Centre for Continuing Education

HSC English Advanced Preparation Course - Module B: 'Great Expectations'

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

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Please note that course materials (excluding prescribed texts) are shared electronically within 48 hours of course commencement. Printing is not available.

This HSC English preparation course focuses on Charles Dickens' Great Expectations (1861) for the Advanced English Module B: Critical Study of Literature.

This one-day course will review the content, structure and context of the novel. The review of structure begins with Pip’s account of himself from childhood to maturity, as a first person Bildungsroman set back in the early nineteenth century.

With content and context the theme of ‘great expectations’ is explored in relation to youth and maturity; romance and marriage; class; poverty, wealth and capitalism; the country and the city; mental illness and moral failure; the criminal system and the nature of humanity.

Focus on contradictions and parallels adds complexity: in particular, Joe Gargery, an uneducated working class ideal Man; and Magwitch, an abject creature of the depths finally paired with Joe as a figure of love and benevolence. Discussion of Pip, Gargery and Magwitich focuses personal views of the novel and the issues.

The account of the novel’s structure explores the crowded cast of characters, mystery and melodrama (for example, about Pip’s benefactor and Estella the daughter of Magwitch), and serial publication. Closer study of style examines Dickens' description, conversation, satiric comedy, and selected major and minor characters (for example, Miss Havisham, Pumblechook and Wemmick).


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

  • analyse and discuss Great Expectations in relation to the concept of ‘textual integrity’ including narrative, structure, context, themes, literary style, key words and motifs
  • analyse and discuss Great Expectations as a novel with a special aesthetic interest in human nature, morality, and the historical conditions of class identity and society in the country and city in the nineteenth century
  • analyse and discuss Dickens' interest in ideas, history and human identity in a complex text about growing up, romance, change in social identity, a wide range of characters and identity, and with a melodramatic structure influenced by serial publication
  • make informed and personal connections about Dickens' ideas, characters, narrative and interest in history in relation to detailed analysis and discussion of his prose style
  • read the opinions of others on Great Expectations as a basis for writing your own complex critical and imaginative texts.


  • Close critical study of Great Expectations as a complex text in relation to the concept of ‘textual integrity’.
  • Critical study of Great Expectations as a first person coming of age Bildungsroman (coming of age self-portrait) set in the early nineteenth century.
  • An overview and analysis of selected passages of Great Expectations in relation to context, themes and aesthetic range, with particular focus on the view of history, and society, class and wealth, capitalism and aspiration, the criminal system, and contradictory views of human nature and identity.
  • An overview and analysis of selected passages of Great Expectations in relation to literary style and meaning including narrative structure and serial publication, melodrama and narrative mysteries and suspense, description, satiric comedy, and selected major and minor characters.

Intended audience

HSC English Advanced students studying Charles Dickens' Great Expectations for the Advanced English Module B: Critical Study of Literature.

Delivery style

Lecture and workshop style with group discussions for interactive exploration of the texts and informed personal student responses. You will also read and discuss sample HSC examination material provided by NESA.


You will be provided with a course booklet (electronic copy). Please bring along your own copy of the text.

Bring your own device

You are required to bring your own device (Windows or Mac) and a power chord. Please ensure your device is fully charged as access to power is limited.

Please note that University does not carry any responsibility for your lost, stolen, or damaged devices whilst on the University premises.


NESA English Advanced Stage 6 Syllabus (2017)
EA 12-1, EA 12-2, EA 12-3. EA 12-4, EA 12-5, EA 12-6, 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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