Module B: Critical Study of Texts

This module requires students to engage with and develop an informed personal understanding of their prescribed text. Through critical analysis and evaluation of its language, content and construction, students will develop an appreciation of the textual integrity of their prescribed text. They refine their own understanding and interpretations of the prescribed text and critically consider these in the light of the perspectives of others. Students explore how context influences their own and others’ responses to the text and how the text has been received and valued. (Reread English Stage 6 Syllabus, p 52.)

The definition of textual integrity in the Stage 6 English Syllabus is:
"the unity of a text; its coherent use of form and language to produce an integrated whole in terms of meaning and value" (page 143)

To determine the textual integrity of each set Speech , we need to consider:
  • use of language
  • structure
and the extent to which these produce an integrated whole in terms of

  • meaning and value

The text we will study for this section is the nonfiction option - a selection of Speeches.

Margaret Atwood, 'Spotty-Handed Villainesses' 1994
Paul Keating, 'Funeral Service of the Unknown Australian Soldier' 1993
Noel Pearson, 'An Australian History for us all' 1996
Aung San Suu Kyi, 'Keynote Address at the Beijing World Conference on Women' 1995
Faith Bandler, 'Faith, Hope and Reconciliation', 1999
William Deane, 'It is Still Winter at Home', 1999
Anwar Sadat, 'Speech to the Israeli Knesset', 1977

The set speeches are available for download at the BOS website - follow the link on the main page for Advanced English.

There are also useful website links where you can hear some of the speeches. For Keating's Speech, click on The Unknown Soldier

You will need to be able to understand and discuss
  • the content of each speech
  • how rhetoric is used by each speaker to communicate their ideas
  • the effectiveness of the speech's contstruction, language features, word choice and other rhetorical techniques in shaping the attitudes of the intended audience(s)
  • the likely audiences for each speech and how those audiences may have changed over time
  • different ways in which the speech has been received and valued
  • the long-term value and interest of the speech - e.g. what might it show about ideas of feminism, nationalism, patriotism, peace, grief and mortality, war and solutions to war
  • ways in which your initial uinterpretation of the speech may be challenged or developed by considering rival viewpoints on the speech or the situation giving rise to it (eg how a typical American might hear Sadat's speech in the 1970's differs from how a Palestinian nationalist might respond to it; how the speech might have been heard in the 1970's perhaps differs from our response to it now after the Israeli building of a physical wall between Israeli-controlled settlements and the West Bank and after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon)

The following file has questions to guide your study of the first three speeches we have studied - the speeches by Keating, Faith Bandler and Aung San Suu Kyi.
As you approach each speech you need to ask
  • What is the message? What is the speaker's purpose?
  • Who are the various audiences for the speech?
  • Into what context is the speech being delivered?
  • How has the speaker used language to engage with their audience and create a powerful, movng speech?
In your Essay you will need to intyegrate your answer to these questions along with relevant quotations and close analysis. Below are some comments on the speeches of Aung San Suu Kyi and Faith Bandler.

Try to think of ways to link the speeches you are studying eg a speech to the international community on a global issue (Aung San Suu Kyi) vs a speech about a specifically Australian issue and to a smaller audience (Faith Bandler or Noel Pearson). Sebveral of the speeches deal with social justice; others with feminism; others with peace; two are funeral orations with a strong public/political content. One speech (Atwood) is predominantly to entertain an educated audience; one is a highly formal though also personal attempt to start a peace process with the enemy (Sadat) .
There are some reaonably helpful comments on the Noel Pearson speech at the following website, as well as a glossary of the more unusual words:

You should also look at some past questions. On the following file you can read a sample past answer (2006) plus see some past questions. Notice how you can and should include your own opinions and reactions but they need to be informed opinions that recognise how each speech operates within a variety of audiences and contexts.

Some further Question sheets are available here on the speeches by Margaret Atwood, Aung San Suu Kyi and Anwar Sadat. Atwood and Aung San Suu Kyi form a good pair to discuss as they have such different viewpoints on feminism - they approach issues of feminism from entirely different perspectives: developed Western world vs developing world; literary and creativity issues vs basic social and political issues; cynical realism vs extreme optimism. Sadat's speech concerned with peace opens very different issues about the nature of a speech. As it is such a long speech there is a lot to say about it. One way to focus your thoughts is to ask why it is so long? What does Sadat achieve through the whole 12 pages that he could not have achieved with the half page that outlines his conditions for peace? It is an extremely rhetorical speech - ornate, filled with repetition, with formulas.