Homework for December 2017


For contingency purposes, I have appended Ms Yeo and Ms Ang’s instructions for the holidays, as well as the unseen questions you’ve been tasked to attempt here (files are contained within the links). ^_^

  • H2 STUDENTS* (except 17-U1)  – complete 2017-P1-HolidayHW-Set1 and 2017-P3-HolidayHW. You may also attempt 2017-P1-HolidayHW-Set2 as extra practice for the Unseen comparative component. You are also to read Ariel and attempt your own close-reading and annotation of the poems over the holidays.
  • *17-U1 ONLY – complete 2017-P1-HolidayHW-Set2 and the 2017-P3-HolidayHW (you have already done set 1 in tutorial, so no need to do that).
  • H1 STUDENTS – complete 2017-H1-HolidayHW. Do also take the extra time to re-read, revise and consolidate your understanding of Measure for Measure.
  • ALL STUDENTS (H1 + H2) – read Pride and Prejudice and work out the plot, characters (how are they characterised and what are they like? What kind of behaviours/type of person/aspect of society do they seem to represent? How do they develop or change as the novel progresses?), narrative POV and its effects, and narrator’s tone and attitude. Try to also come to class with a preliminary list of themes you think are present within the novel.

Why Compare?

In the now-iconic ‘2 mothers in a hdb playground’, Arthur Yap gives us these quintessentially Singaporean lines from two mothers comparing their children, ah beng and kim cheong (italics mine):

ah beng is so smart,
already he can watch tv and know the whole story
your kim cheong is also quite smart,
what boy is he in the exam? […]

kim cheong eats so little.
give him some complan. my ah beng was like that,
now he’s different, if you give him anything
he’s sure to finish it all up.

We compare people, places, things all the time in real life. We might even argue, Bloom’s Taxonomy be d**ned, that comparison is a cognitive skill on its own: our understanding of the world around us, particularly unfamiliar terrain, is shaped by what we already know, or what we are well acquainted with. When we travel to foreign lands, our observations are often filtered through a Singaporean lens, where “Oh, it’s so messy here” or “They are really laidback here” is always already a reflection of our own experience back home. Like in Yap’s “2 mothers”, comparison can be used to confirm our own understanding of our context (i.e. Singapore) and affirm ourselves (i.e. my son is better than your son). The same would surely apply to the Sony/Microsoft, DC/Marvel, Samsung/Apple fanboy wars.

Continue reading “Why Compare?”

I Smell a Bat

Now that the curtains have been unveiled, we are free to welcome Mr. Ian Tan into the team! Check out his excellent “How to Read a Poem” series on YouTube, which should prove very useful to your grasp of the unseen for H2 Paper 3 and poetry comparison in H2 Paper 1. Read on for a few more selections from Mr. Tan’s series

Richard Wilbur

Mind in its purest play is like some bat
That beats about in caverns all alone,
Contriving by a kind of senseless wit
Not to conclude against a wall of stone.

It has no need to falter or explore;
Darkly it knows what obstacles are there,
And so may weave and flitter, dip and soar
In perfect courses through the blackest air.

And has this simile a like perfection?
The mind is like a bat. Precisely. Save
That in the very happiest of intellection
A graceful error may correct the cave.

Continue reading “I Smell a Bat”

2018 Syllabus

ManFriendsThe college offers two papers to H2 Literature in English students: (i) the core paper, Paper 1: Reading Literature, and (ii) the elective topic paper, Paper 3: The Mind and Self in Literature. The elective period paper, Paper 2: The English Renaissance (1509-1660) is not offered in the college.

The list of papers and set texts (click Continue Reading) applies to both 2017-18 and 2018-19 cohorts. The unit invites vendors to conduct book sales to students at a reduced price; students are advised to purchase the recommend editions from the vendor.

Continue reading “2018 Syllabus”

Chapter One

Before we all ride into the sunset and bring 2017 to a close, I thought I’d kickstart our reading of Pride and Prejudice with a detailed analysis of Volume I Chapter I that lays the ground for our future study of Austen’s narrator, characters and the overlapping concerns of the text.

Beginnings are important, because they set up the reader’s expectations and illuminate the chapters that follow.

Continue reading “Chapter One”

I Really Really Really Like Repetition

All, all, all you Lit students, all you Lit students should really really really watch this. If there’s anything you should realise in our study of the three literary genres, it’s that repetition has a place in the writer’s craft. Repetition creates rhythm, pumping emphasis, injecting urgency and deepening despair in different contexts. Far from “uncreative”, repetition and cumulation – the use of words with similar meaning – make explicit to the reader / audience the importance of those very words (both denotative and connotative meanings), reinforce impressions of characters and ingrain an understanding of the writer’s concerns. So, yeah, repetition slays.

#1 Metaphors


In this first of hopefully many Lit Cuts, we explore various literary methods – poetic, dramatic, prosaic – across texts outside our narrow syllabus. Just as hopefully, these posts will clarify your understanding and expand our imagination of what literature can be, and how writers carve out new meaning for themselves.

In this post, we dive into the use of figurative language in one enthralling chapter from Altered Straits. Half of the novel is based on the boy-soldier Naufal Jazair’s fight against “an aggressive neighbour” in a reimagined Singapore in 1947.

Continue reading “#1 Metaphors”


This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

From Billy Collins, ‘On Turning Ten’