Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences – Nineteen Eighty-Four – Preview


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HSC Study Notes


Nineteen Eighty-Four

Gabriella Finberg Nagata



NESA launched a new English Syllabus effective from 2019 until 2023. These study sheets have been compiled to aid in the understanding of the Advanced English Stage 6 Syllabus requirements of 2019-2020 and to provide textual guidance with suggested referencing. In keeping with NESA’s requirements, the notes are designed to demonstrate the connection between the ideas explored in Nineteen Eighty-Four and how these ideas reflect the human experience.

By engaging with the ideas and assumptions raised in the text, students will be better able to access related materials and texts that reflect similar ideas and dismantle social and political preconceptions about our world.

The notes will examine the symbolic power of characterisation and narrative voice allowing students to understand the way Orwell’s ideas provoke new insights and ways of seeing the world.

An essential component of the common module is a student’s understanding of how context, purpose, structure, stylistic and grammatical features, and form shape meaning. The notes created on Nineteen Eighty-Four will facilitate students’ understanding of how and why meaning is conveyed and shaped through the language of their texts, an appreciation of the literary and aesthetic components of their texts, and to offer an understanding as to why social contexts influence meaning and interpretation.

The notes provided are multifaceted in nature, offering literary insights that are intended to complement and extend a student’s responses to set texts; providing the student with a conceptual framework that is theme based, but flexible enough to allow student input. The notes examine and develop ideas in the areas of:

Context – the author’s/composer’s and our contemporary contexts;

Themes – relating to the Common Module, and relating to the set text;

Technique – the use of literary or cinematic techniques; with suggested references from the set text.

These study sheets are not designed to act as crib notes but rather to be used only after the text has been read thoroughly. They are intended to complement the class teacher’s perspective and NESA’s HSC Prescriptions 2019-2023.

Once a student has read the text, and I must stress the importance of reading the text, the notes offer a refreshing and in-depth exploration of the core ideas and values, engaging the students every step of the way and defusing many of the fears associated with exploration of the features of the language and ideas embedded in literature.

Thematic notions can be drawn out of most texts. These themes may then form the basis of extended responses, speeches or other written forms of expression. The study sheets will enable students to not only understand the themes, but more importantly, consider the more critical components of their texts and, in keeping with the syllabus, the distinguishing features of the texts.

The notes will enable students to consider:

  • The thematic ideas at the core of their texts;
  • How their own understanding of their world is often challenged by new insights;
  • In what way a writer’s social, cultural or political context may influence his or her subject matter;
  • How language and symbolism are used to provide insight into the characters’ values and prejudices, and of course the implicit values of the composer or storyteller.

A significant component of my notes will encompass the exploration of form, as many students struggle with their understanding of how form contributes to the meaning of a text. In other words, what might a particular form of expression or feature of language have to say about a character, social value or perspective, put forward by a writer? It is not enough to cite the fact that a poet or a writer makes use of metaphor or assonance. A student must be able to show how this technique gives rise to our greater understanding of the power of language and how it contributes to the ideas of the text.

I have endeavoured to highlight significant language features in my notes, however, the features of language are treated holistically as part of the ideas and as part of the inherent characterisation of the text at hand. It is unnecessary to separate language from purpose and theme, as all elements reflect on the integrity of a text.

When students engage in the exploration of texts they learn to discover their own insights and learning impediments which are invaluable, not only in the HSC but to the process of their own self- learning. If students learn to draw on their own knowledge and instinctual response to literature and language they are better inclined to form effective responses to any questions posed by the HSC, and ultimately in any pursuit taken at a tertiary or professional level.

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