The Australian Curriculum Senior Secondary English Literature Unit 3 states that:
Unit 3 develops students’ knowledge and understanding of the relationship between language, culture and identity in literary texts. Students inquire into the power of language to represent ideas, events and people, comparing these across a range of texts, contexts, modes and forms. Through critical analysis and evaluation, the values and attitudes represented in and through texts and their impact on the reader are examined. Throughout the unit, students create analytical responses that are characterised by personal voice and informed observation. In creating imaginative texts, students experiment with language, adapt forms, and challenge conventions and ideas.
This unit is designed to introduce students to feminist and ecocritical approaches to literary analysis which are ideal for investigating the relationships between language, culture and identity in Faith Singer. The protagonist and narrator, Faith, identifies herself as a feminist throughout the novel and many of her decisions and actions are justified according to her particular feminist world-view. Ecocriticism provides a powerful lens through which to examine place in the text, not only the recognisable material environs of Kings Cross, but also the natural world that coexists alongside the built environment. While these frameworks are introduced further into the unit, the pre-reading activities will prepare students for thinking about how gender and place are mobilised and represented in texts.
Evocative representations of place provide many of the most powerful passages in Faith Singer. The citizens of the Cross as they are brought to life in the novel could only live there, and it is the place itself that shapes their vulnerabilities, their vices and their fragile communities. Prepare students for examining the intersections of place and character by undertaking their own place-writing.
Activity 1. Photo-essay
Students can investigate place-writing prior to examining the depiction of Kings Cross by documenting their own neighbourhoods in images and words. Lead students through the following process.
- Choose a precise geographic area and have students take a series of digital photographs focusing on details of that place. Ask them to consider landscape in terms of both built environment and natural environment.
- Ask students to select their most interesting and precise images. Then create a fictional character who has a link to that place in the present and prepare a monologue from that character’s point of view. They should try to capture how aspects of personality, voice and history have been shaped by that place.
- Students can present their photoessays to the class as a powerpoint slideshow or prezi, or record audio voiceover with the images and upload to the class online learning space.
Activity 2. Memory-map
Individually, students can investigate the significance of place in their own lives prior to exploring how Kings Cross features in the lives of the characters in Faith Singer. Lead students through the following process.
- Provide students with coloured pencils, textas and A3 pieces of paper, and ask them to draw a rough map from memory of their childhood neighbourhood in as much detail as they can.
- Ask students to annotate their maps with events and incidents that they can recall.
- Have students share their maps with each other and elaborate on the stories that are marked on their maps.
- Students should select one of the memories marked on the map and write an extended text, detailing the place where the event happened and its impact on them.
Activity 3. The Cross
Kings Cross is an iconic part of Australian cultural history, from its early associations with bohemian artists and freethinkers through to its public reputation as a hotbed of vice. It is described in a 1964 television documentary as a “glittering mile of dreams, delusions, hopes and headaches, where life comes out of an espresso machine and you can have it any way you like it” and in 2010 as a “land of neon rainbows where fantasies could be bought and nightmares walk the streets”. To prepare students for the complex representations of this small area of Sydney in Faith Singer, have them view and compare media texts about Kings Cross.
- Ask students to review the media texts that are linked below in chronological order.
- Students should complete the Kings Cross in the Media Retrieval Chart (PDF, 115KB) as they review the texts.
- Discuss representations of place and people in the text, including residents and visitors. Consider which issues are highlighted, the extent to which they shift over time, and the solutions that are suggested for them.
- Have students predict what they would expect to read about in a contemporary novel set in Kings Cross and the points of view and types of lives that would be most interesting to fictionalise.
- Students can also explore the representations of women and youth in the cover images of sixteen pulp fiction novels from the 1960s and 1970s set in Kings Cross.
- Further information on the history of Kings Cross can be found at the online Dictionary of Sydney.
- The Glittering Mile (1964, ABC Documentary, excerpt from 30-38 mins voxpop of locals and visitors).
- AIDS affected teenage prostitutes (1984, Terry Willesee Tonight, 7).
- Underbelly: The Golden Mile (2010, Nine Network, closely based on events from 1988-1999, excerpt first five mins).
- Sydney’s most dangerous locations (2012, 7News).
- What does a night in Kings Cross look like? (2012, ABC 7.30 Report).
- Why people are drawn to the Sydney’s dark heart (2012, News.com.au).
- The Death of Kings Cross as we know it (2014, SMH).
(ACELR038) (ACELR040) (ACELR041)
Faith Singer is a ‘political’ novel in many ways and Scott has spoken of her decision to create a middle-aged woman as the protagonist of her novel. Feminist perspectives are evident in Faith’s values and beliefs, in her actions in the present and in the past, in what she says to readers in the persona of the narrator and what she says to other people in the dialogue. In particular Scott sets up binary oppositions between male and female, and also between old and young. She begins to reverse these through the narrative arc where, though the power may seem to rest with older males, women supporting each other and caring for vulnerable youth are able to challenge and overcome these power structures. While the novel challenges some binary thinking around gender, other aspects of conventional femininity may be reinforced. To prepare students to trace representations of gender through Faith Singer, engage them in a binary oppositions sorting activity.
Activity 4. Binary perspectives on gender
This activity will assist students to begin to see how the notion of gender binaries have been taken up by feminist literary critics to identify how discourses of femininity and masculinity pervade the way we see the world, and how the world in represented in texts. Students will begin to develop their own theories about how power circulates according to gendered binaries, and to speculate on how these might be challenged in texts.
- Prepare the materials by printing, laminating and cutting up the cards on the Binary oppositions sorting activity (PDF, 125KB) handout.
- Have students in small groups sort their cards into two columns under the headings Male vs Female. Ask them to sort the cards in pairs (e.g. strong/weak, reason/emotion) in terms of broad tendencies to represent certain qualities as more characteristic of male or female ways of being in the world. Students will talk about ‘stereotypes’ and ‘sexism’ in their discussion and contestation of these categories during the activity, but considering discourses of masculinity and femininity by tracing oppositions or binary pairs provides a more powerful foundation for critique and deconstruction.
- Discuss which were easiest and most difficult to classify, identify points of difference in their classifications. Explore where such notions come from and how they are contested. Examine characters and texts that they are familiar with in terms of their representations of gender (for example, see this analysis of The Hunger Games).
- Ask students to find, display and discuss images (advertisements, movie posters) that represent ‘male’ and ‘female’ as opposites according to the characteristics they have been discussing. There are many collections online (e.g. Gender Ads Project) or source the book produced for Australian schools Media She (1974) by Patricia Edgar and Hilary McPhee, which compiled and parodied advertising of the time.
- Gender is the main binary that operates throughout Faith Singer, however this is nuanced by its intersection with age, particularly in the maternal relationship that Faith tries to establish with Angel, and in the sexual exploitation by old men of young girls and boys. Students could make a second pass through the sorting activity to consider which characteristics can be sorted under the headings Youth vs Adult. How does this sorting exercise support or contest the decisions about which categories related to particular genders?
Outline of key elements of the text
Faith Singer moves between chapters in the present that unfold the developing relationship between middle-aged Faith and 14 year old prostitute and addict Angel and chapters that provide insights into Faith’s unhappy childhood, her brief celebrity as a rockstar and her experience of love and loss as a mother. As Angel becomes increasingly embroiled in addiction and subject to violence on the streets, Faith tries to rescue her by taking her into her home then by sending her to drug-free safety in the country. Finally, the threads of her life come together when Faith headlines in a benefit concert to raise funds for homeless kids in Kings Cross.
Faith Singer is a 52-year-old waitress, alcoholic and washed-up rockstar. She was raised by a spinster aunt whose dedication to the communist movement is blamed by Faith for her cold demeanour. Faith leaves home as a teenager, changes her name and briefly becomes successful as a rockstar which enables her to buy an old house in Kings Cross. She becomes pregnant to a heroin-addicted musician and raises the child away from him in a communal house. Alternate versions of family are central to Faith’s values, and she has also been involved in the lives of teenage prostitutes and addicts, Cosmo and Darren. Faith’s seventeen year old daughter, Daisy, died many years earlier of a heroin overdose.
Antonio is the proprietor of the Bar Calais which is owned by his overbearing mother, a bed-ridden monster who lives in the featureless claustrophobic suburbs. Antonio is warm-hearted but exhausted from the constant intimidation he is subjected to by his mother.
Ruth is Faith’s best friend. She owned the house near Blackwattle Bay that Faith moved into before Daisy was born and helped to raise her. At the time of the events in the novel, she lives on a property in Tasmania which becomes a refuge for Angel. Ruth was a fellow musician and backup performer.
Angel (Tara Mansfield) is a 14-year-old girl heroin-addict and child prostitute in Kings Cross who is known for her sunny disposition and eccentric vintage style. She is a state ward and has had a troubled relationship with her mother and stepfather. She is slashed on the face by a client and threatened by corrupt police. Faith invites her into her house, arranges for her to enter a youth refuge and rehabilitation centre, and to finally to settle with Ruth in Tasmania.
Cosmo (Christopher) Wright is a regular customer in the Bar Calais and a young heroin addict and prostitute. He was a private school boy with rich parents and a home in the wealthy North Shore, which he left more than a year prior to the events of the novel. He tells Faith that he has dropped out of school to write a novel and promises that he will return one day to complete his HSC. He is homeless through much of the novel but moves for a short time into a luxury apartment with criminal Trevor. He dies of an overdose in a squalid squat late in the novel.
Darren is an Aboriginal child prostitute and heroin addict who Faith believes is dead through most of the novel. However, Darren’s aunt had taken him back to Moree where he has been able to recover from his addiction. He returns to tell her that he is now well and that he was a witness to murder by corrupt police and the pedophile man.
Tracey is a young prostitute and addict and Angel’s friend who comes to Faith for help several times through the novel.
Joe is Faith’s neighbour, a retired working-class widower and long time resident of Kings Cross who grows vegetables and makes many cups of tea for Faith through the novel.
Peter is a social worker who runs a soup kitchen and rehabilitation programs for youth.
Trevor is one of the biggest dealers and pimps in Kings Cross and is an occasional customer at the Bar Calais. He is old, fat and repulsive. Both Angel and Cosmo live for short periods of
The Man is an unnamed wealthy pedophile who preys on child prostitutes. He slashes Angel with a knife and intimidates Faith by sending corrupt police and thugs to the cafe and to her house. Late in the novel Faith learns from the newspaper of his suicide, just as police have collated enough evidence to convict him.
Activity 5. Character Profiling
In order to evaluate the complexity and depth of characterisation in the novel, and to track Faith’s biases about other characters, students can develop detailed profiles of the characters while they read the novel.
- Each student should have one major character and one minor character to track using a tool like this character questionnaire. The character profile for Faith can be completed by the whole class.
- Students should pay particular attention to what we know as fact about each character and what we know is Faith’s opinion about the character.
- Students can develop a character network map (PDF, 88KB) by drawing lines between the characters that shows the extent of the relationships and networks between them in the novel. Faith will be at the centre as she is the pivot of events as we see them (for example, see this computer generated network map for the character of Forrest Gump).
Faith Singer is an overtly feminist novel from its opening page dedication “In memory of Marilyn French with love and gratitude” through to its conclusion where Faith stresses the “necessity of living a truthful life . . . earning a living with my own hands, being myself with people I know, staying kind, being needed, living tenderly in the present with the hard-won wisdom of a lifetime” (p. 248). Faith’s moral compass is closely tied to her feminist values, which include independence and autonomy, female friendships and interdependence, responsibility for vulnerable others, and the right to sexual pleasure without exploitation. The many examples of corruption, greed and exploitation throughout the novel are all associated with patriarchy and the sexual objectification of women and children. Powerful men and their networks are the perpetrators of evil in Kings Cross. Scott writes Faith as a feminist protagonist and role model.
Activity 6. Feminist role models
Invite students to consider the cultural, personal and textual functions of role models.
- Students should consider why Rosie Scott would express ‘love and gratitude’ for an author she had never met. They should investigate who Marilyn French was and the milieu in which she was writing. Her novel The Women’s Room (1977) was particularly influential for women of the time, as explored in this rather ambivalent recent rereading of the text by author and journalist Nuala O’Faolain.
- Students can identify personal and public role models in their own lives. How would they rank the top ten most influential women in the present moment? How quickly do role models change and why? For example, the YWCA She Speaks Annual Survey listed Julia Gillard as the top role model for young women in 2012, while in 2014 it asked for the Prime Minister to lead the way on changing gender stereotypes.
Faith Singer critiques conventional family structures and puts forward alternatives that are based on affinity and friendship, and that entail an ethics of care for vulnerable others. This perspective is quite consistent with second-wave feminist critique of the nuclear family structure reliant on the male breadwinner. The friendship between Faith and Ruth develops into their co-parenting of Faith’s daughter Daisy, and as they cooperate later to rescue Angel. The conventional nuclear family is represented by Cosmo’s respectable wealthy family and their cold-hearted rejection of him.
While fathers are irrelevant in Faith Singer, mothers are crucial. The novel contains traces of the ambivalent relation of motherhood to some versions of feminism. Faith describes herself at various times as a “mother” of the lost children Angel, Cosmo, Darren, perhaps as compensation for their own bad mothers. She sees bad mothers everywhere. They are neglectful, selfish, psychopathic, overbearing. Angel’s mother doesn’t defend her from her “psycho” boyfriend, and is imagined by Faith as “one of those faded hippy beauties – intelligent, chaotic, powerful” with a “personality disorder” and weakness for dangerous men (p. 36). Cosmo’s mother is pictured as “one of those proper, severely groomed North Shore matrons, every inch of her lacquered, hair like iron, face rigid with secrets” (p. 228). Faith’s adulterous birth mother “never said a truthful word in her life” (p. 41) and was a “kind of psychopath” (p. 42) according to her aunt. In contrast to the neglect of other bad mothers, Antonio’s mother is of a different sort, monstrous and overbearing whose love is always conditional.
Activity 6. Monstrous mothers
Ask students to track the representation of mothers in the novel. These notes will assist in their final critical response to the text.
- Students should record specific quotations referring to the mothers (and mother substitutes) of characters in the novel using the Monstrous Mothers Retrieval Chart (PDF, 100KB).
- Students should consider how Faith (and Ruth) are positioned as mothers throughout the novel, and how this contrasts with the representations of monstrous mothers.
- Discuss where and how Faith learns to be a mother? To what extent is she a good mother or a bad mother – to Daisy and to other people’s children? Is it possible to argue that ‘motherhood’ provides the narrative arc of the novel?
Faith Singer also constructs an argument against greed and the corruption of capital. While this is overt in the descriptions of Faith’s aunt and her left wing political milieu, which Faith appears to reject but is strongly shaped by, it also arises throughout the novel. The villains of the Cross are wealthy men: Trevor, who does business in the Bar Calais, the pedophile slasher who lives in a harbour side mansion and drives a BMW, and the corrupt police. Drugs and prostitution are money-making enterprises for organised crime. Meanwhile, real estate profiteering is beginning to reshape the neighbourhood so that honest frugal people, like Faith’s neighbour Joe, are beginning to doubt their capacity to remain living there. The are many times through the novel when Faith rails against the hypocrisy and corruption that she sees around her, and its effects on the vulnerable. Although Faith is portrayed as having the values of an activist, arguably it is when she sings at the benefit concert for street children that she really acts to bring about change. For Faith, passion and energy are crucial components of her activism.
Activity 7. Protest
Have students critically examine Faith’s futile attempts (Ch. 31) to find the “right language” for a statement that might be accepted as evidence (p. 152) of the abuse of children in Kings Cross.
- Emotion and fact are key ways to persuade people to change the way they think about an important issue. Examine Faith’s statement in the following passages: “You bureaucrats and politicians . . . under the freeway” (p. 154), “These are the facts . . . What are the facts?” (p. 155).
- How does Faith deploy emotion and fact in her two attempts at drafting a statement? Have students identify the persuasive strategies that she uses (e.g. rhetorical questions, emotive language, imperatives, direct address).
- Ask students to rewrite the text so that it would be admissible as evidence. Then consider whether it is likely to be effective in this dispassionate form.
The writer’s craft
The novel is entirely focalised through the perspective of the protagonist. Faith is the narrator of all the events of the novel and she is the central character in the novel. The reader is forced to see the world through Faith’s point of view: through her eyes and ears, her feelings, her opinions, her politics and her history. It also means that the reader is constrained by Faith’s point of view, her views, and her limited range of perceptions. None of the other characters are given voice except when they are in dialogue with Faith, and only there can the reader hear their words and perspectives directly.
Readers can take up a compliant reading position, accepting the subjective perspective that is offered to us through Faith, or can adopt a resistant reading position where they look for gaps and contradictions, and search for counter narratives to Faith’s versions of events. One effective way to encourage students to adopt a resistant reading position is to provide imaginative recreation activities that invite them to switch the focalisation and consider how events would be perceived and narrated by a different character.
Activity 1. Imaginative recreation – Angel’s journal
Invite students to adopt a different narrative point of view to that offered by Faith, and thus to explore other ways that events might be represented and understood.
- Imagine that in the drug rehabilitation centre, Angel has been asked to keep a personal journal as a therapeutic tool which can help her to recognise and begin to document the relationships and values that are important to her life. Angel continues to keep the journal from that moment through to the end of the novel, and she also uses it to reflect on previous positive encounters.
- Ask students to select three particular moments in the novel as points in time where Angel writes in her journal and write those entries (e.g. Angel’s meetings with Faith, Cosmo’s funeral, her friendship with Tracey).
- Have students compare and contrast their representations of Angel through her language. To what extent do style and voice reflect the poles of her representation as a “sunny, eccentric girl” and “scrawny, snivelling, white trash kid” that Faith describes her as (p. 92)?
- Examine the letter from Angel that is reproduced in the novel (p. 173), which is the only time we see Angel’s writing. Have the students adopted any of the characteristics of Angel’s writing style in their journal entries?
- Discuss the challenges of creating an “authentic” voice for Angel. How else (apart from first person point of view) might it be possible to represent her perspective on the events in the novel?
Faith Singer demonstrates how time and space are constructed in narrative fiction, and how plot and character are inextricably entwined. The work of fiction is to plot character trajectories across time and space in fictional worlds, and to do this in such a way that it increases cognitive and emotional power and creates compelling narratives. The chapters in Faith Singer are carefully plotted by Scott to move between present and past, and to reveal what we need to know of Faith’s previous life at each moment in the present. While the chronological present timeframe of the novel begins with Faith spotting Angel in the street (Ch. 1), and ends with them sitting on a balcony together some months later (Ch. 54), the chapters in-between move back and forth from the present of Faith’s everyday life in Kings Cross, and the past, as events in the present provoke Faith to reflect on her personal history. This strategy of flashback, or analepsis, is used extensively in the novel. For example, the first flashback comes as Faith reflects on “lost children” and remembers the life and recent death of Darren (Ch. 4), and reflecting on her addiction to alcohol and her emotional history provokes distant memories of growing up with the “stone basilisk” of her aunt (Ch. 6). Through this technique, and the careful pacing of information about Faith’s history, Scott gradually unfolds her backstory and the crucial revelation of the death of Faith’s daughter of a heroin overdose (Ch. 37).
Activity 2. Temporality
Have students map these two timeframes though the novel, chapter by chapter.
- Construct a table or a graph that maps the events of the novel in the present, against the events that are recalled from the past.
- Note that while the events of the present are recounted in chronological order, those of the past do not conform to chronological time. What other logic can explain this?
Parallels and contrasts
As well as binaries between male and female, and between good and bad mothers, there are distinct parallels between the characters of Angel and Daisy that become apparent as the novel proceeds and that are overtly recognised in the penultimate chapter when Angel says “I’m your living daughter” and Faith replies “I know, darling” (p. 247). Faith’s parallels with her Aunt are more complicated and subtle and there are many examples when Faith recognises and fights against injustices with an ethical perspective that owes much to what she has learned from her Aunt. However Faith is determined to portray herself as an independent woman, beholden to no-one. She rejected her upbringing, her aunt, and even her name when she left home as a teenager.
Activity 3. The aunt’s child.
While Faith does not often recognise the ways in which she has been shaped by her upbringing by her aunt, Scott gives us many clues about their similarities, including their care for other people’s children.
- Have students track the moments through the novel when Faith acts against or names injustice.
- Discuss which of these issues is framed by values she would have learned from her aunt.
- Which of these moments would make her aunt most proud of her? Which would she have been disappointed by?
- To what extent might they be considered as parallel characters?
The voice of the novel is Faith’s voice, which reveals not only her movements and actions but her feelings and opinions and her sensory responses to the world around her. Faith is constructed as a passionate, opinionated and bluntly honest figure. Her moods are volatile and this is reflected in the language of the novel which moves between lyrical passages describing her environs as she walks around Kings Cross, to an affectionate nostalgia as she remembers some of her past joys, to bitterness, to vulgarity or obscenity when she is angry. The language of the narrating voice tends to be more reflective and measured than the outbursts that are recorded in dialogue.
Activity 4. Losing it.
- Have students identify key passages where language breaks down for Faith, where she loses her temper and slides into a tirade, or where her language is a mismatch for the occasion (e.g. Cosmo’s funeral, Ch. 49).
- Examine how she justifies this use of language and how others respond and perceive her through it (e.g. Ruth calls her a “great rampaging bear”).
- Faith claims that “when the ability to tell a good story is the only thing that stands before you and mortal danger there has to be a kind of heady authenticity, the taste of blood in every word” (p. 155). Discuss the extent to which this might be applied to the novel as a whole.
Style and genre
Faith Singer is an example of contemporary Australian urban social realism. With its focus on heroin addiction, youth homelessness, sex work, violent crime and corruption, it strays towards the sub-genre that was labelled by some Australian critics in the mid-1990s as ‘grunge literature’. However the redemptive narrative arc of Faith Singer differentiates it from the nihilism associated with those works (e.g. Andrew McGahan’s Praise, Luke Davies’ Candy, Christos Tsiolkos’ Loaded, Justine Ettler’s The River Ophelia and others). ‘Grunge’ was portrayed as a generational literary phenomenon, of supposedly semi-autobiographical first novels written by young authors. However Faith Singer is Scott’s sixth novel and a work of fiction. The tension between gritty realism and optimism in Faith Singer is central to the novel.
Activity 5. Gritty realism
Have students examine key scenes where the degradation of life at Kings Cross is described.
- Compare the first description of “the strip” on Darlinghurst Road (“The hunters and the hunted . . .”, p. 13) to the representations of Kings Cross in the media reports earlier in the unit. To what extent does Faith neutralise this with her claim of truthfulness and lack of hypocrisy and her own sense of belonging? Has this position changed by the end of the novel?
- Look at the scene where Faith visits “the Wall” (Ch. 22). How does this extend or contradict the initial representation of Kings Cross as a dangerous place?
- Examine the two visits to the squat that Faith makes (pp. 110-111, pp. 218-219). How does Faith describe the children and the place where they live? What is her response?
- Track other instances where the Cross is described as a dangerous place (pp. 50-51, 99). To what extent is it the place or the people who inhabit it that make it dangerous?
- Note the use of animal imagery throughout these passages. What other motifs can be traced through the novel?
As well as documenting its dangers, the novel’s representations of Kings Cross and its environs provide some of its most lyrical passages. These are images that are not part of the media stereotyping or the public imagination. In contrast to the inherent violence of the concentrated public spaces of “the strip” and “the Wall” and their voracious night-time economies, Faith Singer moves into the backstreets, the parks and gardens, the early mornings and late afternoons, the domestic spaces and the corners where nature flourishes and brings solace. This urban landscape and mode of living is contrasted with suburban life, for example, Antonio’s mother’s home is “a treeless brick block of flats right on a six-lane highway somewhere” (p. 16).
Activity 6. Urban environmentalism
- Have students examine the lyrical passages where Faith describes the area (e.g. pp. 29, 48, 52-53, 103, 206, 248-249). What images and qualities recur in these descriptions? Consider the extent to which built environment and natural features (including light and air) are evoked and balanced in these passages. Consider how walking through the urban landscape provides perspective and scale.
- Students could return to their own place-writing and revise it, utilising some of the strategies that Scott demonstrates in these passages.
- Consider how gardens feature in her descriptions of Joe’s home (pp. 58-59) and of her memories of the house at Blackwattle Bay (pp. 148-149).
- What threats are there to this way of life (p. 58)? What other evidence is there for the gentrification of the neighbourhood and how do others (e.g. Antonio) feel about this? How do we balance progress and preservation in urban neighbourhoods? (Students may be interested to learn about the disappearance of publisher and activist Juanita Neilsen in 1975 during a residents’ campaign to preserve houses in Victoria St, Kings Cross).
Ways of reading the text
Faith Singer lends itself to a feminist reading of the text, as this is the dominant perspective that the protagonist narrator makes available to us. The novel is a feminist reworking of power relations so that, despite patriarchal power, brutality and corruption, it is women and their allies who are ultimately triumphant. In this novel, a feminist reading is a compliant reading. However this may also be its limitation as the particular feminism of Faith has its blind spots. Her depiction of feminism seems somewhat dated and exclusionary. Faith says that, for her, “being a woman meant that even the most precious fundamental structures of my being could never have the same weight of a man’s”, although she appreciates sex, she repudiates love because most men are “permanently wired for power and control” (p. 144), and in her rockstar persona she celebrates “the knowing cackle of witches, a new breed of women who owed nothing to anyone and were all alone in the world” (p. 81). But it is in fact maternity, the most conventional of roles for women, that is her redemption, initially through her own child Daisy, and later through her relationship with Angel. All of the activities on gender have been leading students through a feminist reading of the novel.
Activity 1. Faith as a feminist
- Students should keep a log of Faith’s expressions of feminism through what she says and what she does. Consider the extent to which these views are credible in the present. What are the costs and limitations in this perspective? How might it be revitalised for the present? Is it likely that Angel will identify herself as a feminist in the future?
- To what extent can Rosie Scott be called a feminist writer, through her authoring ofFaith Singer? Can we conflate an author and her character? What other indications are there of Scott’s perspectives on feminism?
- Students should debate whether we are in a post-feminist era. What does feminism mean to them? How do they see feminism impacting on their future lives?
- Examine this Feminism 101 blog and discuss the arguments for feminism put forward on the blog. How do they differ from the views of Faith, and of Scott who created her?
Although ecocritical literary analysis (PDF, 127KB) has been associated with nature writing, romanticism and pastoral literature, given that most people live in more densely populated cities, attention is turning to how place is represented in urban areas. Faith Singer is an ideal text to read through an ecocritical lens, as many of the evocations of place are lyrical and compelling, and the beauty of nature is portrayed as a healing force in contrast to the toxicity of the built environment. All of the activities on place throughout this unit have been leading students through an ecocritical reading of the novel.
Comparison with other texts
Kings Cross has been represented in fiction and nonfiction texts over many years and students can compare the representations of place in Faith Singer to the following texts:
- Kings Cross: A Social History, by Louis Nowra (2013, New South Books).
- In the Gutter – Looking at the Stars. A literary adventure through Kings Cross, edited by Mandy Sayer and Louis Nowra (2000, Random House).
- The Cross, by Mandy Sayer (1995, Allen and Unwin) fictionalises locals fighting against developers, inspired by the disappearance of publisher and activist Juanita Neilsen.
- Pagan, by Inez Baranay (1990, Angus and Robertson) fictionalises a scandal of the 1950s involving Rosaleen Norton, the ‘witch’ of the Cross.
Evaluation of the text
The novel Faith Singer by immigrant New Zealander Rosie Scott follows an important wave of Australian feminist fiction through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s that endeavoured to give voice to women’s voices and experiences beyond the domestic sphere. Some of these texts revisited Australian history such as Kate Grenville’s Joan Makes History (1988), which rewrites Australian history from the perspective of an ‘everywoman’ figure, and Kate Bedford’s Sister Kate (1982) which tells the story of the Kelly Gang from their forgotten sister’s point of view, while others reworked the sexual politics of the everyday in urban settings, like Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip (1977).
(ACELR037) (ACELR038) (ACELR040)
Rich assessment tasks
Assessment task 1 – Cosmo’s writing portfolio
We know that Cosmo wants to be a novelist so it is likely that some of his writing is found in his backpack after his death. Faith describes him as having “a quickness, a huge intelligence, a private cast of mind, and acceptance of ironies” beyond that of most adult writers, yet to her his novel is “an underground river of dark words never to see the light” (p. 20).
You will bring some of his writing to light by crafting at least three samples of Cosmo’s writing through the time that he lived in Kings Cross, and then presenting these as a portfolio of his writing. It will show his talent as an emerging writer, particularly his close observation of the beauty as well as the squalor of everyday life, and of the characters of Kings Cross. It will demonstrate how he was developing a distinctive ‘voice’ as a writer and how he was not afraid to experiment with form and style. Draw on particular moments from Faith Singer for some of your inspiration, though you may also draw on what you know of Cosmo’s life beyond the novel. You may also choose to show some of Cosmo’s reworking and drafting of the texts.
Writing samples can include:
- a complete short story,
- a poem or suite of connected poems,
- a character sketch of some of the people he has come to know,
- a detailed outline and plot summary for his first novel,
- the first chapter of his novel,
- unsent letters home to friends or family,
- his journal.
(ACELR037) (ACELR038) (ACELR043) (ACELR044) (ACELR049) (ACELR050) (ACELR051) (ACELR052)
Assessment Task 2a – Critical response (ecocritical perspective)
“I am a woman in love with place. If I had been mouldering away in some decent leafy suburb muffled to the eyes with kindly veneer, or in a cosy make-believe country-side town crawling with shiny 4WDs, my inner life could well have shrivelled to nothing” (p. 248). Critically examine the interconnections between place and people in Faith Singer, through the perspectives of two of the characters, and of the place itself.
You may consider:
- the unique environment of Kings Cross,
- the extent to which place can nurture and destroy,
- the extent to which nature can withstand the impact of people,
- the responsibilities that people have to their place.
(ACELR038) (ACELRO40) (ACELR041) (ACELR044) (ACELR045) (ACELR046) (ACELR047) (ACELR051) (ACELR052)
Assessment Task 2b – Critical response (feminist perspective)
“We were probably the first generation of women on the planet who had grown up so free and so powerful. I continually had to remake my life – for women like me that was our salvation and our burden . . . I was whoever I chose to be, with all the possibilities that implied – an endless capacity for pleasure and excitement, responsibility and despair” (p. 171).
Critically evaluate Faith Singer as a feminist novel. Identify its strengths and limitations for contemporary readers.
(ACELR038) (ACELRO40) (ACELR041) (ACELR044) (ACELR045) (ACELR046) (ACELR047) (ACELR051) (ACELR052)