Centre for Continuing Education

HSC English Standard & Advanced Preparation Course - Common Module: Kenneth Slessor's 'Selected Poems'

HSC English. The smart way to prepare for your HSC.

This new one-day HSC English preparation course focuses on Slessor’s Selected Poems for the English Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences. Analysis of the poems will deepen students' understanding of the range and complexity of human experiences in the poetry. Links will be made to our own world as the course covers the poetic representation of time, war, loss, memory, and urban Australia in terms of intensely emotional aspects of human experience glimpsed in fleeting moments of insight.

While Slessor’s experiences are embedded in a 20th Century context, he explores enduring concerns with identity and relationships cruelled by the politics of the modern world. Close attention to rhythm, imagery, motifs, and metaphors will generate classroom discussion of the poet’s uniquely Australian perspective, informed by his heritage and connection to a troubled Europe. Discussion will focus on how poetic form evokes the consciousness of a reflective individual struggling to find meaning in a world in which the solace of traditional authority is disappearing.

Writing activities will generate fresh ideas enabling students to reflect personally on the complexity of inner experience in Slessor’s Modernist context, shaped as it is by the collective experience of fragmentation in response to the toll of modern warfare and emerging urban alienation.

Focus questions will encourage students to explore Slessor’s emphasis on the passage of time, connection to place and the way a very human yearning for spiritual meaning and connection may be located unexpectedly in the poetic representation of the paradoxes and inconsistencies of human experience.

Kenneth Slessor’s Selected Poems include: ‘Wild Grapes’, ‘Gulliver’, ‘Out of Time’, ‘Vesper-Song of the Reverend Samuel Marsden’, ‘William Street’ and ‘Beach Burial’.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • analyse and discuss the distinctive aesthetic of the prescribed poems as a group in terms of spiritual and ethical perspectives on ‘human experiences’ through consideration of poetic form, sensual representation and the use of symbolic motifs in concrete settings
  • recognise that the poetic exploration of key concerns in Slessor’s Selected Poems highlights tensions around the individual and society as well as surprising moments of grace
  • make informed judgements about the ways in which the cultural and historical context, structure and the Modernist style of Slessor’s Selected Poems shape meaning for different audiences.


  • Evaluation of the prescribed text, with consideration of related texts for a richer understanding of individual and collective human experiences. Passages from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse will be introduced as a model companion text and the course booklet will provide further suggestions.
  • Analysis of the effects of language, form and structure in the prescribed text for specific audiences.
  • Review of how the poetry represents inner worlds in relation to significant historical events and evaluation of the ways those representations of human consciousness in the modern world have enduring value for contemporary readers.

Intended audience

HSC English Standard and Advanced students studying Kenneth Slessor’s Selected Poems for the English Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences.

Delivery style

The tutor will model effective textual analysis through annotation of the poems in a blended learning environment that integrates online activities and resources with supplementary materials in a concise course booklet. Guided group discussion of Slessor’s poetry as a representation of individual and collective human experiences will be supported by comment from the tutor to encourage personal and informed readings in the context of the HSC Common Module. Analysis of a related Modernist text will be modelled to broaden understanding of the literary representation of human experiences.

Note: Online activities will be differentiated for English Standard and Advanced students.


A course booklet is included.


NESA English Advanced Stage 6 Syllabus (2017)
EA 12-1, EA 12-3, EA 12-7, EA 12-8

Getting Through Your HSC: A Practical Guide

While you progress through this journey and also the conclusion of your schooling life, we know you’ll have a lot on your mind – exams, future study, careers – but remember, while keeping focused on these bigger goals and aspirations, it’s also important not to forget your own health and well-being.

For tips on staying motivated and keeping focused, dealing with anxiety, keeping healthy, relaxation, pre-study exercise and more, read our article Getting Through Your HSC: A Practical Guide.


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