Have you always been fascinated with the world of literature? Or grew up reading books as a child? Or maybe you have chosen to take the Arts Stream and have no choice but to take this subject.
Welcome to H2 Literature. This subject challenges your basic understanding and comprehension skills, yet also pushes you to understand the various nuances in dramas, prose, poems or plays.
What is the syllabus for H2 Literature?
I would say that H2 Literature in Junior College is almost entirely different from what you might have learnt in Secondary School. As such, I will attempt to run through the syllabus and some key things to note.
There are three papers in H2 Literature. Of which, Paper 1 is compulsory, and your school would choose either Paper 2 or Paper 3 as the other paper. I will now attempt to go through the different papers and their requirements.
Paper 1: Reading Literature
Paper 1 is compulsory for all students who take H2 Literature. This paper has three sections, one for poetry, one for prose, and finally, one for drama.
Sounds intimidating? Well do not worry as selected texts might be familiar to you. Have you heard of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? Well, these classics might just be your texts.
In my case, I was given Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for my prose text and Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure for my drama text. Honestly, when I realised I would have to analyse and respond to such great works I was a little intimidated, but do not fret as it is much more manageable than it seems at first.
Here is a list of the prose texts you may be given, depending on your school :
- Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1831 text)
- F Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby
- Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
- Kazuo Ishiguro: An Artist of the Floating World
For drama texts, here is the list of texts you might encounter:
- William Shakespeare: Measure for Measure
- George Bernard Shaw: Saint Joan
- Arthur Miller: Playing for Time (stage play version)
- Timberlake Wertenbaker: Our Country’s Good
Do note that these texts would only apply to students who are taking literature in 2022 and 2023.
For both the prose and drama section, two questions will be set for each text, with one question being an essay question, the other will be a passage based question. You will have to answer one out of the two questions.
For these texts, you will have to utilise the methods specifically for prose and drama to analyse each text. Hence, a lot more research into the time period, language and literary methods would not hurt.
I remember having to google about the social-historical context of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and learning more about that specific time period to apply to my essays. Hence, I strongly encourage you to do so as well.
Lastly, I will run through my favourite section in Paper 1 – Poetry.
For poetry, there will be two unseen poems per question. You will be allowed to choose the question you want to respond to. Thereafter, you would be expected to compare the two poems and give a sound response.
If you are worried about these poems being completely unrelated to you, do not worry as at least one of the questions will feature a Singaporean poem.
So, do expect to see the likes of Arthur Yap, Edwin Thumboo on your exam paper. Their poems usually touch on a uniquely Singapore experience so you usually would have some semblance of a response, regardless of how lost you may feel.
Paper 2: The English Renaissance (1509-1660)
Well, to preface I do not have any experience in Paper 2 texts as my school did Paper 3 instead. However, I will do my best to explain the syllabus.
This paper focuses on the renaissance period and its impacts on classical ideas, art forms, literature, language and philosophy. The texts are literary explorations of 16th and early 17th century England.
If you take Paper 2, your school would have to choose three of the following texts:
- Andrew Marvell: selection of poems
- Sir Philip Sidney: selection of sonnets from ‘Astrophil and Stella’
- Francis Bacon: selection of prose
- Thomas Kyd: The Spanish Tragedy
- Christopher Marlowe: Doctor Faustus
- Thomas Middleton: Women Beware Women
- William Shakespeare: The Tempest
- Ben Jonson: Volpone
- John Donne: selection of poems and prose
Do note that the list is also only applicable to students taking literature in 2022 and 2023.
Paper 3: The Mind and Self in Literature
Now to my favourite section, Paper 3. This section explores the relationship between the mind and self in literary texts. This could be through exploration of one’s identity, struggles with their self, different states of mind etc.
For Paper 3 texts, here are some of the texts you might encounter:
- Sylvia Plath: selection of poems from Ariel
- William Wordsworth: The Prelude, Book One & Book Two (1805 version)
- James Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
- J M Coetzee: Age of Iron Pat Barker: Regeneration
- Edward Albee: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
- William Shakespeare: Hamlet
- Elizabeth Jennings: selection of poems from Selected Poems
- Harold Pinter: The Caretaker
Again, do note that these texts would only apply to students taking literature in 2022 and 2023.
I hope that brief summary of the different papers helped you in understanding more about this subject. I will now go through the different skills required to ace this subject. You will need to display good response, analysis and comparison skills according to the different requirements in the papers.
|Response||This skill tests your ability to respond to an unseen text |
extract, or a passage from a set text.
|Analysis||This skill assesses your ability to critically analyse the texts. You will be expected to support your response with methods and critical analysis.|
|Comparison||This skill comes to play when you are evaluating Paper 1 unseen texts, where you are expected to compare and contrast the given passages together. |
It also comes to play in Paper 2 or 3 where you have to write a critical response regarding two set texts you have studied.
You will be expected to compare the methods and ideas between the two given texts.
Is Literature an Open Book Examination?
When I entered my first Literature class in Junior College, I was shocked at the way that the subject was being tested. In contrast to Secondary School, where we had to tirelessly memorise quote after quote, we could bring physical copies of our book into the exam.
I was also excited about how we could “annotate” the text, and thought to myself “this would be so much easier than in Secondary School!” However, I was definitely wrong about the latter.
Firstly, you would be required to purchase two copies of each text, one will be an annotated copy, with all your remarks, comments, scribbles. The other copy is your examination copy. This is the copy you can bring to examinations.
What’s the difference?
Well, there are many restrictions on your exam copy. You can only underline or highlight the texts using vertical lines in the margins. Any folding, flagging of pages (e.g. use of post-its, tape flags or paper clips) are not permitted. You also are not allowed to write any text or illegal markings such as dots or arrows.
This is extremely important as invigilators will check your texts before the paper commences. Unauthorised texts will be confiscated from you and you would have to use a completely untouched text instead.
This was one of my worst nightmares where one day before my Preliminary Examinations, I accidentally drew a line on my exam copy in highlighter.
I was so scared that they would confiscate my texts that I actually went to memorise all the page numbers for important scenes. Luckily, they overlooked my small mistake and I was able to do the exam smoothly.
Therefore, do remember to take good care of your exam copy, if not you would have to purchase new copies each time, and re-annotate every time you accidentally make an unauthorised mark on them. While it would be good for revision, It would be really painful once you realise you have to annotate your exam copy for the third time.
You might be feeling a little confused after all the restrictions I mentioned. However, here is a guide to help you in mastering your text.
- You should highlight your text using a colour code based on concerns or characters
- Highlighting in multiple colours is allowed. Hence you can highlight one line in two or more colours.
- Avoid margins, headers and edges (e.g. Chapter 1), as it may be interpreted as flagging
- Underline in pen, pencil or highlighter. Double or triple lines are allowed
- Underline key words and punctuation that matter in close analysis.
- Draw horizontal or vertical lines next to a body of text. Use a ruler if necessary
Attached below is a picture of how I annotated my text. Feel free to use it as a guide in annotating your exam text!
Is H2 Literature Difficult ?
Like all subjects in Junior College, H2 Literature is difficult. To be frank, it is not difficult to pass, but it is difficult to truly excel and get that A.
This is because the “Literature” ingrained since Secondary School is very different from that of Junior College. Therefore, I suggest you genuinely follow your teacher’s guidance and not regurgitate what you learnt before.
Thankfully, I was blessed with really good Literature teachers that gave me many consultations and patiently explained to me my tendencies and mistakes. They also suggested solutions to the mistakes that I repeatedly made. This gave me the chance to correct these mistakes and get good results.
Therefore, do not be afraid to consult your teachers if you are struggling with Literature. You can also ask your seniors, your peers and create study notes together. This is especially useful due to the heavy workload of reading four different books.
Hence, you might find Literature difficult initially, like all other subjects in Junior College. However, after discovering a study method suitable for you, and consulting teachers on your mistakes, I am sure you will be able to excel at this subject.
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