the reader. The influence of context on language, and the way in which power, bias, and discrimination are embedded in language can be considered. By studying one text in relation to another, and analysing the connections between the texts, students can see that the same idea, experience, emotion, or opinion can be treated in different ways. In this study, students also consider different ways of reading texts in the context of time, place, culture, and the traditions of a range of critical perspectives and/or reading positions. Students therefore explore the relationship between language, culture, and identity. Students may synthesise and challenge the interpretations of others, developing their own analytical responses.