Thoughts on Emily Dickinson’s There came a Wind like a Bugle

There came a Wind like a Bugle   There came a Wind like a Bugle – It quivered through the Grass And a Green Chill upon the Heat So ominous did pass We barred the Windows and the Doors                5 As from an Emerald Ghost – The Doom’s electric Moccasin That very instant passed – On a strange Mob of panting Trees And Fences fled away                                        10 And Rivers where the Houses ran Those looked that lived – that Day – The Bell within the steeple wild The flying tidings told – How much can come                                           15 And much can go, And yet abide the World! Emily Dickinson (1830  – 1886) For a good biography of Emily Dickinson, GO HERE   Thoughts on Emily Dickinson’s There came a Wind like a Bugle Emily Dickinson’s ‘There came a Wind like a Bugle’ is one of her strange, but marvellous,…

Read More »

Shakespeare’s Prosody and Language: Notes on Othello

Shakespeare’s Prosody and Language: Notes on Othello (Prosody refers to the patterns of sound and rhythm in poetry, drama and spoken language.) In this article, Shakespeare’s Prosody and Language: Notes on Othello, we will be identifying and defining some useful devices and then exploring them in relation to the play Othello by examining several extracts from the play.  Useful terms for understanding Shakespeare’s prosody and language  Metre: a recognisable rhythm in a line of verse consisting of a pattern of regularly recurring stressed and unstressed syllables. Foot/feet: a metric ‘foot’ refers to a combination of a strong stress and the associated stress (or stresses) that make up the recurrent metric unit of a line of verse. Iamb: a particular type of metric foot consisting of two syllables, an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable (‘da DUM’). A stressed syllable is conventionally represented by a / and an unstressed syllable…

Read More »

Thoughts on Seamus Heaney’s Höfn

Thoughts on Seamus Heaney’s Höfn        Höfn The three-tongued glacier has begun to melt.                                                                                       What will we do, they ask, when boulder-milt Comes wallowing across the delta flats And the miles-deep shag-ice makes its move? I saw it, ridged and rock-set, from above,                          5 Undead grey-gristed earth-pelt, aeon-scruff, And feared its coldness that still seemed enough To iceblock the plane window dimmed with breath, Deepfreeze the seep of adamantine tilth And every warm, mouthwatering word of mouth.                10 Seamus Heaney (District and Circle, Faber & Faber, 2005) Höfn is pronounced something like ‘herpn’   Some thoughts on Seamus Heaney’s Höfn The Context of Höfn: The poem takes as its title the name of the small harbour town of Höfn in Iceland (pronounced something like herpn). Whenever a place name is chosen as the title of a poem, its location, climate, landscape, people and their circumstances immediately give the…

Read More »

Background Notes on Seamus Heaney’s Höfn

Background Notes on Seamus Heaney’s Höfn The poem Höfn by Seamus Heaney comprises his thoughts about the fate of the community of Höfn whose harbour town is increasingly under threat from the effects of global warming and climate change. The low-lying area of the town will be badly affected by melting glaciers and rising sea-levels. Heaney and the musician Liam O’Flynn visited Iceland on a joint poetry-reading-music tour. On the flight back home, after having viewed the town from up high, the idea for the poem started gestating. For more on the poem, go to the next article. This article gives a few background notes on Seamus Heaney’s Höfn. Höfn is located on a peninsula in the south-east of Iceland. Höfn  (pronounced something like “herpn”, also known as Höfn í Hornafirði, is a town in East Iceland, right on the south-eastern corner of the country. Höfn sits by the lagoon…

Read More »

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…

Read More »

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…

Read More »

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…

Read More »

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…

Read More »

Fancy a Coffee? Will Shakespeare’s Insults

 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, and likewise, I’ve had fun putting together this blog post, Fancy a Coffee? Will Shakespeare’s Insults. This is how it all came about: I’d been looking for a present for one of my rather off-beat friends for absolutely ages but hadn’t found anything suitable, something she’d love, something unusual, witty and unique. Eventually, I came up with a different solution: I decided to use some of Shakespeare’s choice insults and put them onto mugs. Some time back I’d heard of a company that would print one’s own designs onto mugs and T-shirts, so I went to them and set it all up. I got a bit carried away and came up with a slew of designs for mugs and T-shirts, enough of them, in…

Read More »

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…

Read More »

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…

Read More »

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…

Read More »