All articles in Analytical

Macbeth-Hands

Lessons on one word – Macbeth and ‘Hands’

Reading Time: 7 minutes At the beginning of the play, “Hands” is a word used to refer to Macbeth’s brutal – but legitimate – killing of the Thane of Cawdor who “‘ne’er shook hands” (1.1), symbolic of his lack of gentlemanly behaviour and loyalty in participating in rebellion – a theme of ‘hands’ throughout the play.

Developing context in the pre-1900 question – Rossetti and A Doll’s House

Reading Time: 5 minutes Sometimes my students probably think I’m either a sadistic, a bit loopy, or both. I LOVE this question from the … More Developing context in the pre-1900 question – Rossetti and A Doll’s House

Compare how poets present romantic relationships in ‘Love’s Philosophy’ and ‘Sonnet 29’

Reading Time: 5 minutes   Percy Shelley uses traditionally Romantic natural imagery to conjure an impression of a world coupled up, blissful in its … More Compare how poets present romantic relationships in ‘Love’s Philosophy’ and ‘Sonnet 29’

Alan Bennett’s “The History Boys” – the importance of literature

Reading Time: 8 minutes Below is a pretty lengthy post, of an essay I wrote to discuss writing style with my Y11s in the run-up to their Christmas mocks.

“Literature is medicine, wisdom, elastoplast, everything”. How does Bennett presents the importance of the literature in the play?

Bennett’s conflicted representation of literature is perhaps startling coming from a man who is, after all, an accomplished and acclaimed writer. Hector’s viewpoint of literature as salvation, comfort, the ultimate distinguisher of humanity, is, after all, the way that writers would, we assume, like to view themselves: creating something of value within the world. However, by the end of the play a very different perspective emerges. Literature (with a capital ‘L’, as ascribed to works of canonical quality) and ‘popular culture’ become indistinguishable as Hector teaches the “tosh” of Gracie Fields and Brief Encounter alongside Larkin, Housman and Shakespeare. For the boys, literature loses its significance, echoing the ways in which the boys grow up and lose some of their admiration for the adults in their lives. The tragedy of Posner is the crucial answer to this question: he is searching for meaning, solace and comfort, and while he has all of the quotations from Hector he has none of the guidance he needs. Although as a writer, Bennett – like many others – might like to think his work has longevity and speaks to our humanity, he is also ruefully aware that for many, echoes of the past fall short.

If you’re studying The History Boys, I’ve also written a five-star revision guide that’s available for just £3!

How to stop worrying about quotations: Getting form, structure and language right without memorising the whole text

Reading Time: 5 minutes When exams are closed book, it’s easy for students to panic and worry more about memorising quotes than anything else. … More How to stop worrying about quotations: Getting form, structure and language right without memorising the whole text

Revision tips: ten ways to revise a poetry collection

Reading Time: 6 minutes At AS-level, comparison often needs you to think about the whole collection, which can feel a bit overwhelming when you’ve got fifteen poems and a closed-book exam facing you!

1. Read sample answers
The reality is: you’ll be taking an exam. That exam has a mark-scheme, and you need to know what the balance of the question is focused on. Is it the themes and ideas of the poems? Is it analysis of form, language and structure? Is it comparison across the whole collection? Is it exploring literary and social context? Reading sample answers will show you what that feels like. As you read, think about how the balance works. Does it use a lot of literary terminology? How much does it explore each point? How many other poems or ideas does it refer to? The answer can’t be boiled down to “refer to three other poems”, but you can get a sense of proportion across an answer.

2. Mind-map ideas across the poems
Throw everything you know down on paper! A great one if you’ve got access to an empty classroom and a board pen, or get some cheap wall lining paper from B&Q for a fiver!