Questions on the Unseen

Post-Mid Year Section A Review

You were invited to ask me questions about either poem, analysis / response skills or how to go about dealing with specific evidence on Mentimeter. As Prince Charming observes, better to be a toad than a t*rd! Find my responses below. Also remember to head over to the Essays section to read a selection of ‘good’ responses from the Mid Year Exam – the same password applies.

Continue reading “Questions on the Unseen”

CA4 Review: Her World

Lost in Translation

As with CA3, I didn’t mark quite enough scripts to provide a detailed evaluation of what went right and what went wrong. Expect this post to be a little more free form in its outlay of thoughts on the mind and self, Ayckbourn’s Woman in Mind and the methods contained therein. For memory’s sake, we will be responding to the CA4 question listed below:

Explore the play’s treatment of the ways in which the environment has an impact on an individual’s mind and self.

For efficiency, we will not repeat the question analysis and approaches that Ms Yeo shared with you during the lecture in T2 W10 — not in the conventional sense anyway. What we will be doing is to rustle up a few relevant ideas and methods that may prove useful at the upcoming Mid-Year Examination. Whatever the case, be warned: the questions will never be the same, so your (one?) job is to be extremely selective, adapt points and evidence skilfully and, duh of duhs, answer the question. Padding done, so let’s open up the windows to Susan’s mental universe.

Continue reading “CA4 Review: Her World”

CA3 Review: To Catch a Thief

This supplementary review of our third CA on Act 2 Sc 1 in Measure has been much delayed by sickness but hopefully arrives in time for revision purposes.

The Term 2 Week 9 lecture already covered the key ideas for this particular passage-based question (PBQ), as well as some of the skills. Regarding the latter, I’m confident that most of us are fully aware of the need to analyse methods and effects, close analyse specific words for effects, discuss concerns, and evaluate links to elsewhere in a PBQ answer. The question that a typical student would (and should) have is really, ‘how do I do this?’ rather than ‘what must I do?’. If you do need to ask yourself the latter question, you may wish to acquire a guilty look not unlike the picture above before moving to the next paragraph.

This post seeks to demonstrate the aforementioned skills (with periodic reminders of what they are!) while also studying what I found to be a conceptually difficult part of the passage — Angelo’s ironic avowal on the ‘thievish’ traits of a jury or judge. We’ll have this on lockdown in no time, so let’s get to it.

Continue reading “CA3 Review: To Catch a Thief”

Productions of Measure for Measure

Comic Summary

Reviews and synopses of various productions:

The Guardian (Shakespeare’s Globe)

The Guardian (Young Vic)

 The Guardian (Cheek by Jowl)
Continue reading “Productions of Measure for Measure”

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in an Age of Trump


There are perhaps parallels between Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel and the at-times senseless exercise of power (in both the public and private realms) in Measure for Measure, but what we cannot doubt is the portrayal of authoritarian regimes in both that allude to the age we live in.

Back in 1984, the main premise seemed — even to me — fairly outrageous. Would I be able to persuade readers that the United States had suffered a coup that had transformed an erstwhile liberal democracy into a literal-minded theocratic dictatorship? In the book, the Constitution and Congress are no longer: The Republic of Gilead is built on a foundation of the 17th-century Puritan roots that have always lain beneath the modern-day America we thought we knew.

Read the full essay by Atwood on The New York Times website.

The Strange Power of a Medieval Poem

Josephine Livingstone
The New Yorker

The medieval poem “Pearl” was written by someone whose identity we do not know, and is set mostly within a dream. Neither of these facts is unusual in medieval poetry. Authorship is often unclear for works from that period, and dreams were popular as literary devices: then, as now, dreams allow poets to illustrate ideas that might otherwise be inexpressible. The “Pearl” poet used the technique to account for an experience that still seems impossible to describe—the loss of a child.

In the poem, the narrator visits the spot where a pearl once slipped from his grasp and got lost among “Gilofre, gyngure, & gromylyoune, / & pyonys powdered ay bytwene” (“ginger, gromwell, and gillyflower / with peonies scattered in between”). Swooning into unconsciousness, he comes to in a dream, in a place he has never been before, where cliffs split the sky (“ther klyfez cleven”). Across a river, he sees his pearl again, but now the “perle” is no mere thing—she is a young girl, richly arrayed in an elaborate outfit covered in pearls. Pearl also seems to be her name, or at least it is how the man addresses her: “ ‘O perle,’ quod I . . . ‘Art thou my perle?’ ” In reply, she calls him a jeweller, and he refers to her as a gem (“ ‘Jueler,’ sayde that gemme clene”).

Overcome with joy at finding his lost pearl, and unable fully to understand the complicated things she says to him, the dreamer plunges into the river to swim toward her. He is desperate to “swymme the remnaunt, thagh I ther swalte”—to swim across, or die trying. This angers the ruler of the celestial land, called the Prince: the dreamer does not belong there. He is flung out of his dream as punishment. He wakes up, and the poem ends with a short meditation on the glory of God, and then the words “Amen. Amen.” Continue reading “The Strange Power of a Medieval Poem”

Gatsby Adaptation an American Dream Gone Wrong

Luhrmanns GatsbyStuart Burrows
The New Statesman

The last thing that the narrator Nick Carraway tells us about Jay Gatsby in F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is that he believed in “the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us”. Well, that orgastic future appears to be here, at least for the novel. When Justin Bieber describes a party he has thrown as “some Great Gatsby shit”, there is no doubting that the novel has arrived in the 21st century.

Clearly Bieber was referring to the Baz Luhrmann film, which, with its Prada wardrobe and Jay-Z soundtrack, launched its own mini fashion industry when it was released at the beginning of 2013. In the past few years the novel has been adapted into a six-hour stage production, a musical and a ballet – and Sarah Churchwell has pored over the real-life New York scandals that may have inspired Fitzgerald in her book Careless People.

It says something about the imaginative power of the novel that it can withstand being translated into so many different media. Ironically, however, the disappointing thing about the most visible of these adaptations – Luhrmann’s version for the big screen – is how dependent it is on its source. Luhrmann relies heavily on Nick’s highly distinctive voice, in the form not just of a voice-over but by inventing an ill-conceived frame narrative (the film begins with a traumatised Nick visiting a psychoanalyst, who gives him the entirely predictable advice to write his story down as a way to cure himself) and, worst of all, by having some of Nick’s best-known lines appear on the screen as he writes them down.

That’s not to say that the film should have left out the novel’s most memorable passages. But the challenge of adapting a work of art is to find a form commensurate to it. Continue reading “Gatsby Adaptation an American Dream Gone Wrong”