My guide to Christina Stead’s 1940 Australian classic The Man Who Loved Children has been published by Insight Publications. The Man Who Loved Children is now part of the Australian year 11-12 English curriculum, and this 73-page guide is especially designed for college-level students and their teachers. It contains: character map; synopsis; background on the writer; sections on genre, structure, and style; discussion of historical context; chapter-by-chapter analysis with key quotes and study questions; detailed discussion of themes; essay questions; guidelines for planning and writing an essay; and sample essays written to year-11/12 A+ standard.
My guide to Ang Lee’s sumptuous and moving film, Life of Pi, has now been published by Insight Publications. This film has been added to the Australian year 11/12 English syllabus, and I hope that readers will find this guide a helpful resource for teaching and studying it.
The guide is 73 pages (approximately 22,000 words), and includes the following: character map; background on the writer and director; detailed synopsis; character summaries; discussion of the film in its historical and cultural context (including debates over religion and reason, as well as animal ethics); detailed discussion of genre, structure, and style; scene-by-scene analysis, including key points and study questions; detailed discussion of characters and their relationships; involved analysis of themes (including fiction versus reality, choosing faith or reason, respect for non-human animals, the ‘true’ nature of non-human animals, the value of both family connections and independence, the general theme of ‘discovery’, and the importance of saying goodbye and letting go).
It also contains a section addressing different critical interpretations of Lee’s film (including its relationship to Yann Martel’s source novel). A particularly helpful feature of all Insight guides is their focus on essay planning and writing: this guide includes a section on structuring an essay, sample essay topics, a detailed analysis of one of those topics with a sample essay outline (with complete introduction and conclusion), and a complete sample essay in response to another question (written to Year 11/12 A+ standard). The guide also includes a list of references for further reading.
Life of Pi is a stylistically brilliant yet thoughtfully composed film. It’s also thematically rich, offering a number of very worthwhile points for discussion and study — points that are both serious and provocative, yet accessible enough for the year-levels for which the film has been set. I hope this guide helps navigate, tease out, and enjoyably expand upon all this film has to offer.
Freshly pressed: a guide to Barry Levinson’s political satire Wag the Dog (1997). When the U.S. President is accused of making sexual advances toward a young girl in the lead-up to an election, his media advisers call in mysterious spin doctor Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro) to manage the scandal. Brean’s strategy involves concocting a fictional war with Albania to divert attention from the scandal. As this war will be an entirely a fictional production, he enlists eccentric film producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) to “produce” it as he would a Hollywood film, and invest it with all the drama and mawkish sentimentality the media and public crave. Wag the Dog seemed almost uncannily topical when the Lewinsky scandal broke just a few weeks after its release; however, the film now also eerily recalls the artful “selling” of the Iraq War to the American public in 2003.
Wag the Dog has been added to the Australian year 11-12 curriculum, and this guide is especially designed for college-level students and their teachers. It contains: character map; synopsis; background on the writers and director; sections on genre, structure, and film style; detailed discussion of the film’s historical context; scene-by-scene analysis, with key quotes and study questions; detailed discussion of themes; essay questions; guidelines for planning and writing an essay; and sample essays written to year-11/12 A+ standard.