The Ultimate Guide to VCE Literature

Lisa Tran

September 14, 2020

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Unit 3: Form and Transformation

  1. AOS 1: Adaptations and Transformations
  2. AOS 2: Creative Response
  3. AOS 2: Reflective Commentary

Unit 4: Interpreting texts

  1. AOS 1: Literary Perspectives
  2. AOS 1: Views and values
  3. AOS 2: Close Analysis Guide

This is your ULTIMATE GUIDE to everything you need to know to get started with VCE Literature. We will be covering all the sections within Units 3 and 4, and have included resources that will help improve your skills and make you stand out from the rest of your cohort!

Scope of study

In VCE Literature students undertake close reading of texts and analyse how language and literary elements and techniques function within a text. Emphasis is placed on recognition of a text’s complexity and meaning, and on consideration of how that meaning is embodied in its literary form. The study provides opportunities for reading deeply, widely and critically, responding analytically and creatively, and appreciating the aesthetic merit of texts.
VCE Literature enables students to examine the historical and cultural contexts within which both readers and texts are situated. It investigates the assumptions, views and values which both writer and reader bring to the texts and it encourages students to contemplate how we read as well as what we read. It considers how literary criticism informs the readings of texts and the ways texts relate to their contexts and to each other.

Units 3 and 4

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority will supervise the assessment of all students undertaking Units 3 and 4. In VCE Literature, students’ level of achievement will be determined by School-assessed Coursework (SAC) as specified in the VCE study design, and external assessment.
Percentage contributions to the study score in VCE Literature are as follows:

Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework: 25 per cent

Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework: 25 percent

End-of-year examination: 50 percent

Unit 3: Form and transformation

In this unit students consider how the form of a text affects meaning, and how writers construct their texts. They investigate ways writers adapt and transform texts and how meaning is affected as texts are adapted and transformed. They consider how the perspectives of those adapting texts may inform or influence the adaptations. Students develop creative responses to texts and their skills in communicating ideas in both written and oral forms.

AOS 1: Adaptations and transformations

This task is designed for you to critically analyse and actively engage with the text, understanding its nuances inside and out in order to decipher its meaning. Be individual in comparing and contrasting the two texts – avoid the obvious similarities/differences everyone in your class will also notice. It is the insightful analysis of the subtleties of how meaning is altered that will help you stand out!

Here are some important aspects to consider and questions to ask yourself while tackling this SAC:

1. Identify the unique conventions in the construction of the original text

2. Now do step 1 with the adapted/transformed text

3. How do the two text forms differ? How are they the same? The most crucial step is what meaning can be derived from the similarities and differences? How does the meaning change?

4. Note additions and omissions (and even silences)

5. Historical context and setting

6. How does the change in form impact you as the reader/viewer?

7. Incorporate pertinent quotations from both forms of text to substantiate and support your ideas and key points.

Most importantly is to share your original interpretation of what meaning and significance you can extract from the text, and how you believe it changes once the form alters.

Ask yourself these questions:

What makes the text in its original form interesting or unique?

Is that quality captured in its adaptation/transformation?

For more detailed explanations on these 7 aspects, read Emily's blog post:

Adaptations And Transformations Lit SAC: A How To Guide

AOS 2: Creative Response

The most important part of this task is that you must have a highly convincing connection between the original text and your creative response.

There must be a tangible relationship present, through an in-depth understanding of the original text’s features. These features include characterisation (what motivates these characters), setting, context, narrative structure, tone and writing/film style.

You can establish this relationship by:

Adopting or resisting the same genre as the original text

Adopting or resisting the author’s writing/language style

Adopting or resisting the text’s point of view

Adopting or resisting the original setting, narrative structure or tone

Writing through a peripheral character’s perspective

Developing a prologue, epilogue or another chapter/scene

Rewriting a key event/scene from another character’s point of view: does this highlight how important narrative perspective is?

Recontextualising the original text

For detailed explanations on how to establish these relationships, read Emily's blog post:

“Creative Response To Text” Ideas

AOS 2: Reflective Commentary

The VCAA Literature Study Design determines that students must submit ‘a reflective commentary establishing connections with the original text’. This aspect of the assessment counts for 10 of the 60 marks available for the Creative Response outcome. The study design further denotes that students must:

‘reflect critically upon their own responses as they relate to the text, and discuss the purpose context of their creations’.

To induce the things needed to be included in the reflective commentary, we can look to the key knowledge and key skills points outlined in the study design:

Key Knowledge:

·     The point of view, context and form of the original text,

·     The ways the central ideas of the original text are represented,

·     The features of the original text including ideas, images characters and situations, and the language in which these are expressed,

·     Techniques used to create, recreate or adapt a text and how they represent particular concerns or attitudes.

Key Skills:

 ·     Identify elements of construction, context, point of view and form particular to the text, and apply understanding of these in a creative response

·     Choose stylistically appropriate features including characterisation, setting, narrative, tone and style

·     Critically reflect on how language choices and literary features from the original text are used in the adaptation

As you write, ensure you are discussing how the author uses point of view, context, form, elements of construction and stylistic features in their text. It is imperative that you describe how you have similarly used such device in your creative response. Ensure that you also discuss how you are involving the ideas and themes of the text in your creative piece, and how you are discussing them further, or exploring them in greater depth. Obviously only talk about those that are relevant to your creative response!

To read a sample Reflective Commentary, check out Elly's blog post:

Score 10/10 On The Reflective Commentary

Unit 4: Interpreting texts

In this unit you will develop critical and analytic responses to texts. They investigate literary criticism informing both the reading and writing of texts. You will develop an informed and sustained interpretation supported by close textual analysis.

AOS 1: Literary Perspectives

Put simply, literary perspectives are various different lenses used for looking at all texts. Different lenses reveal, highlight and emphasise different notions in each text.

To take a simple example, a Marxist might look at ‘The Great Gatsby’ how our capitalistic system underscores the motivations of Gatsby? A feminist might look towards the role of women in the text; are they only supporting characters, or do they challenge traditional gender roles?

In short, literary perspectives wants you to consider:

How does a text change, to the reader and the writer, when we examine it through different backgrounds/perspectives?

Can we understand the assumptions and ideas about the views and values of the text?

What Are You Expected To Cover/Do? (Literary Perspectives Criteria)

1. Structure and Cohesion

You respond to a topic (yes, there is only one) and you have a more “typical” essay structure with an introduction, three body paragraphs and a conclusion.

Cohesion comes from how well you can develop your overall argument. The way I like to think about it is: do my paragraphs build/relate to each other or do they have nothing to do with each other?

2. Develop an overall Interpretation/perspective for each text

This requires a lot of research and critical readings of the wealth of criticism around the text. When you read the text, a few notable themes and ideas should be jumping out at you right away, this will be the springboard into understanding the perspectives around the text.

3. Understanding and analysis of the text through textual evidence

It’s easy to get lost in your perspective when you're writing, this is just a gentle reminder to never forget to use quotes and actual evidence from the text.

Here’s a helpful video on how to incorporate quotes:

[Video Transcript]

4. Control and effectiveness of language

Having control and effective use of language is a criteria present in both sections of Literature.

This video provides 6 great tips on improving your expression:

[Video Transcript]

If you want your essay to have unique interpretations, or want to know why your teachers and examiners want to read about them, watch my video:

How do you approach the exam and SAC?

1. Highlight key words!

2. Plan!

3. Develop/Establish your interpretation in your introduction

SACs, Exams, And Allocated Marks

For detailed information on how to approach the exam and on the exam criteria, read Angelina's blog:

Literature Perspectives and Close Analysis Guide

Useful Literary Perspectives resources:

Literary Perspectives 101

Benefits Of Critical Essays For Literary Perspective Essays

Literary Perspective text resources:

Crafting A Literary Perspectives Essay: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Othello Literary Perspectives Essay Breakdown

AOS 1: Views and values

Writers use literature to criticise or endorse social conditions, expressing their own opinions and viewpoints of the world they live in. It is important to remember that each piece of literature is a deliberate construction. Every decision a writer makes reflects their views and values about their culture, morality, politics, gender, class, history or religion. This is implicit within the style and content of the text, rather than in overt statements. This means that the writer’s views and values are always open to interpretation, and possibly even controversial. This is what you (as an astute literature student) must do – interpret the relationship between your text and the ideas it explores and examines, endorses or challenges in the writer’s society.

Consider the following:

What does the writer question and critique with their own society? What does this say about the writer’s own views and the values that uphold?

For example, “Jane Austen in Persuasion recognises the binding social conventions of the 19th century as superficial, where they value wealth and status of the utmost priority. She satirises such frivolous values through the microcosmic analysis of the Elliot family.”

The writer’s affirming or critical treatment of individual characters can be a significant clue to what values they approve or disapprove of. What fate do the characters have? Who does the writer punish or reward by the end of the text?

Which characters challenge and critique the social conventions of the day?

Look at the writer’s use of language:

·     Imagery

·     Symbolism

·     Characterisation

·     Plot structure

·     Setting

·     Description

In other words …what are the possible meanings generated by the writer’s choices?

Recognition and use of metalanguage for literary techniques is crucial because you are responding to a work of literature. Within literature ideas, views and values and issues do not exist in a vacuum. They arise out of the writer’s style and create meaning.

How do the writer’s choices make meaning?

How are the writer’s choices intended to affect the reader’s perception of social values?

Weave views and values throughout your close analysis essays, rather than superficially adding a few lines at the conclusion of the essay to indicate the writer’s concerns.

Using the writer’s name frequently will also assist in creating a mindset of analysing the writer’s commentary on society.

Read Emily's blog for examples from an examiner report of successful and insightful responses reflecting the views and values of the writer:

Views and Values

AOS 2: Close Analysis Guide

Writing the Introduction

Introductions are an excellent way to showcase your ability to provide an insight into your personal “reading” of the text, interpret the passages and allow you an avenue through which to begin your discussion of the material.

When constructing introductions, it is important to note that the VCAA Literature Exam Criteria is as follows:

Understanding of the text demonstrated in a relevant and plausible interpretation

Ability to write expressively and coherently to present an interpretation

Understanding of how views and values may be suggested in the text

Analysis of how key passages and/or moments in the text contribute to an interpretation

Analysis of the features of a text and how they contribute to an interpretation

Analysis and close reading of textual details to support a coherent and detailed interpretation of the text

Considering these points, your introduction should feature these 2 elements: your personal reading of the text and your interpretation of the passages.

In terms of structure, try to begin with a sentence or two explaining your personal reading of the text. The key to doing so in a manner befitting Close Analysis however, is to utilise quotes from the passages to supplement your assertion.

Head over to Jarrod's blog to read a sample introduction:

VCE Literature Close Analysis: Introduction

How To Prepare (And Improve!) For Your Close Analysis SAC And Exam

1. Read and Re-read your text (or re-watch your film)

2. Find buzzwords for your text or your perspective

3. Talk to your friends and teachers, bounce ideas off each other!!!

4. Write specific examples

5. Utilise all available resources

For detailed explanations on all 5 tips, read Angelina's blog:

Literature Perspectives and Close Analysis Guide

To stand out from the crowd, remember these 3 tips:

1. Constantly refer back to the language of the passages

2. If appropriate, include quotes from the author of the text

3. Memorise quotes throughout the text

For detailed explanations for each of these tips, read my blog post:

VCE Literature Close Analysis – Stand Out From The Crowd

Exam resources

Breaking down the VCE lit exam criteria

How to study for literature when you really don't feel like studying for literature

Last minute study for the literature exam

VCE Past Exams


Common Mistakes In VCE Literature

The 'DON'TS' Of VCE Literature

VCE Literature Essay Approaches - Not A Language Analysis

The Importance Of Context In Literature

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

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Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps.

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