VCE Literature Close Analysis – stand out from the crowd

Lisa Tran

April 20, 2016


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To the Lit kids out there, you already know that VCE Literature is a whole different ball game – You’re part of a small cohort, competing against some of the best English students in the state and spots in the 40+ range are fairly limited. So how can you ensure that it’s your essay catches the assessor’s eye? Here are some tips which will hopefully give you an edge. 

  1. Constantly refer back to the language of the passages

Embed quotes from the passages into both your introduction and conclusion and of course, throughout the essay. Don’t leave any room for doubt that you are writing on the passages right in front of you rather than regurgitating a memorized essay. A good essay evokes the language of the passages so well that the examiner should barely need to refer back to the passages.

Here’s part of a sample conclusion to illustrate what I mean:

 In comparison to Caesar, who sees lands, the “’stablishment of Egypt,” as the epitome of all triumphs, the lovers see such gains, “realms and islands,” as “plates dropp’d from his pocket.” It is dispensable and transient like cheap coins, mere “dungy earth” and “kingdoms of clay.” This grand world of heroic virtue is set in the past tense, where the lover once “bestrid the ocean,” once “crested the world,” but it is the world which will arguably endure in our hearts.

So, you can see that analysis of the language does not stop even in the conclusion and yet it still ties into the overall interpretation of the text that I have presented throughout the essay.

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

A good way to incorporate views and values of the author in your writing is to quote things they have said themselves. This may work better for some texts than others but if you find a particularly poetic quote that ties in well with the interpretation you are presenting, then make sure to slip it in. It shows that you know your stuff and is an impressive way to show off your knowledge of the author’s views and values.

Here’s a sample from an introduction on Adrienne Rich poetry which includes a quote from her essay, “When We Dead Awaken.”

Adrienne Rich’s poetry is the process of discovering a “new psychic geography” (When We Dead Awaken) with a language that is “refuse[d], ben[t] and torque[d]” not to subjugate but as an instrument for “connection rather than apartheid.”

  1. Memorise quotes throughout the text

Yes, there are passages right in front of you, but don’t fall into the trap of not memorizing significant quotes from the text as a whole. Dropping a relevant quote in from another section of the text demonstrates that you understand the text as a whole.

The originality of your ideas and the quality of your writing come first and foremost, but these are little ways in which you can add a little extra something to your essay.

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