Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Would you Adam and Eve it?

A water snake glided smoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope head from side to side; and it swam the length of the pool and came to the legs of a motionless heron that stood in the shallows. A silent head and beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head, and the beak swallowed the little snake while its tail waved frantically.
The rich imagery with which Steinbeck begins Section 6, the powerful conclusion, evokes the novella’s dominant themes. After killing Curley’s wife, Lennie returns to the clearing that he and George designate, at the beginning of the book, as a meeting place should they be separated or run into trouble. Here Steinbeck describes much of the natural splendor as revealed in the opening pages of the work. The images of the valley and mountains, the climbing sun, and the shaded pool suggest a natural paradise, like the Garden of Eden. The reader’s sense of return to a paradise of security and comfort is furthered by the knowledge that George and Lennie have claimed this space as a safe haven, a place to which they can return in times of trouble.
This paradise, however, is lost. The snake sliding through the water recalls the conclusion of the story of Eden, in which the forces of evil appeared as a snake and caused humanity’s fall from grace. Steinbeck is a master at symbolism, and here he skillfully employs both the snake and heron to emphasize the predatory nature of the world and to foreshadow Lennie’s imminent death. The snake that glides through the waters without harm at the beginning of the story is now unsuspectingly snatched from the world of the living. Soon, Lennie’s life will be taken from him, and he will be just as unsuspecting as the snake when the final blow is delivered.

This is from...


You should so, like, go there and like read stuff from it, right, 'cos it's just got like so many more of stuff like this on it and it's dead brilliant like isn't it?

and the chief examiner says...

Of Mice and Men: John Steinbeck
Once again, this was an overwhelmingly popular choice of text: little wonder, perhaps, as it continues to engage and challenge the widest range of candidates who often produce uplifting and engaging responses.

Question 6
This question elicited a very wide spectrum of responses. Weaker responses focused only on the passage with no reference to the novel as a whole; often, these responses were overly imaginative and found symbols in everything and anything with no convincing supporting reference. However, better responses were sometimes hugely sophisticated and showed excellent powers of close textual analysis. Minute details were related to philosophical concepts with panache; candidates ranged round the novel with confidence to explore their ideas. There was some really sensitive analysis of the image of the heron and the water snake.

Question 7
This was a very popular question: one senior examiner commented that candidates "performed brilliantly". There were, of course, pitfalls: some candidates lost focus on sadness other than very briefly at the beginning and the end, then wrote about loneliness, the dream, events and/or characters. The best responses stopped and thought, then went on to challenge the premise of the task and identify some optimistic features: friendship, loyalty and the ending suggesting some sort of better future despite the inevitability of the final tragedy. An interesting observation was that only hardened Carlson and those without a dream like Slim could be happy. Most candidates, at all levels, considered Steinbeck's methods with confidence; better candidates were very skilful in this area.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Words from the mark scheme ... part 2

...and here are a few phrases from the description of an A grade poetry essay...

Answers are likely to include:

Treatment of at least 4 poems, including 2 pre-1914 and 2 post-1914.

Exploration and development of question

Sensitive and critical response to situation / character / meaning

Developed / analytical comment on writer's intended meaning and purpose

Comparison and contrast

Evaluation of poems

Analysis of detail

Evaluation of writer's use of language, structure, form end effects on readers

Comparisons between writer's techniques

Words from the mark scheme

It might be helpful to consider some of these words and phrases from the mark scheme to an Of Mice and Men question...

Answers are likely to include:

Exploration and development of the novel's events/themes/characters

Sensitive and critical response to characters

Reference to The American Dream

Sensitive analysis of detail

Convincing and imaginative interpretation of text

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

A rabbit-centric reading

When does an interest become an enthusiasm?  When does an enthusiasm become an obsession?  When does an obsession become worrying?


Sunday, 8 May 2011

Poetry or Stand Up...You decide


This is a link to Armitage doing his thing at the Latitude Festival in 2008.  You've got to admire this.

It goes without saying that I take absolutely no responsibility for comments made by other YouTube users.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

I ain't gonna say nothin'...I ain't gonna say nothin'

Select a quotation about or said by Lennie.  Repeat it in a post and write about what it reveals about Lennie's character.

"Lennie...imitated George exactly."

"Lennie smiled...Strong as a bull."

"Lennie sat  in the barn and looked at the dead puppy..."

"It ain't  no lie.We're gonna do it.  Gonna get a little place an' live on the fatta the lan'"

"Lennie obeyed him." (When George tells him to kneel down by the river and look at the hills)

Tell me again about the rabbits George...

Choose one of the quotations about or said by George, repeat it in a post and make a comment about what it reveals about the character of George.

"The first man...sharp, strong features."

"Guys like us...they don't belong no place."

"He's my...cousin."

"Hide till I come for you...Say that over."

"His eyes were hard and tight as wood"

Considering 'Havisham' by Carol Ann Duffy

Beloved sweetheart bastard.  Not a day since then
I haven't wished him dead.  Prayed for it
so hard I've dark green pebbles for eyes,
ropes on the back of my hands I could strangle with.
Spinster.  I stink and remember.  Whole days
in bed cawing Nooooo at the wall; the dress
yellowing, trembling if I open the wardrobe;
the slewed mirror, full-length, her, myself, who did this
to me?  Puce curses that are sounds not words.
Some nights better, the lost body over me,
my fluent tongue in its mouth in its ear
then down till  suddenly bite awake.  Love's
hate behind a white veil; a red balloon bursting
in my face.  Bang.  I stabbed at a wedding cake.
Give me a male corpse for a long slow honeymoon.
Don't think it's only the heart that b-b-b-breaks.
What feelings are conveyed by the metaphor 'dark green pebbles' in line two?
What effect is created by the speaker referring to her lost lover as a 'lost body' and a 'male corpse'?

Considering Kid by Simon Armitage


Batman, big shot, when you gave the order
to grow up, then let me loose to wander
leeward, freely through the wild blue yonder
as you liked to say, or ditched me, rather,
in the gutter ... well, I turned the corner.
Now I've scotched that 'he was like a father
to me' rumour, sacked it, blown the cover
on that 'he was like an elder brother'
story, let the cat out on that caper
with the married woman, how you took her
downtown on expenses in the motor.
Holy robin-redbreast-nest-egg-shocker!
Holy roll-me-over-in the-clover,
I'm not playing ball boy any longer
Batman, now I've doffed that off-the-shoulder
Sherwood-Forest-green and scarlet number
for a pair of jeans and crew-neck jumper;
now I'm taller, harder, stronger, older.
Batman, it makes a marvellous picture:
you without a shadow, stewing over
chicken giblets in the pressure cooker,
next to nothing in the walk-in larder
punching the palm of your hand all winter,
you baby, now I'm the real boy wonder.

Why do you think the poem is called ‘Kid’?

Which words and phrases reveal the anger, resentment and bitterness of the speaker?

Pragmatic is a terribly good word isn't it?

I've had some small problems with postings disappearing into the ether.  I became quite frustrated with the whole thing.  You should let me know if this one doesn't work! (?)

Kudos to Sean, Balt, Casey and Ema.


Go here. It's a good page exploring Sonnet 130.  Read through.  Notice how the author calls the poem 'pragmatic'. Find out what this word means and post a one word post consisting of a synonym for 'pragmatic' that you also feel describes the tone of the poem.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Let's start with the obvious then...

Right gang...
It's past my bedtime...
I'll admit something.  I don't have a plan for this.  I'm pretty sure that I've committed to make one of these blog entries every day until the literature exam.  And when I say I'll do something...
I had that idea about half an hour before I printed the pages and brought them to you.  So confident was I in it's goodideaness that I didn't check or review it!

The blog always was and still is a good idea.  Look at any previous post and bask in your communal glory.  The greatest capacity of the internet is to bring together communities with a shared interest; in this case you lot.

Concept One
When engaging in internet research it is always advisable to begin a the beginning.
Read the introductory blurb from the wikipedia entry for The Laboratory, then copy and paste the next stanza from the previous post.  Include a comment about the stanza.  
The first post has been completed for you.

This poem presents the desperately jealous feelings of a woman abandoned by her lover, who left her for a more womanly rival. It shows how deranged the protagonist's nature has become, who goes so far as to poison her rival in love. The use of rhyming quickens the pace of the poem, adding to the woman's increasing excitement as the apothecary grinds up the mixture. Many of Browning's poems were written about people with an unusual nature. At first glance, the poem appears to be written as if she were talking to the apothecary, but reading into it shows that she may be thinking to herself as at the start of the poem she tells the man to take his time, but as she thinks about the possibilities and power the poison will bring her she begins to hurry him. Her careless attitude towards her future crime suggests that she may have previously killed and does not care about being found out as she is proud of what she will have done.
It is set in seventieth century France and was written by Robert Browning. It was inspired by the life of Marie Madeleine Marguerite D'Aubray win Brivinlliers (1630-1676), who poisoned her father and two brothers and planned to poison her husband. [1] It was published in dramatic lyrics in 1842 with other famous poems such as My Last Duchess.

Who's with me then?

Friday, 8 April 2011

...It's An Accessible Art

"People can't put on an opera, but they can write a poem.  It's an accessible art."

This quotation from Simon Armitage is illustrative of his belief that poetry is for everyone.  As we have seen through our classroom studies Armitage's work deals with universal human themes; we have all been able to find a relation between Armitage's work and our own experiences.

It shouldn't be difficult for you to respond intelligently to the Armitage poems on the exam.

Remember the importance of close analysis though and of reponding to the poems on a word level.  Remember also the importance of using embedded quotation.

Embedded Quotation


The central image in the poem 'Mother any distance greater than a single span...' is that of the tape measure that the poet employs with his mother in the measurement of the dimensions of aspects of his new accommodation.  The metaphor of the tape measure represents the connection between mother and son.  As they take the measurements the physical distance between the poet and his mother becomes greater until he holds onto the 'last one hundredth of an inch' of tape and until the mother's fingertips 'pinch' at the end of the tape.  The poet, through this metaphor, is illustrating how the poet and the mother feel about the changes that are occurring in their relationship with one another.  The words 'last one hundredth of an inch' suggest that the son's gaining of his independance is timely; that perhaps he has delayed making this move; whilst the word 'pinch' suggests a reluctance in the mother to release the connection.  It is my opinion that the relationship between mother and son changes, rather than weakens, with incresed independence.

Try embedding these words and phrases from the poem into your own paragraphs about the poem.

"reporting...back to base."
"hatch that opens on an endless sky"
"to fall or fly"

Have a go at it in some postings!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Revising a Text

As an old teacher of mine used to tell us, the best way of revising for an exam which is on a book...is to read the book. 

I understand that this might not be the easiest thing for many of you to achieve at this busy time. 

Below is a link to a downloadable audio version of Of Mice and Men; perhaps if you had a portable mp3 version then you might turn it on from time to time...


Monday, 7 March 2011

You'd be crazy not to!

Ramblings - Series 17 - Episode 5


Stuart Maconie takes in the Manchester skyline with the poet Simon Armitage on his home turf, the borderlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire near to the village of Marsden. They walk part of the Pennine Way from Standedge Cutting towards White Hill, taking in views of Manchester as they go.

Make a posting when you've heard it.
Just a short reaction.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Biographical Detail 5 - Carol Ann Duffy

Post one, interesting biographical detail about Carol Ann Duffy.

You must check that you are not repeating something that has already been posted.


Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Biographical Detail 4 - Simon Armitage

Post one, interesting biographical detail about Simon Armitage.

You must check that you are not repeating something that has already been posted.


Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Biographical Detail 3 - William Shakespeare

Post one, interesting biographical detail about William Shakespeare.

You must check that you are not repeating something that has already been posted.


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Biographical Detail 2 - Robert Browning

Post one, interesting biographical detail about Robert Browning.

You must check that you are not repeating something that has already been posted.


Biographical Detail 1 - Ben Jonson

Post one, interesting biographical detail about Ben Johnson.

You must check that you are not repeating something that has already been posted.