• Maria Li

Mastering the art of discussing textual conversations

Updated: May 20

Module A is all about the textual conversation between two texts. You need to explore how ideas, values, perspectives or assumptions have been reimagined, challenged or evolved over time. The conversation of certain topics will reveal how changing times, contexts and cultures cause these ideas and values to evolve. The hard part is not identifying the conversations but actually explaining the textual conversations and getting to the core of how and why the texts actually show dissonances and resonances.


To give you an idea of how to start writing your paragraphs, here is a decent paragraph on Hamlet and its reimagined text, Dead Father's Club.


1) A comparative study of both texts reveal how Shakespeare's portrayal of Ophelia as submissive contrasts with her reinvention Leah which demonstrate how the perceived role of women in society has shifted over time to allow greater female autonomy. 2) Ophelia is a product of the patriarchy she lives in, as Elizabethan society was deeply misogynistic and women were viewed as supporters who had to obey the male figures in their life. 3) Ophelia is characterised to be placid and submissive, referring to Hamlet with the honorific “my Lord” despite his cruelty towards her. Despite Ophelia's chastity and loyalty, Hamlet's insult “honesty should admit no discourse to your [Ophelia’s] beauty" juxtaposes her beautiful appearance with her dishonesty, which reinforces his claim that Ophelia is duplicitous and disloyal, and in extension, has lost her virtue as an Elizabethan woman. 4) Ophelia's submission to his defamation is reinvented in the Dead Father’s Club, where the Postmodern story empowers Leah, who is Ophelia’s modern version. The narrator’s apologetic dialogue, repeating “I don’t know. I'm sorry. I don’t know” conveys a sense of respect towards Leah that was absent from Hamlet. Leah’s direct discourse stating, “You were well freaky” demonstrates her ability to openly speak her mind, and even address the narrator as equals. 5) Through their textual conversation, it can be seen that Shakespeare’s construction of Ophelia is starkly more submissive than Leah which demonstrates how society is gradually embracing gender equality, and hence shifting the way women are represented in literature.


Unpacking its good points:


1) Clearly identified the textual conversation of how the role of women is changing over time with women gaining more autonomy. The earlier text and its latter text which was inspired by the first text are both introduced.


2) Context is relevant and clearly identifies the initial misogynistic attitudes towards women.


3) This quote is well contextualised which enables readers to easily understand what is happening. Students often only drop and run but don't provide context of what is occurring in the text. This, plus embedding your quotes, as the writer has done, will help your paragraph flow more nicely. However, you must also be careful not to over-contextualise as to write synopsis sentences rather than analytical sentences!


4) There is a clear focus on the textual conversation. After introducing the misogynistic views towards women prevalent in Hamlet, the writer has moved on to the representation of women in Dead Father's Club. In one body paragraph, the writer has clearly established the contrasting views on a woman's role in society throughout time. There are clear and specific links and comparisons between the texts. If you cannot manage to use quotes from both texts in one paragraph, you still need to include links to the other text to maintain focus on the textual conversation.


5) Concluding sentence synthesises the textual conversation and clearly identifies how shifts in perceptions of the role of women in society has affected how women are represented in literature. Always link back to the purpose of the module!!



Well that wraps up today's discussion. Hopefully from this 'learning by example session', you have mastered - whilst not the art of discussing textual conversations, but the art of attacking and approaching the analysis! Use these tips and this example paragraph to write your own paragraphs. Remember to always focus on the conversation - this is the point of the module!


Good luck!


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