VCE Literature is largely preoccupied with the critical analysis of literary texts in a variety of forms and contexts. It is considerably more challenging than VCE English as it required a much deeper understanding of literary conventions. In order to succeed in VCE Literature, it is imperative to appreciate these challenges. Here are a few CRUCIAL study suggestions that will ensure success within this highly challenging but rewarding subject.
1. Have an Intimate Understanding of Genre and Form: It is a VCAA requirement that any VCE Literature course examines texts within different genres and forms. In order to engage critically with the chosen texts, you must understand the various literally conventions that have informed their construction. Ensure you understand the differences between different genres and forms and how these are used and manipulated by authors’ in order to convey meaning. This is particularly important in Unit 3 AOS 1.
2. Read a Wide (and Broad) Range of Literally Texts: It can be assumed that you have chosen to study VCE Literature because you enjoy reading and understanding literary texts at a more sophisticated level. This can be enhanced by reading a wide range of texts throughout the year, these texts should include a range of different genres, forms, contexts and themes. A good place to start (to ensure academic merit at the VCE level) is the current and past VCAA Literature Prescribed Text Lists.
3. Practice Responding Critically to Set Texts: We all can express an opinion regarding a given text, however, being able to respond critically to these texts is a skill that needs to be practised before it can be perfected. Engaging critically to literary texts not only requires a deep knowledge and appreciation of the various themes, conventions and contexts but it also requires the ability to analyze these convincingly and concisely utilizing evidence from the given text. It is important to practice writing concisely and getting straight to the point - erroneous waffling or attempting to use complicated (“smart sounding”) words will NOT give you extra marks in an exam. In my experience as a tutor, two things can happen when you try and use overly complicated language in an exam: you will either start using the words inappropriately or inaccurately or your original message will become lost or harder to decipher - keep it simple.
4. Master Literary Criticisms/Perspectives: This is a key component of the VCE Literature course and is one of the distinguishing features which separates this study from VCE English. It is imperative that you understand the various forms of literary criticisms and how utilizing each one can ultimately lead to a different interpretation of a given text. For example, how would someone reading Jane Austin’s Persuasion interpret this text from a feminist perspective? How would this differ if they were to interpret this text from a postmodern perspective? Attempt to understand the key concepts underpinning each perspective and practice interpreting texts from a variety of these perspectives - how many ways can you convincingly interpret the same text?
5. Understand the Meaning of Close Analysis: The VCE Literature Study Design requires students to ‘focus on detailed scrutiny of the language, style, concerns and construction of texts’. This will be what examiners look for when marking exams. Ensure that you do not simply retell the events of a text (this is not an analysis) and you scrutinize the given passages in detail. Although the exam will provide you with a number of passages to consider for the same text - these passages will be connected in some way, you need to understand what these connections are and how they can be used to argue a single main argument - for example, do the passages represent the growth of a given character? If so how do the given conventions (language, style, concerns, construction) demonstrate this?
6. Know the Study Design Inside and Out: The VCE Literature Study Design should be your best friend. You should know this as intimately as your teacher or tutor does. It is literally your ‘cheat sheet’ for SACS and the exam. Key knowledge tells you what you need to know and key skills tell you how this knowledge will be assessed. Use this information to your advantage.
I hope these tips helped - I have resisted giving you too much information (i.e. Telling you what the various genres, modes and literary perspectives are) as the main aim of this document is simply to give you ideas on how to utilize the knowledge you have already developed. Best of wishes and good luck for the remainder of the academic school year.