home

Any concerns of any kind with this site? Please contact s.wilson@shhs.gdst.net.


UPDATE on critical reading, Monday 20/2: brilliant book about Yeats and Eliot, giving you a practicing poet's view on both these earlier writers - even just the introduction will help you consider how writers read other writers from a critical point of view. C.K. Stead's The New Poetic

external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQCdix97c0JZyV61DxjJx3el8Pe7cenho-701ngugwaBjLOuS4v

A) HOW TO WRITE ESSAYS: Please see this powerpoint made for Y10 IGCSE - most of these principles apply to your exam poetry essays, except the bit about context. See below for advice on that.



B) WHEN TO USE CONTEXT OR NOT: To understand whether/how to use context, consider what you are being tested on in each part of the exam.
  1. ARCADIA - using this highly social and theoretical play, how well can you read from a contextual point of view? NO MARKS FOR CRITICS/COMPARISON IN ARCADIA, but half the marks (10 out of 20) are for contextual understanding.
  2. ELIOT/YEATS - using these poets who represent almost simultaneous steps in the chain of Western poetic thought and style, how well can you read from a critical and comparative point of view? NO MARKS FOR CONTEXT IN THE POETRY, but a quarter of the marks (10 out of the 40 available) are for understanding which has absorbed existing literary criticism on these authors and interpretations of their attitudes generated by comparing them. So that's a quarter of the marks which you will lose straight away if you don't do both these things. And examiners have stated that they consider work which shows no evidence of having been informed by the views of literary critics as likely to obtain no higher grade than a B, whilst quoting without understanding can drop grades to a C. So don't muck about with this or take strategic short cuts - READ AROUND INSTEAD and test out your ideas on both poets. This is, afterall, what real literary critics and University students of English do. We do not talk out of holes in our heads or from merely personal points of view. We are instead engaging in an ongoing debate about contentious authors and topics, taking account of what has been said before and adding to the world's knowledge and ideas on the topic with our own. Even if only one person ever reads your essay, this is the exercise in which you are practicing engaging.
  • Having said that, yes, this split between different types of reading between Arcadia and the poetry in this exam makes no sense in real life, and at A2 you are more sensibly expected to use the lot together, as you do in your Tess/Purple study and at University.
  • Yes, it does also makes sense to use contextual knowledge around Eliot and Yeats to consider authorial intent/reasons for your own response/unpack obscure references within poems, but as explained by the aove, these must be as a springboard only in the poetry section.
  • Ans yes, it makes sense to read Arcadia with knowledge of literary criticism of it and perhaps comparing across the text (as you must do having ripped the passage to shreds and squeezed all the meaning you can out of it, then linking and ranging across the arc of the whole play), but in this exam these are secondary to your ability to focus in on the text and read for significance in relation to the social and historical ideas dealt with there.



C) WHAT DO THE EXAMINERS SAY? Here is the exam board's teaching quide which outlines all this further, in case you want to see what it says about how to unpack exam questions and do Arcadia extract questions:



D) TEACH YOURSELF HOW TO READ AND WRITE ABOUT POETRY: Here are two "secret weapons", although there is no substitute for reading, musing, sensing, reading, musing, sensing etc etc and then finding your own way to gather your ideas together.
1) Get inside the head of a Cambridge student reading a poem and planning to write an essay on it (but watch out - this is not a comparative essay of the kind we have to write) at http://aspirations.english.cam.ac.uk/converse/essays/poem/poem1.acds plus see some other options on this site at
http://aspirations.english.cam.ac.uk/converse/alevel/poetry.acds .



E) STILL STUCK? WHAT DID WE DO IN CLASS AND WHAT MIGHT OTHER TEACHERS DO...
1) There is one we did in class was as set out in my powerpoint above, though we did not get to sorting into our own paragraphs on the board - this is very difficult to do as a group as there is no right answer, we must all follow our own inclinations and say what we feel and think, based on what we personally noticed.
2) One other (more Harkinsesque) way is to say to yourself, i) what topics or attitudes to topics can I recall from the poems I have read may "go" with this question? ii) In each of those (at least 3 - 2 E and 1 Y) poems, how is the idea a) introduced, b) developed and c) resolved? Re-read and make notes, seeing how the poet/s do it differently/similarly in each poem. iii) Organise your ideas going through 1 para intro (set out your ideas or thesis in answer to the question), then 2 paras on the first Eliot poem, with illuminating references to Yeats as you go through those paras, then 2 more paras on the next Eliot poem, again with illuminating references to Yeats AND refering back to the first Eliot poem, then finally a concluding para summing up what you have discovered from your exploration in detail.
3) Make a Venn diagram of 3 poems, similarities in overlaps, differences at sides, what does all this add up to in relation to the poets' attitudes to the focus in the question?

WHICHEVER WAY YOU WRITE, THERE ARE NO PARAS JUST ABOUT YEATS, NO PARAS JUST CONTAINING CONTEXT (no points, remember!) AND NO RANDOM CRITICAL QUOTATIONS - THIS IS A THESIS WORKED OUT ABOUT BOTH POETS AS YOU GO THROUGH.


Keep an eye on www.purpletessAS2011.wikispaces.com as I will post there any interesting articles I come across, plus there are instructions for how to use stuff we discussed in Friday's lesson.

Thank you.

Ms W