Centre for Continuing Education

HSC English Standard & Advanced Preparation Course - Common Module: 'Past the Shallows'

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

This HSC English preparation course focuses on Favel Parrett’s first novel, Past the Shallows for the English Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences. This new one-day course covers the restrained yet poignant representation of grief, secrets, memory, survival and the vulnerability of youth in terms of emotional aspects of formative experience grounded in hardship and loss.

As Parrett’s representation of these human experiences is embedded in a contemporary Tasmanian context, she explores concerns with identity and family relationships. Close attention to imagery, motifs, repetition and metaphors will generate classroom discussion of the author’s Australian point of view, informed by a lyrical perspective on the landscape that mingles the harsh and the beautiful. Discussion will focus on how the novel’s structure brings cohesion to isolated individuals struggling to find meaning in a world suffused with bitterness and desperation.

Writing activities will generate fresh ideas as assumptions about the human condition are interrogated, enabling students to reflect personally on the complex fragility of inner experience shaped as it is, in the novel, by the dominance of a reductive masculinity. Focus questions will encourage students to explore Parrett’s emphasis on the vulnerability of youth, connection to place and the way familial bonds of connection may be located in, or become unmoored by, the paradoxes and inconsistencies of human experience.


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

  • analyse and discuss the distinctive aesthetic of the novel in terms of ethical perspectives on ‘human experiences’ through consideration of form, symbolic representation and the use of the extended metaphor of the sea
  • recognise that the exploration of key concerns in Parrett’s Past the Shallows highlights tensions around the individual and society as it plays out in a dysfunctional family in a small and remote community
  • make informed judgements about the ways in which the cultural context, structure and lyrical style of Parrett’s Past the Shallows shape meaning for different readers.


  • Evaluation of the prescribed text, with consideration of related texts for a richer understanding of individual and collective human experiences. Key scenes from the 1986 Rob Reiner film, Stand By Me, will be introduced as a model companion text and the course reader will provide further suggestions for related texts.
  • Recognition of how the novel represents inner worlds in relation to significant family events and evaluation of the ways those representations of human frailty, set against a background of impoverishment, are likely to elicit reader empathy.
  • Review of the novelistic representation of the individual experience of growing up in relation to masculine values peculiar to a contemporary Australian context.

Intended audience

HSC English Standard and Advanced students studying Favel Parrett’s novel, Past the Shallows for the English Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences.

Delivery style

Delivered via a blended learning environment that integrates online activities and resources with supplementary materials in a course booklet.

Classes will be small and delivered using both lecture and workshop style. Group discussion will allow interactive exploration of the texts and informed personal student responses.

Analysis of a related contemporary text will be undertaken to broaden understanding of the literary representation of human experiences.

Students will also read and discuss sample HSC examination material provided by NESA.

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


A course booklet is included. Please bring along your text to class.


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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