Discovery, Advanced and Standard HSC – Shakespeare’s Tempest and Frost’s Poetry

By now many of you will have completed your first assessment task on the unit of Discovery. There are still some schools that will have decided to start with the Discovery unit in term 1 of 2015.

All of you will be required to revisit the Discovery unit in your pre-trial examinations and certainly again in your trials and HSC.

As part of the Discovery Unit you will by now be aware that not all schools choose the same set text for Discovery. However, by far the most popular text for advanced students selected by the majority of schools is Shakespeare’s Tempest. The other common text used for standard students’ is Robert Frost’s poetry.

I have decided to offer a few reflections of my own on the nature of Discovery which I hope will provide students with an orientation that is flexible enough to apply to all set texts suggested by the Board of Studies.

Remember this is only a small preamble the rest of the notes, that will be available for purchasing with a far more detail, and pertain specifically to set texts such as: The Tempest and Robert Frost’s poetry.

Both these texts are poetic in form it is essential for students to consider the symbolism, motifs and figurative language that are used to convey the processes undergone by individuals that bring about discovery.

The socio-political context of our world creates bubbles of insularity and by pushing ourselves beyond these limitations, the discovery and unlocking of social and individual potential becomes attainable.

Discovery may refer to the unveiling not only of personal characteristics regarding the self but that of our world. Without discovery the possibility for human evolution and individual growth remain stagnant. Through the experiential, the individual may be compelled to reassess their own values and attitudes, as the limitations posed by his or her environment are not always conducive to growth. Thus discovery often necessitates the movement away from the insularity of an individual’s world to embrace or consider other ways of being.


The Tempest

Although the plot of the Tempest is easy enough to follow, students must have an understanding of Shakespeare’s heavily laden social and political commentary clearly influenced by16 Century Renaissance values and imperialist exploits. An understanding of context is not only a prerequisite for the HSC learning outcomes but essential for students in their understanding of the moral decisions taken by the central characters of the play.

Unfortunately, because of the pressures of the HSC academic school year, many of my students who are currently studying the Tempest either skim read it in school or were shown the film. This is simply not adequate for year 12 HSC. Those of you who are looking to excel in English must be entirely familiar with the text and all of its scenes. Allowing the choices and scenes to be chosen only by your teachers without your own perspective limits your ability to pick and choose which scenes work best for you, what you as an individual have discovered and finally; how best to marry your related text with the Tempest.

Related Texts.

Many related texts chosen by students are too plot based and lack philosophic or symbolic depth. This can be problematic as it becomes difficult to advance an argument on the nature of Discovery, if the discovery is too literal. Remember, there is very little literal discovery in the Tempest. The discoveries are really centred – around moral introspection, human understanding and the capacity for humility. Students often cite the same texts as each other making it tiresome for HSC markers. Please remember all people, markers too want to be challenged; want to discover!

Studying here at Educare Sydney will enable me to introduce you to texts, which will:

  1. Enable you to forge a connection between your set text and your related chosen text.
  2. Facilitate your own discovery of the text and its relationship to your world.
  3. Provide enough social and historical contexts for the set text and help you engage with the figurative and textual components allowing you to construct an essay filled with thought and depth.

Robert Frost

Like The Tempest, Frost’s poetry also reflects on human limitations and frailties. His poetry encourages reflection on the interpretation of human experience, which in turn prompts a re-evaluation of our own position in the world. His poetry is not only evocative in mood, but also speculative in flavour encouraging us to reflect on the philosophic and sometimes facile perceptions of human experience and interpretation. Humor is used as a device by Frost to offer ironic commentary and facilitate a shift in thinking. It is a humor, which varies from macabre, to light hearted and sometimes is simply provocative in nature.

As this is a text, which is poetic in form, it is essential for students to be able to marry the mood of the text, it’s poetic form, symbolism and the use of voice with their own understanding of the persona’s discovery and of course that of their own.

Related Texts

Although this text has been chosen for standard students, the difficulty with this module arises when students need to find a related text to connect the concept of discovery conceptually with Frost’s poetry.

In the pre-trial and certainly in the trial and HSC examination students will need to write an essay of at least 1,000 words on Discovery. The trick will be to have clear themes, which can be conceptually linked to the theme of Discovery in Frost’s poetry and on the related text.

Once again, I must stress that simplistic interpretations on Frost’s poetry can mar the conceptual depth needed for a well  written response.

It may be that at some stage next year I include together with the purchasing of notes on the Tempest and Robert Frost a guide on related materials, which would work effectively together.

Do not leave the decisions for related texts to the last minute and please be aware that even if you have not been required to write an essay incorporating a related and set text – this task will be a necessary prerequisite for the trials and HSC examination. A task, which I will gladly help you achieve here at Educare Sydney.

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