Year 12 English Literature Summer Tasks 2015

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There is a wealth of evidence which shows that students who are widely read, achieve higher grades than those who do not. Past experience here at Samuel Whitbread has proved that, in English Literature (and Language) at A Level, there is a clear correlation between the breadth of reading a student has undertaken and ultimate grades. Shockingly, every year, there are students who opt to study English at A Level who claim not to read at all . Without fail, these students struggle to accomplish the written tasks to the same standard as their peers who are keen readers of a variety of texts.

The benefits of reading are huge: not only does it increase your fluency in spelling, punctuation and grammar (since you unconsciously pick up correct English usage) but also you are exposed to a wide range of writing forms and styles. For example, you will find it extremely difficult to analyse the similarities and differences in different texts if you have no experience of different styles and genres. Similarly, you need to read historical articles and critical theory to enhance your argument and achieve the higher bands in your coursework.

You will be given a list of set texts to answer for your coursework question and the exam. However, the more confident you are with the different writing techniques and narrative structures, the easier you will find comparing, analysing and re-creating texts. If you intend to go on to University, whatever your course, then you will be expected to read widely in order to increase your subject knowledge.

It really is foolish to embark upon an English course with the attitude that “I’m not really a reader” – NOW is the time to change that and become one. The tasks you are expected to undertake are designed so that you will encounter a range of genres and build a portfolio fiction beyond the range you have encountered so far; furthermore, you will be expected to research and collate contextual and critical readings of texts.

Your teachers WILL check you have undertaken these tasks and this will highlight your commitment to the course.

Enjoy your reading, have a happy holidays!

Essay Texts and Topics Complete ONE of these essay questions based on your reading of ONE of the texts. Your essay must not exceed 1500 words and should include information regarding the social, cultural and historical context of when the texts were produced. You must include quotations, analyse the language and explore the different responses of the reader. Finally, try to include literary terms in your analysis (please see Glossary of Poetic and Literary Terms).

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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  • How does Gatsby represent the American dream? What does the novel have to say about the condition of the American dream in the 1920s?

OR

  • Compare and contrast Gatsby and Tom. How are they alike? How are they different?

OR

Beloved by Toni Morrison

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  • Discuss the ways in which beloved conveys the threat or presence of death.

OR

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

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  • Explain Williams’ use of motifs, names and stage directions. How does that help our understanding of the characters?

OR

  • Compare the relationships between Brick, Maggie, Big Daddy and Big Momma throughout the play. How are they alike? How are they different?

Introduction to Literary Criticism – these tasks are OPTIONAL For this section, you need to read, then print and keep, a selection of literary criticism in a portfolio. You will be expected to produce this for your teacher. You should continue to add to this as the course progresses.

  1. Read ‘Schulz: Why I Despise The Great Gatsby’ by Kathryn Schulz. Highlight and summarise the main points of her argument:  http://www.vulture.com/2013/05/schulz-on-the-great-gatsby.html
  2.  Read ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Tennessee Williams’s southern discomfort’ by Michael Billington and explain his views on previous stage adaptations of the play: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2012/sep/30/cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof
  3. Read ‘The Literary Merits of Potter’ by Ryan Britt. Highlight and summarise the main elements of both sides of the argument presented. Furthermore, post a comment at the bottom of the webpage explaining your opinion of whether ‘Harry Potter’ should be considered as English Literature: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2011/06/genre-in-the-mainstream-the-literary-merits-of-potter
  4. Research and collate two separate pieces of literary criticism on your favourite novel.
  5.  Find at least one piece of literary criticism for each of the set texts for the course.

English Awards 2014 – Jess Fox (Y12)

Such was the quality of outstanding work last year, that it has taken me these past three months to determine which student should receive the coveted English award in Y12.

Nevertheless, after careful deliberation, deep discussion and much delay, the Award for Literary Criticism must go to Jess Fox.

Jess is another student of both Language and Literature, or ‘lifers’ as we like to call them. Jess’ analytic skill to extract the deeper meaning of a text is superb, often finding connotations and inferences from the tiniest device. When offering her insights to the class, I often have little else to say than “I didn’t think of that, and damn it I wished that I had.” Furthermore, her knowledge of literary techniques and stylistic features add another layer to her written expression, meaning that she not only looks/acts like a post-graduate student, she sounds like one too. Jess also has the extraordinary ability to inspire others to consider alternative interpretations of a text, especially existential, philosophical and feminist perspectives. Finally, in addition to the wonderful work she completes during her English lessons, her outstanding ability to laugh at all our terrible jokes with conviction and say ‘good morning’ and ‘thank you’ on a daily basis, means that she is a ruddy decent person.

A spiffing section from her truly splendiferous essay on war literature can be found below:

“With physical devastation, Hemingway takes a blunt tone, whereas Faulks uses emotive language to connect with the reader. Physical devastation is present in A Farewell to Arms when Henry is underneath a canvas-covered dying man, and refers to him as ‘the canvas above’. Hemingway’s dehumanisation of the injured man creates a harsh truth – that the man is dying, and cannot be saved; he makes him an inanimate object, represented by something else – perhaps as reference to the collective dead soldiers represented only as a war. The man is covered, which could represent people at the time turning a blind eye to death in favour of victory. Wilfred Owen uses this technique in ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’, when he describes the young boys as ‘like old beggars in sacks’ – both sacks and blankets suggest a covering of truth.

Faulks, however, captures physical devastation in the personification used to describe the young soldier Stephen encounters in the hospital – ‘a bundle of screaming blankets’. The contrast in the symbolised meaning of blankets – security and comfort – and the reality of pain shows that he’s being cared for, but he’s still in pain and still going to die; describing the boy as an inanimate object also foreshadows his death, when he too will become inanimate – maybe he was only seen as an object to begin with. Pat Wheeler states Birdsong ‘could do without much of this symbolism as the strength of Faulks’ writing lies in his lyrical prose’, and his prose is what makes the book appeal to the modern day reader, but the notable symbolism in Birdsong is arguably what makes the book; creating meaning and connecting the novel, whilst linking to the different views of the war itself. That being said, against Hemingway’s brevity, Faulks’ ‘lyrical prose’ is shown to be a way of influencing his audience; the use of emotive language – ‘screaming’ – is there to steer emotion and show the passive, modern day reader how bad it was, as they see and hear of violence almost on a daily basis, and can forget that to these soldiers, violence wasn’t a norm, but an extreme. Hemingway, however, writing just after the war, could be brief and just as shocking, as the reader knew what had happened – it was a recent memory, and the lack of emotion puts forward a broken, experienced narrator with it.”

Glossary of Poetic and Literary Terminology

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One simple way to impress the examiner in your literature exams is to demonstrate your understanding of poetic and literary techniques and analyse their different effects. Not only does this titillate the examiner into thinking you are an absolute genius, it is an easy way to extend your comparative analyses. For example, focusing on why two poems are both written in free verse leads you to explore what this implies about the different characters in each poem.

There are different categories of techniques, explored in detail below. Furthermore, there is a very simple and pleasant task to complete at the end.

How the Words Sound:

Words or portions of words can be clustered or juxtaposed to achieve specific kinds of effects when we hear them. The sounds that result can strike us as clever and pleasing, even soothing. Others we dislike and strive to avoid. These various deliberate arrangements of words have been identified.

Alliteration: Repeated consonant sounds at the beginning of words placed near each other, usually on the same or adjacent lines. A somewhat looser definition is that it is the use of the same consonant in any part of adjacent words.

  • Example from Clown Punk: every pixel of that man’s skin is shot through with indelible ink
  • Example from Medusa: My bride’s breath soured, stank

Assonance: Repeated vowel sounds in words placed near each other, usually on the same or adjacent lines.

  • Example from Horse Whisperer: when their horses snorted
  • Example from Clown Punk: three times out of ten you’ll see the town clown

Consonance: Repeated consonant sounds at the ending of words placed near each other, usually on the same or adjacent lines.

  • Example from Singh Song: vee share in di chapatti, vee share in di chutney, after vee hav mad luv like vee rowing through Putney

Onomatopoeia: Words that sound like their meanings

  • Example from Medusa: my thoughts hissed and spat on my scalp

Repetition: The purposeful re-use of words and phrases for an effect. Sometimes, especially with longer phrases that contain a different key word each time, this is called parallelism.

  • Example from Checking Out Me History: Dem tell me, Dem Tell me, Wha dem want to tell me
  • Example from Brendon Gallacher: Oh my Brendon, my Brendon Gallacher

Rhyme: This is the one device most commonly associated techniques used in poetry. Words that have different beginning sounds but whose endings sound alike, including the final vowel sound and everything following it, are said to rhyme.

  • Example from The River God: So I brought her down here to be my beautiful dear

Rhythm: Rhythm is all about vocal patterns. Such patterns are sometimes referred to as meter. Meter is the organization of voice patterns, in terms of both the arrangement of stresses and their frequency of repetition per line of verse. Poetry is organized by the division of each line into “feet,” metric units which each consist of a particular arrangement of strong and weak stresses. The most common metric unit is the iambic, in which an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed one (as in the words reverse and compose).

A simple guide to meter can be found here: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/meter.html

You don’t need to need to analyse the different section of stressed and unstressed feet, as this would just stress you out. However, knowing the rhythm could add to your analysis:

  • Example from Clown Punk : The poem consists of a single stanza of 24 lines. Every line is written in pentameters (they have ten syllables each) which could suggest that the speaker will never change his opinion, much like the meter of the poem.

 

What the Words Mean:

Most words convey several meanings or shades of meaning at the same time. It is the poet’s job to find words which, when used in relation to other words in the poem, will carry the precise intention of thought. Often, some of the more significant words may carry several layers or “depths” of meaning at once and if you can analyse these different layers, you will achieve very high marks.

Allusion: A brief reference to some person, historical event, work of art, or Biblical or mythological situation or character.

  • Example from Medusa: And here you come, with a shield for a heart and a sword for a tongue  (an allusion to Perseus, the killer of the mythological Gorgon, Medusa)

Ambiguity: A word or phrase that can mean more than one thing, even in its context. Poets often search out such words to add richness to their work. Often, one meaning seems quite readily apparent, but other, deeper meanings await those who contemplate the poem.

  • Example from Give: It’s not as if I’m holding out for frankincense or myrrh, just change

Apostrophe: In a dramatic monologue, this is when the speaker is speaking directly to a real or imagined listener or inanimate object; addressing that person or thing by name.

  • Example from My Last Duchess: Will’t plase you sit and look at her?

Connotation: The emotional, psychological or social overtones of a word; its implications and associations apart from its literal meaning.

  • Example from Les Grands Seigneurs: a bit of fluff = sexual plaything

Contrast: Closely arranged things with strikingly different characteristics.

  • Example from Les Grands Seigneurs: The best and worst of times were men

Denotation: The dictionary definition of a word; its literal meaning apart from any associations or connotations.

Hyperbole: An outrageous exaggeration used for effect.

  • Example from Clown Punk: every pixel of that man’s skin is shot through with inedible ink

Irony: A contradictory statement or situation to reveal a reality different from what appears to be true.

  • Example from Give: You give me tea. That’s big of you.

Metaphor: A direct comparison between two unlike things, stating that one is the other or does the action of the other.

  • Example from Les Grands Seigneurs: Men were my dolphins, my performing seals

Oxymoron: A combination of two words that appear to contradict each other.

  • Example from On a Portrait of a Deaf Man: his tie discreetly loud

Personification: Attributing human characteristics to an inanimate object, animal, or abstract idea.

  • Example from The River God: I may be smelly and I may be old – The poet uses the technique of personification to show the qualities of a river

Simile: A direct comparison of two unlike things using “like” or “as.”

  • Example from Horse Whisperer: So I could lead the horses, like helpless children, to safety

Symbol: An ordinary object, event, animal, or person to which we have attached extraordinary meaning and significance:

  • Example from Casehistory: Alison (Head Injury): (She looks at her photograph)

 

The Structure of Words:

Words follow each other in a sequence determined by the poet. In order to discuss the arrangements that result, certain terms have been applied to various aspects of that arrangement process. Although in some ways these sequences seem arbitrary and mechanical, in another sense they help to determine the nature of the poem. These various ways of organizing words have been identified.

Point of View: The author’s point of view concentrates on the vantage point of the speaker, or “teller” of the poem. This may be considered the poem’s “voice” — the pervasive presence behind the overall work. This is also sometimes referred to as the persona.

Line: The line is fundamental to the perception of poetry, marking an important visual distinction from prose. Poetry is arranged into a series of units that do not necessarily correspond to sentences, but rather to a series of metrical feet. Generally, the line is printed as one single line on the page. If it occupies more than one line, its remainder is usually indented to indicate that it is a continuation.

There is a natural tendency when reading poetry to pause at the end of a line, but the careful reader will follow the punctuation to find where natural pauses should occur.

Stanza: A division of a poem created by arranging the lines into a unit, often repeated in the same pattern of meter and rhyme throughout the poem; a unit of poetic lines (a “paragraph” within the poem). The stanzas within a poem are separated by blank lines

Stanza Forms: The names given to describe the number of lines in a stanzaic unit, such as: couplet (2), tercet (3), quatrain (4), quintet (5), sestet (6), septet (7), and octave (8).

Rhetorical Question: A question solely for effect, which does not require an answer. By the implication the answer is obvious; it is a means of achieving an emphasis stronger than a direct statement.

  • Example from The Ruined Maid: O didn’t you know I’d been ruined?
  • Example from Medusa: Wasn’t I beautiful? Wasn’t I fragrant and young?

Rhyme Scheme: The pattern established by the arrangement of rhymes in a stanza or poem, generally described by using letters of the alphabet to denote the recurrence of rhyming lines, such as the ababbcc of the Rhyme Royal stanza form.

Enjambment: The continuation of a line of poetry.

  • Example from Ozymandias: Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck
  • Example from Les Grands Seigneurs: But after I was wedded, bedded, I became / (yes overnight) a toy, a plaything, little woman

Caesura: The pause in the middle of a line of poetry.

  • Example from Give: I’m on my knees. I beg of you.
  • Example from My Last Duchess: I gave commands; / Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands,

Volta: the turn in thought in a poem that is often indicated by such initial words as But, Yet, or And yet.

  • Example from Les Grands Seigneurs: But after I was wedded, bedded,

Form: The arrangement or method used to convey the content, such as free verse, ballad, haiku, etc. In other words, the “way-it-is-said.”

Examples of different forms:

  • Free Verse: lines with no prescribed pattern or structure — the poet determines all the variables as seems appropriate for each poem: Give, Medusa, Checking Out Me History, Horse Whisperer, The River God
  • Ballad: a narrative poem written as a series of quatrains in which lines of iambic tetrameter alternate with iambic trimeter with frequent use of repetition and often including a refrain: On a Portrait of a Deaf Man
  • Elegy: a poem in memory of someone who is deceased: On a Portrait of a Deaf Man and Brendon Gallacher
  • Sonnet: a fourteen line poem in iambic pentameter with a prescribed rhyme scheme; its subject was traditionally love: The Clown Punk

 

The Image of Words:

A poet uses words more consciously than any other writer. Although poetry often deals with deep human emotions or philosophical thought, people generally don’t respond very strongly to abstract words, even the words describing such emotions and thoughts. The poet, then, must embed within his work those words which do carry strong visual and sensory impact, words which are fresh and spontaneous but vividly descriptive. He must carefully pick and choose words that are just right. It is better to show the reader than to merely tell him.

Imagery: The use of vivid language to generate ideas and/or evoke mental images, not only of the visual sense, but of sensation and emotion as well. While most commonly used in reference to figurative language, imagery can apply to any component of a poem that evoke sensory experience and emotional response, and also applies to the concrete things so brought to mind.

  • Example from On a Portrait of a Deaf Man:

But now his mouth is wide to let

The London clay come in.

…maggots in his eyes

…now his finger-bones

Stick through his finger-ends.

 

Sensory Language: The poet’s careful description of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Related images are often clustered or scattered throughout a work, thus serving to create a particular mood or tone.

  • Visual: the deflated face and shrunken scalp (Clown Punk)
  • Auditory: my thoughts hissed and spat on my scalp (Medusa)
  • Tactile (touch): For silver swallow swords, eat fire (Give)
  • Gustatory (taste): He like old City dining rooms, potatoes in their skin (Portrait of Deaf Man)
  • Ofactory (smell): I may be smelly and I may be old (River God)

 

TASK:

Now that you have revised all the key poetic and literary terms, try to find at least two example of the same technique. This will be extremely helpful when comparing the poem in your exam. Focus on the different effects the same technique evokes in the reader. Think about whether they are similar or different, and whether they add to the overall attitude or tone of the poem. Post you comments below for others to see!

Finally, if you happen to know of any additional terms, please feel free to add them to the list.

Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Mr Morris

Why do we study Literature?

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I’m not going to lie to you: I like to read. A lot.

In fact, along with cuddles from my daughter, climbing mountains with my wife (literally, this is not some metaphorical nonsense you would find in The Notebook) and chasing an egg round a pitch with a bunch of sweaty men who want to tear me limb-from-limb, it’s possibly the greatest feeling in the world to me. But why do I enjoy reading so much?

As my Year 12 Literature students will know well, Oscar Wilde prefaces his Gothic novella The Picture of Dorian Gray with this startling aphorism based on the principles of the aesthetic movement: “All art is quite useless.” There are many different interpretations of this statement, forcing the reader to think about the nature of art and the benefit it brings to both artist and recipient.

And thus I raise a simple question: ‘What is the purpose of art, especially reading Literature?’

Is it:

  1. A means to an end; a qualification to enter university; a useful subject to place on our CV?
  2. Simply a form of entertainment; a method of escapism; a way to block out the mundane monotony of everyday life?
  3. Or, A way of changing our own morality, of sculpting our personalities for the better; a leap of faith to reach a higher level of humanity?

I will happily add my own thoughts at a later date, but please describe your reasons for reading in the comments section. Should you wish to, please include favourite quotations, characters and authors, so that others can share your passion for all things literary pleasing.

For the moment, I will leave you with a quotation from one of my recent favourite novel:

“The love of literature, of language, of the mystery of the mind and heart showing themselves in the minute, strange, and unexpected combinations of letters and words, in the blackest and coldest print—the love which he had hidden as if it were illicit and dangerous, he began to display, tentatively at first, and then boldly, and then proudly.”
John Williams, Stoner

I look forward to hearing your responses.

Mr B.R. Morris

New Y12 Literature Summer Tasks

Summer tasks? What the deuce is this all about?

Well, there is a wealth of evidence which shows that students who are widely read, achieve higher grades than those who do not. Certainly, past experience here at Samuel Whitbread has proved that, in English Literature (and Language) at A Level, there is a clear correlation between the breadth of reading a student has undertaken and ultimate grades. Shockingly, every year, there are students who opt to study English at A Level who claim not to read at all . Without fail, these students struggle to accomplish the written tasks to the same standard as their peers who are keen readers of a variety of texts.

The benefits of reading are huge: not only does it increase your fluency in spelling, punctuation and grammar (since you unconsciously pick up correct English usage) but also you are exposed to a wide range of writing forms and styles. For example, you will find it extremely difficult to analyse the similarities and differences in different texts if you have no experience of different styles and genres. Similarly, you need to read historical articles and critical theory to enhance your argument and achieve the higher bands in your coursework.

You will be given a list of set texts to answer for your coursework question and the exam. However, the more confident you are with the different writing techniques and narrative structures, the easier you will find comparing, analysing and re-creating texts.

If you intend to go on to University, whatever your course, then you will be expected to read widely in order to increase your subject knowledge. It really is foolish to embark upon an English course with the attitude that “I’m not really a reader” – NOW is the time to change that and become one.

The tasks you are expected to undertake are designed so that you will encounter a range of genres and build a portfolio fiction beyond the range you have encountered so far; furthermore, you will be expected to research and collate contextual and critical readings of texts.

Enjoy your reading, and have a happy holiday!

Essay Texts and Topics

Complete ONE of these essay questions based on your reading of ONE of the texts. Your essay must not exceed 1500 words and should include information regarding the social, cultural and historical context of when the texts were produced. You must include quotations, analyse the language and explore the different responses of the reader. Finally, try to include literary terms in your analysis (please see ‘Glossary of Literary Terms’ at the back of this booklet).

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

How does Gatsby represent the American dream? What does the novel have to say about the condition of the American dream in the 1920s?

OR

Compare and contrast Gatsby and Tom. How are they alike? How are they different?

OR

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Explain Williams’ use of motifs, names and stage directions.  How does that help our understanding of the characters Stella, Stanley and Blanche?

OR

Compare the characters of Stella and Blanche throughout the play. How are they alike? How are they different?

OR

The War Poems by Wilfred Owen

‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’

‘Dulce et Decorum est’

‘The Send-Off’

‘The Parable of the Old Man and the Young’

‘The Sentry’

‘Spring Offensive’

‘Strange Meeting’

‘Exposure’

‘Disabled’

Explore how Owen presents the effects of war on the youth of society in Anthem for Doomed Youth and Spring Offensive. In your answer, explore the effects of language, imagery and structure on the reader.

OR

Explore Wilfred Owen’s presentation of war in The Send-Off, Strange Meeting, and Dulce et Decorum Est.? In your answer, explore the effects of language, imagery and structure on the reader.