Observations on Hughes’ Poem November

Observations on Hughes’ poem November   What follows in Observations on Hughes’ poem November is an abridged extract from one of my A* Way Series study guides: A Close Reading of Ted Hughes’ November (forthcoming). In Observations on Hughes’ poem November, I make several general comments about what has emerged during my detailed analysis of the poem. I am now so familiar with the poem’s intricacies that it is a little difficult for me to determine whether the points I have made (below) will make sense to readers who haven’t yet gone through the poem carefully. If that is the case, I do apologise, but would urge you to do your own close reading and that should help clarify things somewhat. November in Britain is a very cold, windy and wet month. It is the month when winter finally settles in good and proper and when all memory/evidence of the…

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Shakespeare’s Othello Plot Summary

Shakespeare’s Othello Plot Summary A succinct plot summary of the play Othello by William Shakespeare.  Setting: Venice On a quiet night in Venice, Iago, ancient (ensign, third-in-command) to the Moorish general, Othello, enlists the aid of Roderigo in his plot against Othello. Iago hates Othello and tells Roderigo, a rejected suitor to Desdemona, that she has eloped with the Moor. After this revelation, Roderigo and Iago awaken Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, with news that she has left home to go and marry Othello in secret. Iago informs Othello of Brabantio’s anger. Brabantio arrives with officers to confront and arrest Othello, but they are interrupted by Michael Cassio (Othello’s lieutenant, second-in-command), who summons Othello to the Duke of Venice’s palace on a matter of urgent state business. The duke and senators welcome Othello warmly and inform him of his deployment to Cyprus to lead a defensive action against the Ottomites. Brabantio accuses…

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About The A* Way Series

About The A* Way Series The impetus to write The A* Way Series of study guides came about because I saw a real need for mid- to high-achieving students of AS and A-Level Literature to have access to challenging supplementary material that would show them how to go about sophisticating their close reading and analytical skills, something which I knew could help them raise their overall level of proficiency in literary studies. Such an improvement I felt would provide the much-needed boost to help them break through to a higher level of achievement as, for example, from a B to an A and/or from an A to an A*. Although my own focus was initially on students of AS and A-Level Literature, it rapidly became clear to me that all advanced students of literary studies could benefit from going through the process demonstrated in The A* Ways Series of study…

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Literature Exam Essay Guidelines

In this blog we will explore: LITERATURE EXAM ESSAY GUIDELINES  Personal response Once, essays were expected to be impersonal, with phrases like: ‘It can be seen’ .or ‘It should be recognised that …’. This form of writing is no longer expected, but giving your views are. You will not get credit for quoting second-hand opinions. Do not avoid reading literary critics because they help deepen your response to literature. Use what you find helpful and ignore what doesn’t fit in with your own analysis of the text. Examiners really do not want to read the opinions of a literary critic in an exam essay, they want to read your response to it. Thus absorb and internalise the most useful ideas of the critics, but do not quote them. Consistency of style and response is important. There is a temptation to copy others’ phrases. Such borrowings will stand out, because they…

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Fancy a Coffee? Will Shakespeare’s Insults

I’ve been having a lot of fun putting some of Will’s less salubrious, but wonderfully effective, insults onto coffee mugs. I thought they would make great birthday presents for my friends this year, but as luck would have it, I couldn’t find any anywhere, so I decided to design them myself and have them made by a company that offers such a service. The whole process has been such fun that I am going to be doing a whole lot more of them. And, more importantly, they are proving to be a great success as gifts – deliciously funny and unique! The company that makes the mugs for me (Gear Bubble) has set up a display window for me. I have called Will’s Insults so that I can showcase my mugs so that anyone interested can buy them, too, should they so wish. So, in case you would also like…

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Achieving an A for Literary Studies

Achieving an A for Literary Studies  My Goal: Achieving an A for Literary Studies How to go about it? The first step is to get to know yourself and your habits as a student of literature thoroughly because you need to play to your strengths while, simultaneously, working to turn weaknesses into something a lot more productive. This process of observing yourself in action is essential because you will get to know your own style of work well, lumps and all. And, as you make discoveries about yourself, you will begin to understand where and how to direct your energy to bring about vital changes to your style, mode of analysis and essay writing. Each improvement that you make will accumulate incrementally and soon enough many of the aspects of literary studies that you found challenging will seem a lot less so. It’s making small changes consistently that will be…

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Notes on Ted Hughes’ October Dawn

Notes on Ted Hughes’ October Dawn   In this short note on Ted Hughes’ October Dawn, I will focus on just one aspect of the poem: how the triple concentration of colour in the title and opening two couplets acts as a vivid backdrop against which the actions of winter are juxtaposed. This richly coloured and textured autumnal setting is the one into which ‘ice’ is said to ‘ha[ve] got its spearhead into place’ (line 10), ready to bring into being the freeze of winter. The opening section of the poem goes October Dawn October is marigold, and yet A glass half full of wine left out To the dark heavens all night, by dawn, Has dreamed a premonition The title, October Dawn, carries with it two sets of intense colour: ‘October’ carries with it the beautiful rich colours of autumn as the leaves of the trees turn into a…

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Imagery in ‘Wind’ by Ted Hughes

  Imagery in ‘Wind’ by Ted Hughes Wind The house has been far out at sea all night, The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills, Winds stampeding the fields under the window Floundering black astride and blinding wet Till day rose; then under an orange sky                                                              5 The hills had new places, and wind-wielded Blade-light, luminous black and emerald, Flexing like the lens of a mad eye. At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as The coal-house door. Once I looked up –                                                         10 Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope, The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace, At any second to bang and vanish with a flap: The wind flung a magpie away and a black-                                                    15 Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house Rang like some fine green…

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Thoughts on Ted Hughes’ poem November

Thoughts on Ted Hughes’ poem November Ted Hughes’ poem November is about as bleak an evocation of the month of November in England as one can get. Its opening phrase/sentence characterises the month as ‘The month of the drowned dog’ and sets the context and the tone of what is to follow in the poem – a description of all that the speaker sees and experiences as he walks along a familiar country lane on a bleak, cold and wet November day. Hughes’ descriptions of the landscape, the weather and what he encounters are concrete and vivid. We have no difficulty at all in visualising what is being described. In the simile ‘drawn in/Under his hair like a hedgehog’s’, for example, we are immediately able to conjure up an image of the tramp’s hair because of its comparison to a hedgehog with its characteristic covering of bushy and bristly quills….

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Terence Rattigan’s Plays

Terence Rattigan Brief Biography Sir Terence Rattigan (1911-1977) was a dramatist who wrote some of the most memorable plays of the twentieth century. He was the son of a diplomat, educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Oxford, and embarked on a career as a playwright early on. His career as a successful dramatist ran from the opening of his first adult work on the London stage in 1933, First Episode, written with a friend while he was still an undergraduate at Oxford, until his death shortly after the London opening of his last completed stage work Cause Célèbre. During that time he completed 25 full length stage plays, plus numerous one-act plays, radio, television and film scripts. His plays include The Browning Version, The Winslow Boy, The Deep Blue Sea and Separate Tables. Two of his plays ran for over 1,000 performances in London’s West End and another four for…

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Background to Brian Friel’s ‘Translations’

I have just started work on Book 6 in the A* Way Series of study guides for advanced literary studies. One of my favourite plays is Brian Friel’s ‘Translations‘, and it will be the focus of study guide 6. What follows is some information to flesh out the background to Brian Friel’s ‘Translations’ to set the play’s concerns into context. BACKGROUND to Brian Friel’s ‘Translations’ Part 1 Translations was first performed in 1980 in Derry, Northern Ireland. It was the first play to be put on by the new Field Day Theatre Company started by Brian Friel (playwright), Stephen Rea (actor), Seamus Heaney (poet), Seamus Deane (writer), Tom Kilroy and Tom Paulin – three Catholics and three Protestants – in an attempt to revive and revitalise an Irish culture almost in danger of being obliterated by the colonial past, the current deadly political situation in Northern Ireland and by the Republic of…

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Elements of the Short Story

What follows is a brief overview of the main elements of the short story that you need to take into account when analysing a short story. The main elements of the short story 1. By its very nature, a short story is limited in scope (limited characters, short time-frame) and includes a high degree of concentration and compression to make it work as an engaging, complex story. 2.  A short story usually contains some kind of a central conflict or challenge with which the main character (protagonist) has to contend. The character may confront the problem head-on and overcome it, be defeated by it, reach an accommodation with it or find an innovative way out of the dilemma. 3. Any of these resolutions will bring about a change in the character’s situation and a deepening of his or her understanding of the self and his/her world. 4. Often short stories…

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