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HSC English (Standard) Student Workbook Cosi Louis Nowra Module B: Close Study of Text

Emily Bosco

Copyright Š 2012 Emily Bosco Into English Pty. Ltd. 19/2 Everton Road Strathfield NSW 2135

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Module B: Close Study of Text The overarching goal of this module is for “students to engage in a detailed analysis of a text” 1. This means that you need to know all aspects of the text in depth, in order to successfully complete the requirements of this module. When you have an understanding of all the aspects of the text, you will be able to evaluate the ways in which the text impacts on the responder by analysing the language, form and features used to convey the thematic concerns of the text. This means that throughout your study of Louis Nowra’s play Cosi you will need to understand the following: o o o o o o

Context Plot Dramatic structure Characterisation Language devices Themes/ideas

Cosi: Understanding Context Throughout Cosi, the characters refer to many social, cultural, historical, political and literary events and personalities. With the exception of references to Mozart and his opera Cosi Fan Tutte and the classical compositions of Wagner, these references cover a substantial portion of the mid-twentieth century, from the 1950s to the 1970s, revealing much about the personalities of the characters who mention them. So, without a good working knowledge of the play’s context, it is difficult to access the full significance of much of the dialogue, including the humour. Thus, it is necessary for you to research the following aspects of the context: o Mozart’s opera Cosi Fan Tutte o Wagner’s Valkyrie and The Twilight of the Gods o Popular culture from the 1950s to the 1970s:  Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin  Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti  The Troggs Wild Thing  The Electric Prunes  The Velvet Underground  Walt Disney When You Wish Upon a Star


NSW Board of Studies English Stage 6 Prescriptions 2009-2014 p. 14


o Social and political issues/events:  Vietnam War  Anti-Vietnam War Moratorium, Melbourne 1971  Paris May 1968 student protests  ‘Hippie’ Movement – ‘Make Love Not War’  Rise of the Women’s Movement  Treatment of the mentally ill in 1960s/1970s Australia o Literary context/mythology:  Bartolt Brecht – The Life of Galileo and The Exception and the Rule  Oscar Wilde  Phoenix of Arabia  Valhalla o Louis Nowra’s personal context (read Frankenstein’s Mozart: The Making of Cosi by Gerry Turcotte and Trial By Madmen by Louis Nowra - pp. ix-xviii in the Currency Press edition of the play script). To begin with, view the interactive magazine Cosi: Understanding Context on the Into English website and make your own notes in the space provided below:


Activities: Act One, Scene One Glossary The following words/phrases are listed in the order in which they appear in Act One, scene one. As you read this scene, highlight each of these words/phases and make a note of the meaning.



Tutorial Moratorium

C ward ‘Having you on’ Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin Sotto Voce ‘Hold your horses’ Lobotomy ‘Goes berserk’ Panto ‘Shacked up with a few shelias’ ‘drongo’ ‘Let’s get this show on the road’

DEFINITION Nick is referring to The Life of Galileo – a play written by German playwright Bertolt Brecht. The play is about the Italian philosopher Galileo Galilei who suffered persecution at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church for his scientific discoveries. Given that the central conflict is one of conservative versus liberal thought, with the main theme of constancy in the face of oppression, it is not difficult to discern why Nick feels this play to be relevant in a context characterised by an unjust war; whilst simultaneously deeming Cosi Fan Tutte irrelevant. A class at university. Nick is referring to the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam held in Melbourne in June 1971. This was the third public demonstration calling for the immediate withdrawal of Australian and American troops from Vietnam. Stands for ‘Closed Ward’ – a ward in the asylum for patients who are considered a danger to themselves and others. An Australian colloquial admission that you have just deliberately exaggerated a story, rendering it untrue – used for comedic effect. Roy is referring to ‘Martin and Lewis’ – an American comedy act comprising the singer Dean Martin (the ‘straight’ guy) and the comedian Jerry Lewis (the comedic ‘foil’). The pair were popular in the 1940s. Intentionally lowering one’s voice for emphasis; similar to an ‘aside’ in drama, although as it is a deliberate whispering between two characters, it gives use gives the impression of a more personal or confidential aside. An Australian colloquial expression meaning ‘wait a minute’. A medical procedure severing the nerves between the frontal lobes and the rest of the brain. A technique formerly used to treat certain psychiatric disorders. To lose control or ‘go crazy’. Short for ‘pantomime’; a play in which the actors express themselves using gestures, usually to the accompaniment of music. Doug is using an Australian idiomatic expression meaning ‘living with a few women’. A colloquial expression meaning ‘idiot’. Roy is using an Australian idiomatic expression meaning ‘let’s get started’.


Textual Analysis & Deconstruction 1. Scene one opens with Lewis, Lucy and Nick entering “a burnt out theatre”. Explain the possible symbolic meaning of this “burnt out theatre”, in combination with the contrast of “pitch dark” and “a chink of daylight”.


2. What is the significance of the literary reference to Bertolt Brecht’s The Life of Galileo?

3. Describe Lucy’s manner of speaking at the beginning of scene one. How has Nowra used language to convey her as a domineering character that bears contempt for what Lewis is doing?


4. Lewis is established as lacking in confidence and almost helpless in the wake of the task he has chosen to undertake. Using evidence from this scene, explain how Nowra has achieved this characterisation.

5. What is the significance of Roy’s reference to Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin?


Standard Module B: Cosi Student Workbook  

A structured approach for teaching and learning Louis Nowra's play 'Cosi'. Specifically designed for students studying the HSC Standard Engl...

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