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3.3 The open road - Advanced

Many texts are more open than procedural texts like Top 10 misunderstood road rules in NSW and allow for a range of meanings. We all know that we can have responses to texts that differ from the responses of even our closest friends, let alone from people with entirely different life experiences.  This is because sometimes texts are designed to

  • be ambiguous
  • connect with your own personal experiences
  • remind you of your encounters with other texts.

Approach: Design for ambiguity
Approach: Designing for personal engagement
Approach: Designing for textual resonances
Bringing it all together

Approach: Designing for ambiguity
Sometimes language, of itself, may have more than one meaning as in these examples:

  • Fruit flies like a banana (Groucho Marx)
  • Fine for parking in marked spaces.
  • Woman without her man is nothing.

Males read: Woman, without her man, is nothing.
Females read: Woman: without her, man is nothing.

Punctuation is all!

Look at this image and identify the different ways it plays with the ambiguity of the caption: “You’re in our sights”.

Write your thoughts on the student worksheet 3.3.1 Responses to texts-(all students).

Approach: Designing for personal engagement
In most open texts however, different meanings arise out of different experiences of the responder.
Many times, composers make use of commonly accepted ideas of experience to invite particular responses to texts. For example, in advertisements they might use imagery of our childhood to evoke a mood of nostalgia; or soft colours, flowers and candlelight to build an aura of romance. Words often carry connotations, emotional associations that go beyond their literal meanings. This can be seen through variations in tone, the interaction of visual and verbal aspects of texts and the use of imagery, symbol or motif.

Reading the gaps
On the student worksheet 3.3.1 Responses to text (All students) write what you think the lines of dialogue refer to.

After you’ve read the text transcript of the MDT 30 second advertisement, write a reflection on how your own experience – personal, social and/or cultural – played a part in influencing your response to the statements on the student worksheet 3.3.1 Responses to texts (All students).

Approach: Designing for textual resonances

One of the ways we understand texts is by the echoes of other texts, their intertextuality. Seeing these connections brings pleasure and enriches our experience of the text because these connections bring with them other contexts and new meanings.

Intertextuality often plays with the narratives that resonate across time and have come to permeate our culture. These stories are often about heroes and how honourably and dutifully they confront danger. In the same way, the campaigns on the Transport for NSW website address issues of personal responsibility. They focus on the ordinary person and how our daily lives can be poised between agency and risk. The stories of heroes are implied in the campaigns for safety but, in these campaigns, the stories advocate caution and warn against hazardous behaviour as a way of confronting our everyday dangers.
What do you find of note in the text below? What questions does it raise for you?
Of course, when presented with a text, our initial responses influenced by our own experiences, are always personal. Are your observations different from others in your class?

What connections do you see between this text and others you have encountered?
What connections do you see between the following stories of Perseus and Andromeda and St George slaying the dragon?

Perseus and Andromeda
Perseus, the son of Zeus and a mortal woman was loved by the gods and so was given special gifts to protect him: a curved sword, a winged horse and a cap that could make him invisible.
As he was flying near Ethiopia he came across a naked maiden chained to a rock at the edge of the sea. Perseus, struck by her beauty, immediately swooped down to her. She told him that her name was Andromeda and that she was being sacrificed to a sea monster because her mother had angered Poseidon by foolishly boasting that her daughter was more beautiful than the sea nymphs. Poseidon was enraged and threatened to punish all Ethiopia with an immense flood and with devastation by the sea monster, Cetus. The only way to pacify him and save the entire country, was to promise Andromeda to the ravages of the sea and its sea monster. On hearing her pitiable story, Perseus fell in love with her and when the sea monster surfaced to devour his promised meal, Perseus slew him, freed Andromeda from her chains and took her as his bride.

St George slays the dragon
This is a traditional tale in which a dragon threatened an area with wholesale poisoning unless it sacrificed a child to him once a year. To ensure fairness to all, the child was chosen by lottery and one year the lot fell to the princess who was then sent to do her duty. As luck would have it, a knight, St George, was riding by, attacked the dragon and succeeded in wounding it with his lance. He then asked the lady to give him the sash she wore around her waist so he could tie the dragon and lead it back into the town. The people were greatly relieved to see their princess return and the dragon captured and when St George offered to kill the beast if they all converted to Christianity, they duly did so. St George slew the dragon and, in gratitude for saving the life of his daughter, the king built a church. From the spot where the dragon fell, issued a stream of life-giving water.

Brainstorm associations and symbols relating to dragons, knights and princesses that are suggested in the story and that you have gathered from your own reading. Using the student worksheet 3.3.2 Perseus and Andromeda (Advanced) outline your idea of:

  • the conventional depiction of these three characters
  • their relationship with the real world.

These three key characters, ‘damsel in distress’, the ‘knight in shining armour’ and the marauding beast are tropes that have echoed from ancient times, through different cultures to the present day. They were most popular in mediaeval romance genre and have remained the staple of popular escapist literature and film, although more audiences now are demanding female heroes.


To what extent and how does the Uccello painting, St George and the Dragon, conform to the characteristics of the medieval romance genre? (You should also take into account the idealised style of the painting).

The Uccello (1490) painting and the Leighton (1891) tell two different stories yet the stories, and consequently, the paintings, have remarkable similarities. Note how both these heroic tales, though coming from different cultures, have a strong element of the divine.

U.A. Fanthorpe’s poem “Not my best side”, inspired by Uccello’s painting, recontextualises the St George and the Dragon story into a modern setting.
The poem is available on the internet and can also be found in Richardson P and Watson K eds. (1990) Postcards from Planet Earth, Oxford University Press Australia; Watson K ed, (2013), The Round Earth’s Imagined Corners, Phoenix Education.

Using the Intertextuality charts on the student worksheet 3.3.2 Perseus and Andromeda (Advanced), compare the representation of each of the characters in “Not my best side” to their representation painting. Note at least

  • Three features each has in common and the effects of these similarities on the reader
  • Three features that are different and the effect of these differences.

Discuss in small groups what kind of character is portrayed in each of these vignettes and in what texts you have encountered them.

Give each a suitable name, if they do not have one, and write a brief character description conveying their appearance which will indicate something about their attitude to the world.

In “Not my best side”, there are two levels of intertextuality, the first as a direct reference to the Uccello painting and the second is by implied reference character types that are recognisable and, as your discussions have shown, identifiable from contemporary texts.

However, there are further layers of meaning – the ones we take back to the original texts. The poem reflects back on the painting and on the tale. None of these texts is quite the same again for us as each carries resonances of the contemporary poem which explores its less than ‘best side’. Going even further back, the Christian tale of St George echoes the pagan tale of Perseus and Andromeda.

Bringing it all together
Class discussion
Texts echo each other in many ways, including plot, character / type, trope, structure, form, genre, direct or implied reference – sometimes several of these.
Brainstorm texts you have read, viewed or listened to that echo other texts and

  1. identify the intertextual references
  2. group the texts into the kinds of intertextual references made (eg structure, character, trope etc)
  3. discuss why you think composers make use of intertextuality. In your discussion, you will need to explain the effect of the intertextuality in any of the texts mentioned.

Browse the campaign advertisements on the web site and suggest which cultural tales or tropes they indirectly reference. You will find such tropes as wild youth, forlorn lover, the journey, fateful encounters, the call, choice and consequence and many more.

  • Choose a traditional tale, myth or any well-known text and rework the story by layering it with one of the safety advertisements on the Centre for Road Safety website. You might change the whole story or only some or one element of the text, such as a character, its context or its imagery.
  • Write a brief reflection on how the values implied by the original story have changed as a result of the intertextual layer of the safety campaign.

Last update: 25th January 2019