Button for Preface to the A-Star Way series of study guides

The A* Way Series provides:


Detailed critical support material for texts prescribed for advanced literary studies. In the process of grappling with the material in this series, students cannot help but extend their own critical thinking and analytical skills because, learning by example, they begin to emulate the method and also raise the level at which they pitch their analysis in keeping with this new yardstick.


The focus of The A* Way Series is on that vital interrelationship between what a text ‘means’ and how that meaning is constructed. That writers make choices about the kinds of formal elements they adopt for each text they write is self-evident, but how these choices determine the kinds of meaning generated may be less obvious. It is an exploration of that form and content relationship which is central to the critical analysis in the The A* Way Series.


The A* Way Series: Approach and Method


What follows is a brief overview to The A* Way Series of study guides for advanced literary studies.


Our approach

Our approach is one of close reading and detailed analysis of the text in the belief that only a meticulous and disciplined analysis can reveal the intricate and complex ways in which literary texts ‘work’ as dynamic, coherent and multi-layered totalities.


Our belief is that:


  • To effect a sophisticated detailed analysis of a text requires close attention to both the form that the text takes and the subject-matter explored in it.
  • Thus, the detailed analysis that you will find in any one of our study guides will explore a text, in this instance a poem, in terms of its formal elements – its structure, graphology, metre and rhythm, rhyme, phonology, and the like – and its content – the story line, ideas, meaning and themes.
  • When we examine a text’s meaning, we pay close attention to the ways the particularities and nuances of meaning are introduced and developed at the level of the word, the line, the stanza, and the whole poem in the case of poetry; the word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, and whole piece in the case of fiction; and the word, the individual unit of dialogue, the conversation, the scene, act, and play as a whole in the case of plays.
  • We work on the basic assumption that form and content are two sides of the same coin: they are interdependent and mutually informing and we pay careful attention to both of these aspects. We are most particularly interested in how form and meaning interrelate and express each other in the process of creating a particular text’s totality. Sometimes we notice a contradiction between form and content – a limerick form used to express a serious issue, say. Invariably such a contradiction is not a ‘mistake’ but rather a deliberate choice by the writer wishing to generate a particular effect. Irony and satire will often make use of contradiction in this way.

Incidentally, there are two books in The A* Way Series that you may find helpful because they provide step-by-step instructions and guidance on how to go about doing close reading and detailed analysis of a text, with sections that focus on best practices for each of the three main genres that are studied in any advanced literature course.

There is a free download of my short ebook, Analysing a Literary Text: Leverage Your Talent and Flourish which will provide you with the basic tenets of this approach.

The second one, Analysing a Literary Text the A* Way, provides intensive, step-by-step instruction on how to analyse a piece of fiction (a novel or short story), a poem and a play. This book, like all the books in the A* Way Series, is available from Amazon Worldwide in both print and kindle versions.


Should you decide to buy a paperback edition any of the study guides in the series, you will be able to download its kindle version free of charge.

Who am I?

I am an experienced teacher of AS and A-Level English Literature and have worked predominantly within the Cambridge International Education Syllabus. I started writing this series because, during the course of my teaching, I discovered that good resources were scarce especially for those students who were aiming for excellence. The A* Way Series aims to make good this gap. Students enrolled in formal educational institutions or those being home-schooled will benefit from this series.

I have taught advanced literary studies using this method for many years and my students, almost without exception, have gone on to achieve exceptional results in their final A-Level Literature examinations.

Tap on this link to visit my Author Page on Amazon


Rosemary O’Leary

Author and Editor of The A* Way Series

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