Sunday, February 26, 2006

Y10: Here is a copy of the original worksheets for the investigation into Act1 Scene 1: thought you might find them useful

Group A
-collaborative investigation: Act I Scene I of Romeo & Juliet

Key words: Patriarchy, bravado, sexism, objectification of women

Group chair: The management of this task is down to you: you could give questions to individuals or pairs in your group to work on simultaneously; you could get the whole group to contribute ideas and work through the questions one at a time, with one person taking notes; you could do a bit of both.

However, you must ensure all the questions are completed and you must ensure that all the comments are based on a quotation or quotations.

1. Bravado: How do the opening remarks of Sampson and Gregory establish that the young men of Verona are full of aggressive male bravado?

2. Sexism: How do the opening remarks of Sampson and Gregory establish that the young men of Verona have violently sexist attitudes?

3. Patriarchy: Look at the attitude to the riot shown by Lord Montague, Lady Montague, Lord Capulet and Lady Capulet. Comment on how the attitudes of the male and female characters differ.

4. Objectification of women: Look at Romeo’s comments about his ‘love’ for Rosaline. What is Romeo’s attitude to women, love and sex at this point in the play?

Group B
-collaborative investigation: Act I Scene I of Romeo & Juliet

Key words: Wordplay; pun; oxymoron

Group chair: The management of this task is down to you: you could give questions to individuals or pairs in your group to work on simultaneously; you could get the whole group to contribute ideas and work through the questions one at a time, with one person taking notes; you could do a bit of both.

However, you must ensure all the questions are completed and you must ensure that all the comments are based on a quotation or quotations.

1. Wordplay: How does the opening conversation of Sampson and Gregory show the competitive and aggressive nature of Verona’s young men?

2. Puns: Look at the puns or double-meanings in the opening dialogue between Sampson and Gregory. What do they tell you about the attitudes of Verona’s young men?

3. Oxymorons: Look at Romeo’s use of oxymorons when talking of his ‘love’ for Rosaline. What does Romeo’s use of oxymorons tell us about his opinions and state of mind?

Group C
-collaborative investigation: Act I Scene I of Romeo & Juliet

Key words: Foreshadowing; contrast; structure

Group chair: The management of this task is down to you: you could give questions to individuals or pairs in your group to work on simultaneously; you could get the whole group to contribute ideas and work through the questions one at a time, with one person taking notes; you could do a bit of both.

However, you must ensure all the questions are completed and you must ensure that all the comments are based on a quotation or quotations.

1. Structure: Why does Shakespeare choose to tell his audience in the Prologue that Romeo and Juliet do not survive? What does the Prologue add to the play?

2. Foreshadowing: How are later events in the play foreshadowed (hinted at) by events and attitudes in the opening scene?

3. Contrast: Look at how Romeo is described by his father in the scene, and how he describes his ‘love’ for Juliet. How does this contrast with the language surrounding Romeo’s love for Juliet (look especially at I.5.43 onwards, 2.2.2 onwards)
Y13: Some more specific guidance nots for your LA5C essay.
Compare and contrast the use of different voices in the war poetry of Wilfred Owen / Siegfried Sassoon and Pat Barker’s Regeneration

There's different levels or meanings of the term 'voice'.

1. narrative voice-
The use of multiple narrative voices (it could be called a polyphonic novel- see your notes on Mikhail Bakhtin) in Regeneration- the free indirect style and why it is used (you have plenty of notes on this.) Compare this to the various voices of Sassoon's and Owen’s poetry- their own, authentic, battle-experienced, angry, ironic, protesting voice. The voices of their characters eg The General and Harry and Jack in "The General" and other poems where there is dialogue. Both Sassoon and Owen occasionally uses free indirect style as well- for example, in Sassoon’s "The Death Bed".

2. voices of characters- social
Pat Barker, Sassoon and Owen all use phonetic misspelling and dialect words to draw their characters through the way they talk- Prior's Manchester accent which alienates Rivers at first, Rivers' and Sassoon's educated discourse, Sarah and Ada Lumb's earthy, northern working class imagery, the officer character' 'stiff uppper lip' euphemistic language in Sassoon's poetry etc.

3. voices of characters- psychological
Barker's use of speech and silence as an index of psychic injury- the more traumatised a patient is, the less able to talk about their experiences they are. Prior's mutism and 'shouting' on paper, the increasing stutter of Rivers, the revealing stutters and pauses of Sassoon, Anderson etc. Compare this with the ironic, yet tender 'voice' of Sassoon's and Owen’s poetry, the graphic images- the idea that they are healing themselves by using language- the poetry is 'talking' about their experiences in the way Rivers encourages his patients to do- remember the quote about the poetry being therapeutic?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Y13: A very good LA5c essay for you to have a look at.
Discuss how Pat Barker and Siegfried Sassoon use different literary techniques to achieve their different purposes.

Pat Barker’s novel, Regeneration, set in Craiglockhart, a psychiatric hospital for soldiers suffering from neurasthenia or ‘shell-shock’ in 1917, explores the lives of fictionalized historical characters, as well as fictional characters created entirely by Barker, and their developing relationships. The characters include a fictionalized version of Siegfried Sassoon, a soldier supposedly recovering from war neurosis whilst at Craiglockhart. Sassoon’s poetry deals in the imagery of war, and the death and destruction so unnecessarily caused by it. Sassoon wrote as a means of self-expression and as part of his political agenda to alert ‘complacent’ civilians to the terror of the war. In Regeneration Sassoon was able to express his feelings with greater ease than the other patients, which further suggests that he wasn’t suffering from war neurosis. Writing the poems was a method of healing strongly encouraged by army psychiatrist W.H.R. Rivers, who also features heavily in Barker’s work. (pg 26 Regeneration) “Writing the poems had obviously been therapeutic…”

Barker uses a range of literary techniques to give the reader an in depth understanding of her characters; it is widely accepted that one of Barker’s aims in writing Regeneration was to demonstrate that she could create convincing male characters. To achieve her purpose Barker makes her characters accessible to the reader psychologically, which coupled with the specific historical setting makes them convincing and believable. In order to do this she uses literary techniques such as free indirect style, dreams and flashbacks.

Unlike Barker’s, Sassoon’s work was contemporary with the war and written with great passion as he was very much involved with the trench experience. Sassoon also used varied literary techniques; each poem adopts a different style to suit its purpose. For example, in The Death Bed Sassoon captures the last moments of a dying soldier, supervising and commenting on his thoughts as the life drifts out of him, using gentle romantic imagery to capture the sense of days gone by. There is a contrast here between this and the understated but savage irony of the last line. It was Sassoon’s aim to awaken an ignorant public to the horrors of a war that he felt was unjust and causing his fellow men unnecessary suffering, this can be seen in virtually every one of his war poems.

Dialogue is a method recurrently used by Sassoon in his poetry, usually for one of two purposes: either to mimic and lampoon the linguistic clichés associated with the war, (The Hero) “We mothers are so proud//Of our dead soldiers.” or to create an atmosphere similar to that of the trenches, (A Working Party) “Keep to your right – make way!” Sassoon chooses to use voices of the ‘callous’ and ‘complacent’ civilians he so directly criticizes in his Declaration, as he is trying to show that they really have little notion of the reality of war, and their dialogue is in no way representative of any truth. It seems to Sassoon that they lie even to themselves by way of comfort. However, he uses phrases associated with the frontline, as he wants the people at home; reading his poetry to experience in some way what it is to be there. It could be suggested, that Sassoon was conscious in writing his poetry that the public’s view of what was happening in France was distorted by the media and by ‘War Office propaganda’, which he wanted to redress.
The colloquialisms often found in Sassoon’s poetry- the ‘O Christ!’ of Counter-Attack and other such realistic language- shows Sassoon’s commitment to an explicit representation of the realities of war, untouched by generalisations and poetic grand gestures of propaganda poetry.

Dialogue is also heavily used in Regeneration, as you would expect in prose texts of this kind. However, as a novel where the purpose is both socio-historical and psychological realism, Barker uses italics to denote emphasis, silence and stuttering within her dialogue to give a realistic portrayal of fictional situations. Discussion is also a predominant theme of Regeneration, as Rivers is constantly emphasizing the importance of expressing suppressed feeling a therapy for war neurosis. Key character Prior begins the novel as a mute. This further displays the ineffability of the war experience. Prior finds his relationship with Rivers bizarre, and compares Rivers to ‘empathetic wallpaper’, as it is Prior who is made to do all the talking. (pg 64) “So that I…I’m sorry. So that the patient can fantasize freely…” Prior’s hostility and frustration towards Rivers only displays the difficulties the soldiers presumably would have experienced with expressing their feelings.

Another technique adopted by both writers, but more so by Barker, is experimenting with narrative voice, especially free indirect style. Timothy Marshall comments that “The technical resources of narrative in prose (the varieties of indirect discourse in particular) do have an inherent capacity to represent languages other than the author’s.” This is especially important for Barker, as because she is a female writer it is important that her voice isn’t prominent when writing male characters. However, she isn’t completely absent from the text, as it is clear her empathy lies with characters such as Prior who like Barker is from a working class background. Free indirect style is a narrative technique which is artistically favourable for Barker, as it gives her multiple narrative foci, which she could not have if she chose to write in the first person. Writing in this way also allows the reader an insight into the characters’ minds, a psychological transparency usually only possible in first person narration, but with free indirect style all the characters Barker chooses to focus her narrative on can be made equally psychologically available to the reader. It is used especially with Rivers and Sassoon, as their relationship develops throughout the novel and their discussions become more sophisticated, especially regarding the war and duty. “… how much easier his life would have been if they’d sent Siegfried somewhere else. It wasn’t simply the discomfort of having to express views he was no longer sure he held…” Without free indirect style, it would be difficult for Barker to illustrate Rivers’ real feelings, without changing the nature of his character. However, Barker is also able to suggest the way a character may be feeling by describing their body language. “Rivers became aware that he was gripping the edge of the parapet and consciously relaxed his hands.” This was the first of many suggestions by Barker that Rivers himself may be showing symptoms of war neurosis from hearing so many horrific war stories from his patients.

Sassoon also writes in free indirect style in his poetry by way of gaining empathy for the fictional soldier characters he often creates. This is prominent in Counter-Attack, where in the first stanza Sassoon uses free indirect style before the soldier is killed in the later stanzas. “Things seemed alright at first. We held their line//With bombers posted…” Here Sassoon adopts an informal tone, as it is just as important for Sassoon to sound authentic as it is for Barker. It is essential because of his reputation being slaughtered by the government after his Declaration was published, and the need for his poetry to be taken seriously. This can be reiterated by the explicit, unflinchingly detailed description used, almost placing the trenches in the living rooms of those at home. “…rotten with dead; green clumsy legs//High-booted, sprawled and grovelled along the saps…” Despite Sassoon’s position among the upper classes, meaning as an a member of the officer-class he had a duty to always maintain ‘a stiff upper lip’- he chooses not to sugar-coat the harsh realities of trench life, as it would have been Sassoon’s hope that his credible description would shock those at home into taking action.

Sassoon writes in the third person in The Death Bed, which creates a universal sense of being and shows the dying of soldiers to be a regular occurrence. The voice of the poem’s narrator is difficult to identify. It has been suggested that the speaker is in fact the soldier that the poem refers to, and as he’s dying his soul has risen out of his body and is watching himself die. “He stirred//shifting his body…” This creates the feeling of confusion and uneasiness for the reader, which presumably would have been Sassoon’s intention. Although the poem is written in the third person, it is very similar to free indirect style, as the reader is aware of how character is feeling. “He swallowed, unresisting; moaned and dropped//through crimson gloom to darkness…” This again suggests that it could be the soldier’s voice narrating the poem. Sassoon focuses in this poem on the one soldier to show the pain and suffering, and the sad occurrence of losing such a young life. He then proves a point at the end of the poem with a reminder for the public, “Then, far away, the thudding of the guns.” This reinforces this as not being an isolated incident, and that unless the government take action, it will continue to happen.

As free indirect style is used in Regeneration as a result, the identification of the speaker is often quickly changed, to keep with the fluency of the novel. “Sassoon had started pulling a loose thread on the breast of his tunic. Rivers watched him for a while. ‘You must have been in agony when you did that.” Rivers is constantly analysing the behaviour of his patients, and thinks in medical terms, “no obvious signs of a nervous disorder.” By using free indirect style in this way, Barker allows the reader to relate to each individual character, by allowing them to gain an insight into their thoughts and the motives behind their behaviour.

In Chapter 4 of Regeneration, Anderson who had previously worked in medicine describes a particularly disturbing dream he’d had to Rivers. “Eventually they got me cornered and my father-in-law came towards me, waving a big stick.” Here Barker creates a dream which only a Freudian mind could possibly interpret. Rivers, who held Freudian psychological beliefs analyses Anderson’s dream in great detail. This is a way of Barker giving the reader permission to analyse her novel in Freudian terms. As Sassoon was a patient of Rivers, he would also have been aware of Freud at the time and therefore his poetry should also be read in terms of Freudian ideas.

Another effective literary technique used by Barker is hypnosis. In chapter nine of Regeneration Prior is hypnotised by Rivers because of his “Standard issue battle nightmares” and his inability to remember the events leading up to him becoming a mute whilst in France. By using the vehicle of hypnosis, Barker is able to display her literary ability, by making the reader feel as if they’ve just woken up in a trench. “He woke to a dugout smell of wet sandbags and stale farts.” Similarly to Sassoon in Counter-Attack Barker is realistic in her in depth description of the trench, however, as we have established she had no way of knowing if she was being realistic in her descriptions as unlike Sassoon she hadn’t experienced it first hand. However, by writing from Prior’s perspective, “… [Prior] glanced down, and found himself staring into an eye.” Barker is able to make her writing appear genuine, and in her attempt at verisimilitude she gains credibility as an author. It seems plausible that she could have used first hand accounts such as those of Sassoon to establish a picture of what trench life was like. Barker actually makes reference to an image used in one of Sassoon’s poems in Regeneration, in an attempt to make it seem that Sassoon was dreaming up images for his poem whilst at Craiglockhart. In The Death Bed Sassoon uses the image of a billowing curtain, to create a spooky atmosphere, “Night, with a gust of wind, was in the ward, //Blowing the curtain to a glimmering curve.” This image is made reference to in chapter 2 of Regeneration, “The net curtain behind River’s head billowed out in a glimmering arc, and a gust of cool air past over their faces.” This could be Barker trying to relate the uncomfortable situation with Rivers to the horror of The Death Bed. This also shows that Barker was very much aware of Sassoon’s version of the war from reading his poetry.

In Sassoon’s poem Attack again he tries to recreate the trench experience, using descriptive language, and a fast past which is representative of the quick speed of an attack. “With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear//Men jostle and climb to meet the bristling fire.” Like with Prior’s hypnosis, the text places the reader amongst the men in the trenches, making it seem genuine. However, unlike Regeneration this poem could hardly be more genuine, as Sassoon didn’t even create it entirely from his memories of the war. The poem originates “From a note in my [Sassoon’s] diary while observing the Hindenburg Line attack.” Although it was completed at Craiglockhart, which would suggest, that the poem was a way of putting the images from his nightmares onto paper.

A poetic technique recurrently used by Sassoon is that of personification. In The Poet as Hero Sassoon personifies the “Mocking and loathing War…” by describing it as you would a person, and giving it a capital letter like a name. He also gives it a capital ‘W’ in The Death Bed, which creates the sense of their being a lack of control over it. Sassoon makes it seem that the war is something bigger than all of them, which can’t be defeated. He uses this technique again in The March-Past as he describes “Death” in the same way. A subtle technique as this is, it is vital in displaying how Sassoon feels with regards to the war. Another technique adopted by Sassoon is that of enjambment, which usually creates a flowing rhythm, however, Sassoon uses it to stop the rhythm. “Till the tormented slain//Crawl round once again…” (To the Warmongers) By doing this Sassoon goes against the mellifluous poetic convention, this reflects how the war disrupts any harmony there may be in human society and human relationships, and that the usual conventions have been destroyed.

Poetry is usually the shortest form of text, and with such a powerful and essential message to get across to the public, it is questionable that Sassoon as a writer should use this form. However, at the time of The Great War, poetry was a popular source of entertainment, as novels are today. Therefore, Sassoon knew that his message would reach the public effectively, and in a form which they would find entertaining. Sassoon recognises that the public don’t have “sufficient imagination to realize” the horrors of the trenches in his Declaration, and by writing his poetry he is creating images for them from his own experience. Poems tend to explore one central idea in depth, with the opinions of the author being clear throughout. Sassoon often writes in the first person, “The corpse-commander was a Mute; //And death leered round him, taking our salute.” (The March-Past) This displays Sassoon’s involvement in the war and his presence and viewpoint within his poetry. Anger is also demonstrated throughout some of Sassoon’s poetry through the colloquial language used. “Now light the candles; one; two; there’s a moth; //What silly beggars they are to blunder in…” (Repression of War Experience) Sassoon was clearly angry with the continuing war, “I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.” After publishing the Declaration poetry was the only way left for him to make a difference, and it is clear that he will no longer be suppressed by the government. This is displayed in his angry tone.

Barker, like Sassoon has chosen a form appropriate to the time in which her work was published (1991), and in a way which suits her purpose. It writing a novel, Barker can use a wider range of literary techniques than those used in poetry, such as plot, story and structure. She is able to mould her characters, they are able to evolve throughout the novel and develop their opinions. Such as Rivers becoming unsure of what his duty is and whether it is right to protest as a military captain. Barker is said to have described the structure of Regeneration to be based around the developing relationship of Rivers and Sassoon, which she depicts as ‘s-shaped’. This is because initially Rivers feels that his duty is to serve his country, part of his duty being to convince Sassoon to return to the frontline, and it is the opinion of Sassoon that it is his duty to protest, no matter what the consequences or implications for him as an individual. It was the 19th century principle social value to do your duty and serve your country. However, because of the horror Sassoon experienced he started to challenge the beliefs which had been enforced into the young men. As a result of much discussion between Sassoon and Rivers throughout the novel, they both start to understand the viewpoint of the other. “…along came Sassoon and made the justifiability of the war a matter for constant, open debate, and that suppression was no longer possible.” The novel has multiple narrative foci, so that the whole novel isn’t about Sassoon and Rivers, but also about other characters who serve as a device for displaying the consequences of war experience.

Regeneration was written for the purpose of entertainment; therefore, there is a need for creating realistic characters, especially for a psychological novel. Barker unlike Sassoon had no political agenda or a dire purpose. Although, it was important that she portrayed the war correctly and did the men who served their country justice. As she wasn’t there it is necessary for her to use literary techniques such as nightmares, hypnosis, free indirect style and the declaration to make her work appear genuine. Sassoon had no choice but to write powerful gripping poetry, which he achieves using shocking images and language alike. He had a political agenda and a duty to protest against a war he felt was ‘unjust’. Each poem had to be striking in it’s depiction of the war, as due to his chosen form Sassoon didn’t have the advantage of having a lengthy prose text to express his views and the horrors he’d experienced.

Y13: Some questions on Wilfred Owen's poem Anthem For Doomed Youth and one students's answers to them. This should help if you want to use Owen's poetry in your essay.

1) “Owen wrote Anthem in Sonnet form and so joined it with the grand tradition of Sonnet Poetry (Shakespeare etc). Why did Owen use this form?”

Sonnet poems are expected to be constructed of two parts: the octave, an eight-line description of situation, and the sestet, a six-line solution or conclusion. This is seen in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 138, where Shakespeare describes a romantic dilemma in the octave, and offers a peaceful conclusion in the sestet.

Here Owen uses the structure of the sonnet to divide his poem in two, allowing a stronger grasp of his meaning. Unlike the poetry of Shakespeare and the likes, Owen’s writing uses the present emotion to argue a political point of view. I believe that Owen wished to harness the emotional impact of the sonnet in order to put a stronger argument forwards than a more linear structure would have allowed.

Also, there is a powerful irony in Owen’s use of the sonnet in a war poem, as the sonnet is often seen as the format of a love poem. This idea would have appealed to Owen in his attempt to shock and move his audience.

2) “In the 3rd line, Owen uses a variety of poetic techniques to create sound image. Analyse what these are and why they work.”

“Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle” is a line full of repetition. It begins with “stuttering”: the word contains three hard “T” sounds, which I believe are used to give the reader a mental image of the guns, and the sound that they would create.

Straight after this follows a good example of alliteration: “rifles’ rapid rattle” repeats the “R” sound, once again enforcing the image that this line creates.

3) “The poem is often divided into an octave and a sestet. Thinking about tone and language, in what ways can this be said to be true?”

I feel that the division between the octave and sestet is made clear upon close analysis of the text. If we were to assume that the poem was divided into sonnet form, we could take the first eight lines and examine them:

In the octave, Owen uses mostly descriptions of death in war: “passing bells” refer to the bell rang for a person as they pass away. He also mentions “orisons”, in the context of funeral prayers. “choirs of wailing shells” and “bugles calling them” are also great examples of the octave’s concentration on the taking of human life.

There is also a clear religious theme running through the octave: He mentions “bells“, “prayers” and “choirs” as methods of linking religion and faith to the conflict. The reason for this is made clearer in the sestet.

In the sestet Owen drops the war theme, and also avoids anger and violence as themes. This begins with the line “What candles may be held to speed them all?”. From this line onwards, the poem takes on a more solemn tone. He mentions children, drawing powerful images of the young who are left behind on the warpath. He continues the religious theme, tying the two parts together effectively.

The sestet begins with a question, as the octave did. Whereas the octave’s question related to bells, which are the sign of someone having died, the sestet’s question focuses on candles, which are a way of demonstrating remembrance of someone who has passed away. In the octave, Owen angrily demands respect for the “doomed youth“; in the sestet, Owen mourns them.

This clearly distinguishes both parts of the poem, allowing Owen to serve his purpose: he creates anger at war in the octave, and desire for peace in the sestet.

4) “Why does Owen juxtapose war imagery with church images?”

It is my opinion that the answer to this question lies in the chronological context. Wilfred Owen wrote Anthem For Doomed Youth during World War 1. At this time, Christianity was much more widely accepted in England, and indeed across the globe. There would really be no quicker a way to appeal to the general public than to give his poem a strong Christian theme.

I believe the juxtaposition of war and church is to demonstrate the “un-holiness” of the conflict. This view is corroborated by lines like “No mockeries now for them; no prayers or bells”. The term “mockeries” implies that any attempt at Christian funeral ceremonies on a battlefield would make a mockery of the dead.

The un-holiness of scene Owen paints may have been intended to remind us of Hell, another place where religious symbolism would be wasted. I believe this cuts to the very core of the poem: Owen wishes to deliver a clear and powerful message: “War is Hell”.
Y13: Further advice on your A2 coursework: LA5C Literary Connections

The best titles concentrated on comparison.
Examiners took marks away where comparative commentary was inadequate.
‘The best candidates approach comparison through a well-structured analysis which includes detailed exploration of form, structure and language.’
Pay attention to the different kinds of literature- prose is different from poetry.
Keep the assessment grid (which I've given you in class) near you as you write the essay as a reminder of what the assessment objectives are and what their weightings are.
The words ‘compare’ and ‘presentation’ are useful in titles because they guarantee you are addressing the AOs (as long as you actually answer the question you set yourself!)
Form, structure and language are your bread and butter. Get into it on the first page.

Successful candidates:
Compare throughout (AO2ii)
Concentrate closely on the chosen texts (AO2ii)
Use short extracts to explore and analyse language use. Make these quotations part of your argument (AO3)
Compare language, form and structure (AO3)
Are aware of the differences between prose, poetry and drama (AO3)
Make it obvious the author shapes meaning- use the writers’ names! (AO2ii and AO3)
Write a succinct, clear, cogent essay (AO1 and AO4)
Look at alternative viewpoints (AO1 and AO2ii)
Check their work for daft errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar and matters of fact. (I’m never again going to waste my time correcting an essay that says ‘Clouds’ every time the candidate means ‘Claudius’- spell chequers wood knot notice anything wrong with this sun tense and grammar checkers are usually American and can do daft things even when they’re English. Use them, by all means, but check the work yourself as well. I also have no intention of correcting essays which announce that Shakespeare was ‘a nineteenth century book writer’ or that the Great War was between 1939 and 1945).
Think for themselves: re-hashed ideas from teachers, York notes and books of literary criticism do not demonstrate ‘independent literary judgements’ (AO4) and there are no marks for using comments by critics, although they are sometimes useful.

Presentation and that sort of thing (use this as a checklist)
Word-process. The examiners do accept handwritten work, but that’s irrelevant because I don’t.
Keep to around 2,500 words. About a hundred words either way is fine, but don’t go much beyond that.
Give a word count (the word-count function is under ‘Tools’ if you use any version of ‘Word’)
Use double spaces between lines (in ‘Word’, the icon you want is usually on the right side of the toolbar and looks like four lines with two blue arrows next to them) and decent-sized margins.
Use one side of the page only.
Use a ‘header’ that gives your name, the page number and the title of your essay as long as it’s short enough not to look intrusive. The ‘header’ function is under ‘View’ on the toolbar, and if you select the little icon of the page with the # on it the pages will number automatically.
Provide a bibliography, including everything you have used, even websites and stuff, even if you haven’t quoted from them directly.
Use a twelve point font-size, and certainly no smaller.
Print in black.
Use a clear font like ‘Times New Roman’ (this sheet is in TNR and ‘Word’ usually defaults to it anyway). No curly-wurly eyestrainers, please.
Block your paragraphs, leaving a line between them. Justify both margins or just the left margin if you prefer. Don’t ‘centre’ anything apart from your title.
Ensure quoted lines of poetry are lineated properly- if the poet starts a new line, you do too.
Titles like Regeneration go in italics, not quotation marks.
Refer to writers by their full name the first time you mention them and by their surnames (Barker, Owen etc.) thereafter. Refer to characters by their surnames too, unless they’re always called something different (like ‘Curley’s wife’ or ‘Piggy’).
Secure your essay with one staple or treasury tag through the top left. No plastic pockets, no covers, no spiral bindings, no double staples that mean you can’t read the first five words of every line. Make it easy to read and mark!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Y11:Pre- and Post-1914 Poetry for the English Literature
GCSE Examination: An Introduction for Students

Q: Didn’t we do poetry when we did the Other Cultures stuff; Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan and all that?

A: Yes, but that was for the English Language examination. This is for English Literature.

Q: How important is it to know these poems?

A: Very important. Your response to the poetry question is worth 40% of the total marks for Literature. Look at it like this:

Literature marks breakdown:
Coursework: 30%
Exam Paper Section A (Of Mice and Men or other text): 30%
Exam Paper Section B (poetry question): 40%

Q: What is the poetry question like?

There will be a choice of three questions, from which you choose one.
Each question will name a particular poem.
This named poem could be one by the four modern poets (Gillian Clarke, Seamus Heaney, Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage) or one of the pre-1914 poems.
The four modern poets are divided into two pairs: Seamus Heaney and Gillian Clarke; Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage.
Each question will ask you to look at four poems altogether: one from each of the modern poet pairs (one each by Heaney and Clarke, for example) and two pre-1914 poems. One of these will be the poem named in the question you have chosen.
The four poems will have a common theme or subject or some shared feature of approach, style or structure- for example, poems spoken by a character as monologues.

Example question for English Literature Section B- Poetry

How do the poets in the Anthology look at nature? Write about Seamus Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist, one poem by Gillian Clarke and two poems from the pre-1914 bank. Write about:
· what the poets describe
· the poets’ attitude to nature
· how the poets use language, structure and other effects to bring out what they’re saying

If you were answering this question you would have to choose one suitable poem by Gillian Clarke and two from the pre-1914 poetry bank. Obviously, the Heaney poem is named in the question- it’s the named poem. Good choices for the other poems would be:
-Gillian Clarke: A Difficult Birth, Easter 1998, The Field Mouse or October (they all touch on the theme of nature).
-Pre-1914 bank: lots to choose from, but, for example, you could have Alfred Tennyson’s The Eagle and Gerard Manley Hopkin’s Inversnaid.

Q: How do I choose the poems and put them together?

A: The example given above should help. Basically, you have to find three poems that go well with the named poem in the question. In class, I'll give some ideas for linking themes, subjects or approaches. The examiners might use one of these to set a question, but they might not.

Y11: Some notes on Robert Browning in general and My Last Duchess in particular for the Literature exam.

My Last Duchess
-by Robert Browning-

Robert Browning:
an introduction to the most astonishing poet of the nineteenth century

Browning was a strange fellow who almost certainly fancied his mother and idolised Shelley, (you remember him- husband of Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein) a lot of his early verse imitating that poet’s style.

He is also, along with Tennyson (a great contemporary rival), the most technically brilliant poet of his age, and unparalleled in terms of innovation and lasting influence.

Browning’s work informs almost every English-language poet that followed, especially the great Modernists like Ezra Pound and TS Eliot

Even the titles of Browning’s anthologies show his astonishing innovation- take Dramatic Lyrics (C.1842) for example: if drama is the voice of assumed personae and lyric is the voice of the individual’s soul, they would seem mutually exclusive. They certainly were until Browning scampered into the arena and blew the living daylights out of everyone’s preconceptions like some unholy mixture of Charlie Parker, Pablo Picasso and Johnny Rotten with more talent and worse hair. Other titles, such as Men and Women (1855) and Dramatis Personae (1864) are equally revealing.

Browning cast himself as somewhere between Shakespeare (the great dramatist or objective poet- no matter how many Shakespeare plays you read, you never know what Shakespeare the man thought about anything, only what his characters thought) and Shelley (the great lyricist or subjective poet- Shelley didn’t ‘do’ characters and is only really interested in one thing- himself).
In the introduction to Dramatic Lyrics, Browning insisted that his poems were, ‘for the most part Lyric in expression, always Dramatic in principle, and so may utterances of so many imaginary persons, not mine.’

Robert Browning’s great innovation: the dramatic monologue

Often called dramatic monologues, his poems are actually not dramatic. The poems are too lyrical and subjective to be dramatic, a word which should denote a bunch of characters banging on at each other with no-one telling you who should be listened to and who shouldn’t.

The dramatic monologues always have characters who give away more about themselves than they intend to and who often condemn themselves out of their own mouths. This is certainly true of My Last Duchess.

Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess

The subtitle ‘Ferrara’ refers to Alfonso II, Duke of Ferrara, who historically negotiated for the hand of the niece of the Duke of Tyrol in 1564. In the poem, this becomes the daughter of an old Count, rather than another Duke. The historical ‘Last Duchess’ herself died in 1561 at age 17, and there were rumours at the time that she was poisoned.

The poem is in Heroic Couplets- rhyming pairs of lines in iambic pentameter, by far the most common metrical scheme in English poetry (virtually all verse drama, including Shakespeare, is in iambic pentameter). The rhymes don’t ‘bang’ or spoil the fluency of the thing because of the consistent use of enjambment (lines which one over, rather than being end-stopped).

Fra Pandolf is a painter, and ‘Fra’ is ‘friar’. He ‘Worked busily a day’ because the painting is in the plaster of the wall, not a canvas hanging on it, and the Italian technique of painting into wet plaster is by necessity speedy because you have to get it done in one go, with no mistakes, before the plaster dries.

Note the sense of power and ownership- no-one gets to look at the picture unless the Duke himself draws the curtain which hides it, and he says ‘so not the first / Are you to turn and ask thus..’ when the addressed character (an agent of the Count) hasn’t actually asked him anything. The Duke decides what questions he wants asked as well as what the answers will be- this is a man whose subjectivity has been grown to solipsism (the idea that the only person who exists in any important way is yourself) through years of absolute power.

The Duke suggests that the Duchess has her expression of depth and passion because of his own presence at the sitting, and also because she was flattered by Pandolf’s references to her blushing ‘throat’ and the indecorous way he asks her to show a bit more of her flesh: ‘Fra Pandolf chanced to say ‘Her mantle laps / Over my lady’s wrist too much’..” This seems twee to modern ears, but look at the language- Pandolf is talking directly to the Duchess, and yet uses the third person to demonstrate her superiority to him and the distance that must exist between an aristocrat and a mere hired artisan like Pandolf. The contrast between this extreme politeness and the request to show ‘a bit more wrist’ is striking.

The Duke may well be suggesting that his last Duchess was a flirt, and that’s why she’s his last Duchess, not his current one. There’s something rather creepy and unwholesome in the way he invites the Count’s man to voyeuristically contemplate the woman’s only areas of exposed flesh –neck and wrist- as if even in death, she belongs to him body and soul, to portion out or keep to himself as he pleases.

The idea that the Duchess was a flirt is continued in the next lines. We also get an increasing idea that the Duke is a dangerously jealous man- he resents any affection the Duchess had for anything other than himself, even for her pet mule. The solipsism or megalomania comes through again here.

The Duke’s resentment gets more aggressive, as he asks why ‘she ranked / My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name / With anybody’s gift’ He casts the woman as flirt and an ingrate, and yet he continually reveals more about his own perverse need for absolute power and absolute love from all around him than he does about the rather charming and endearing young girl he took to wife. That’s called irony, that is. You might even call it dramatic irony.

Line 36 shows the Duke attempting a self-deprecating tone. It doesn’t quite come off. The reader can’t help but imagine the Count’s man cringing and toadying for all he’s worth at the suggestion that the Duke is less than perfect at something.

The Duke says he wishes he could instruct the Duchess without her setting her wits against him- that is, doing anything but annihilating herself absolutely and instantly into his will. He considers reasoning with her or persuading her ‘stooping’- he wants nothing less than absolute blind obedience and devotion. Anything else is likely to get her poisoned.

Lines 45 and 46 are almost an admission of murder, and incredibly cold. This is perhaps also a warning that the daughter of the Count, should she be ‘lucky’ enough to be given to the Duke, had better do exactly what she’s told if she wishes to be more than a fresco once the honeymoon is over.

The word ‘object’ in line 53 is significant. It means both ‘goal’ and ‘item’ or ‘thing’.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Y13: Further advice for your LTB4 coursework:
A2 Literature Coursework:
LTB4- Comparing Texts

-an outline for a successful approach-

Regeneration by Pat Barker compared with either Sassoon’s or Owen’s war poetry

What the essay must do
Show knowledge of a complete prose text
Compare / contrast this with another text
Show knowledge of prose narrative technique, preferably in comparison and contrast with the form and structure of poetry or drama
Evaluate different critical interpretations of the texts and show clear evidence of a personal response
Be a well-shaped, cogently-argued, technically accurate essay, within the upper limit of 3,000 words.
Use appropriate quotation and close reference throughout.

Ways of comparing texts
Through purpose (how is Sassoon’s purpose different from Barkers?)
Through audience (how is Barker’s audience different from Owen’s?)
Through type, kind or genre.
Through context and circumstances of production (Owen’s poetry largely written whilst at Craiglockhart)
Through context and circumstances of reception (cultural attitudes to war and traumatic experience generally are very different in the early C20th compared to the late C20th / early C21st)
Through historical period
Through thematic links

Overall structure for your essay
The reason for your comparison- what do you hope to demonstrate by laying the two texts side by side?
The technique of the first text (probably Regeneration)
The technique of the second text, occasionally ‘glancing back’ and making explicit points of comparison and contrast.
Conclusion, which probably gives an informed but personal response to the effectiveness of the literary techniques of both texts (in other words, a sophisticated version of, ‘I like X best because…’)

Extracts from Chief Examiner’s report

“This unit covers all the Assessment Objectives, with the most weighting being given to AO2ii- responding with knowledge and commenting on relationships and comparisons between literary texts. Because of this it is important that careful consideration is given to:
-which aspects of the texts will be focused on for comparison
-roughly equal commentary on each of the two texts.”

“In order to ensure that AOs 3 and 5 were covered, many centres made the very wise choice of using issues of narrative, genre and context as the focus for their comparative tasks. Such tasks worked much better than comparison of content, where candidates inevitably provided a great deal of subject matter but very little critical analysis.”

“AO1 is required in this unit, which means the essay must have a cohesive argument. Clarity and accuracy of expression should simply be expected at this level.”

“It has been noted how often candidates made their most effective comparisons at the end of assignments, when such ideas would have been better placed at the start.”

“It is worth stressing here that comparison of texts will inevitably involve more difference (ie contrast) between the texts than similarity. Some candidate seem to think that they are required to find arcane points of sameness when they would be much better using the AOs to explore fundamental differences.”

“The best responses show candidates who are always bearing comparison and contrast in mind, but who are aware that if they are to make sophisticated points they need to spend some time on each text separately.”

“AO4 can sometimes be difficult to signal in a task when so many other things are expected. One tactic is to refer explicitly to critical debate within the task, another is to give clear instructions to candidates that they must make reference to different interpretations when forming their own personal responses. For the higher bands, candidates must evaluate other interpretations as well as show an awareness of them.”

“In terms of A05, context should support analysis of meaning, not be separate from that analysis.”

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Y9: Summary of the plot of Macbeth

A Scottish captain reports to King Duncan that Macbeth beat the traitor Macdonald in battle. Ross adds that the Thane of Cawdor was traitorous to Scotland during the battle.

The three witches confront Macbeth and Banquo on their way home from their battle with Macdonald. They predict that Macbeth will be Thane of Cawdor and then King of Scotland, and Banquo, though never king himself, will have sons who are kings.

The witches leave and Ross informs Macbeth that he has been awarded the title Thane of Cawdor, now the old Thane is condemned as a traitor.

Macbeth contemplates the witches’ prediction of him being King, and wonders if he should help make it happen.

The King then warmly greets Macbeth and Banquo, and awards Macbeth the title Thane of Cawdor. King Duncan also declares his eldest son, Malcolm, will follow him as King.

After the King’s announcements, Macbeth's wife learns of Macbeth’s encounter with the witches and decides that she'll persuade Macbeth to become king through foul play. She then learns that King Duncan is coming to her castle to stay the night, strengthening her decision to murder Duncan.

King Duncan arrives and Macbeth tells his wife he doesn't want to murder him just to become King himself. She talks him into it, adding that they'll frame Duncan's own guards for the murder.

On the night of the planned murder, Macbeth meets his wife and tells her he murdered Duncan. Macbeth forgets to return the daggers to the king's guards, so his wife does it for him.
After the murder, the Macbeths return to their chambers. Later, Macduff and Macbeth "discover" the dead King.

Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, flee to England and Ireland, fearing that they’ll be killed. Subsequently, the Thanes decide that Malcolm and Donalbain bribed the guards to kill Duncan so they could inherit the throne. Consequently, Macbeth is declared king.

Newly crowned King, Macbeth fears Banquo will breed children who may overthrowhim, s the witches suggested. Macbeth convinces two men to murder Banquo and his son, Fleance.

The murderers successfully murder Banquo, but Fleance escapes. At dinner, Macbeth imagines he sees Banquo's ghost.

After killing Banquo, Macbeth finds the witches again and they make three further predictions: 1. Macbeth should beware of Macduff; 2. No-one born of woman can harm Macbeth; 3. Macbeth will rule until Birnam Wood gets up and moves to Dunsinane Hill, where Macbeth’s castle is.

After visiting the witches, Macbeth discovers that Macduff is raising an army against him. Macbeth sends soldiers to kill Macduff’s wife and children. In England, Macduff and Malcolm agree to fight together against Macbeth.

Forces gather against Macbeth. At Birnam Wood, Malcolm orders his soldiers to cut the trees and use them as disguises. In the castle, Macbeth learns that his wife has died by her own hand, then learns, to his dismay, that Birnam Wood is "moving" toward the castle.

The army arrives and Macbeth fights and kills young Siward. Next, Macduff and Macbeth fight. Macduff informs Macbeth that he was ripped from his mother's womb, and so was not born of woman. Soon after, Macduff kills Macbeth. Macduff then crowns Malcolm the new King of Scotland.
Y9: Essay plan for half-term homework
Remember: you can use the 'comments' tab to ask me a question if you get stuck!
What is the audience’s first impression of Macbeth from the report of the Wounded Captain in Act 1 Scene 2 of Macbeth?

-this essay is your assessment for Reading and Writing for Half Term 3-

Introduction- tell them what you’re going to say

· Use your summary of the plot to outline the story so far (you only need the first bullet point!)
· Say that you intend to analyse the report of the Wounded Captain and Duncan’s response to it to find the first impression Shakespeare wants to give of Macbeth.

Main part- say it

· All must… (Level 4.2-4.8)
-use three quotation sandwiches- use your index of quotes.
-you must, to get Level 4, say what the quotes tell us about Macbeth.
-Key Words: loyalty, bravery, honour, fearsome warrior.
-Key descriptor for Reading at Level 4: ‘you are beginning to use quotations to support your views’

· Most should… (Level 5.2-5.8)
-use three quotation sandwiches- use your index of quotes.
-you should, to get Level 5, comment on the effects of words and phrases in your quotes- does Shakespeare use rhetorical questions? Simile? Metaphor? Personification? How do these techniques help us to understand what Macbeth is like?
-Key Words: loyalty, bravery, honour, fearsome warrior.
-Key descriptor for Reading at Level 5: ‘you are beginning to “read between the lines” for implied meanings.’

· Some could… (Level 6.2-6.8)
-use three quotation sandwiches- use your index of quotes.
-you could, to get Level 6, give different two different interpretations of the same line- for example, does Macbeth sometimes sound too good to be true? Should we take all the Captain’s statements about him at face value?
-Key Words: loyalty, bravery, honour, fearsome warrior.
-Key descriptor for Reading at Level 6: ‘You understand different layers of meaning…’

Conclusion- tell them what you’ve said

· Answer the question- what are the audience’s first impressions of Macbeth?
· Why do you think Shakespeare introduces us to Macbeth’s reputation and has characters talk about him before he actually brings him onto the stage so we can see for ourselves? An intelligent response to this gets you a Level 7: ‘You evaluate different layers of meaning and comment on their significance and effects.’

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Y11: Chapter Summary of Of Mice and Men and some notes on Steinbeck's style

Steinbeck's chapters are unnumbered. They are numbered in your copy to make your life easier!

Hot Thursday late afternoon. George and Lennie spend the night by the Salinas River, a few miles south of Soledad. They plan to start work the next day and dream of a future farm where Lennie can tend rabbits.

Friday morning at the bunkhouse. George and Lennie sign up to buck barley. Curley tries to pick a fight with Lennie. Candy tells George Curley's wife is a tart. George reminds Lennie where to hide if there's trouble. They meet Curley's wife, Slim and Carlson. Lennie wants one of Slim's dog Lulu's pups.
Friday evening. George tells Slim Lennie grabbed a red-dressed girl in Weed. Lennie gets a pup. Carlson shoots Candy's old dog with his Luger. Slim goes to the barn to treat a horse. While the rest go to see if Slim's with Curley or Curley's wife, Candy commits his $350 to George and Lennie's $600 dream. When everyone returns, Curley beats on Lennie until George tells Lennie to "get him." Lennie crushes Curley's hand. Slim orders Curley to say it was a machine accident.
Saturday night at Crook's room in the barn. All but Candy and Lennie go to town. Lennie drops in on Crooks who philosophizes about companionship. Candy drops by and talks of their dreams. Curley's wife shows up and insults them all. Candy brags of their ranch. She infers that Lennie is the machine which got Curley. She threatens Crooks with a lynching. George arrives and all leave Crooks' room.
Sunday afternoon. While the rest play horseshoes, Lenny kills his puppy in the barn. Curley's wife shows up. Lennie explains his fondness for soft things, and she encourages him to stroke her hair. When she wants him to stop he breaks her neck out of fear. Candy finds her and brings George. When the men find out Curley goes for his shotgun. Carlson goes for his Luger, but it's missing and he assumes Lennie took it. Whit is sent to Soledad for Al Wilt. Candy stays with the body while all go after Lennie.
Late afternoon. Lennie comes to the river. His dead Aunt Clara appears and scolds him. A huge imaginary rabbit tells him George will leave him. George shows up and reassures Lennie. While they talk of their dream, George puts the Luger to the base of Lennie's skull and fires. When they see Lennie everyone assumes George took the gun from him and shot him. Slim says "You hadda, George," and takes him for a drink.

Steinbeck's style in the novel is conversational and direct. People are talking throughout most of the book. They talk in the natural language of the ranch-lots of cursing, name calling, and slang. The style fits in well with the themes of the common man and Steinbeck's naturalistic style.

While Steinbeck's language and style are natural and simple, his sentences are carefully constructed. His descriptions of the natural world are almost like poetry. Here is a sentence from the first paragraph of the novel: "The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool." Notice how the author has repeated w sounds in the first clause and s sounds in the second. This is called alliteration. Steinbeck also uses similes to create pictures in the reader's mind: the rabbits sit on the bank "like gray, sculptured stones," and Lennie snorts into the water "like a horse."

An important aspect of Steinbeck's style is that he lets the story develop one step at a time; he doesn't jump ahead or flash back. This gives the action a dramatic quality. We know Lennie has a potential for violence, so we are a little afraid when he confronts Curley in the bunk house or begins petting Curley's wife's hair in the barn. But Steinbeck lets each of these scenes start off slowly then build quickly to a powerful climax. We, as readers, get caught up in the drama because of the way he presents the scenes to us.

The point of view of the novel is clearly third person objective. We never enter a character's mind (unless we count Lennie's hallucinations in the final chapter): all the characters are described only by the way they act and what they say. This choice of point of view makes Of Mice and Men relatively similar to a play for the theatre, as do his description of man-made settings like the barn and the bunk-house, which are plain, direct and precise, like set design.

It can be argued that Steinbeck's style enacts the experience of the ranch hands themselves for us as readers: the ranchers are suspicious of one another and, despite their cramped living conditions, emotionally very distant from each another, and in a similar way the reader is emotionally distant from the characters: we hear their voices and observe their behaviour and their appearance, but we know little of how they think or feel unless they choose to reveal their feelings in dialogue. Of course, in the hostile and suspicious environment of the ranch, such expressions of emotion are taken as signs of weakness and an invitation to bullying: think about how Curley's wife bullies Crooks when he dares to express his pride and enthusiasm for the dream of owning his own place, and how she in turn is bullied by her husband and has all her hopes of a better, more glamorous life swamped by his possessive authority over her.

In the same way, just as the ranch hands have no real connection to the bunk-house- it is simply a place to sleep and rest, and resolutely not somewhere any of them would call 'home'- the reader is alienated from it too. The description is so precise we could easily draw an accurate diagram of the place and its sparse furnishings, but there is no warmth or vivid detail in the description. It is an emotionally cold, alienating piece of writing for an emotionally cold, alienating place.
Y13: Some bits about free indirect style (style indirect libre, if you want to be flash)

The piece in black type is from some notes on Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs.Dalloway, which uses free indirect style. The piece in orange is from on on-line review of a recent collection of stories by Wiliam Trevor called The Hill Bachelors. Neither are directly relevant to Regeneration, therefore, but both give you an ida of how to write about free indirect style as a narrative technique.

Two techniques for representing stream of consciousness. (a) Free indirect style (used by Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf (eg, Mrs Dalloway)). Renders thought as reported speech (third person, past tense) but uses vocabulary appropriate to the character. Deletes some of the “she thought,” “she wondered,” tags. Illusion of access to the character’s mind without surrendering authorial participation.
Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer’s men were coming. And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning — fresh as if issued to children on a beach.

This is free indirect style: the narrative adopting the sentiments of the character. It is a technique that was pioneered by Jane Austen - odd as it might be to think of Austen as an audacious technical innovator. David Lodge has pointed out that it can be found "briefly and fragmentarily" in the slightly earlier fiction of Fanny Burney and Maria Edgeworth, novelists whom Austen read with keen interest. Yet they did not really discover its potential for combining both distanced observation of a character and a sense of how he or she sees the world.
The effect is peculiar and subtle in "Against the Odds" because we find that Mrs Kincaid never speaks in confidence to anyone. The free indirect style reflects her never-spoken thoughts. Even in her silent talking to herself, she avoids the truth. The story goes on to let us witness with pity her manipulation of her next gull, a lonely widower called Blakely whom she will effectively fleece, but it keeps us within her thoughts. When she first encounters Blakely in a café, it replicates her observations. "He'd be a bachelor or a widower, else he wouldn't be taking his dinner in a café every day. You could tell at once the foot he dug with, as decent a Protestant foot as her own, never a doubt about that."
That first sentence sounds just like speech; the English reader can hear its Ulster accent. But it follows the character's entirely silent calculation (unmarried, he will be a suitable victim). The next sentence, with its weird idiom ("Which foot do you dig with?"), reveals her prejudice in a moment of comically inappropriate kinship. Because he is a fellow "decent" Protestant, she will find it all the easier to trick him out of his money.
Free indirect style gets us immediately close to Trevor's characters while keeping their deepest thoughts or fears unspoken. It is a means of concealment as much as disclosure. In the collection's title story an elderly widow on a lonely farm wonders what will become of her after her husband's death. What will her five children, all of whom have grown up and left, decide to do? "It was up to them; she couldn't ask. It wouldn't be seemly to ask, it wouldn't feel right." In most third-person narratives the very appearance of those colloquial contractions - "couldn't", "wouldn't" - would signal the narrative's replication of the character's thoughts. Here the character thinks about what cannot be said ("she couldn't ask") but also avoids contemplating the possibilities herself. If she has hopes or fears, they are suppressed. And that peculiar, carefully chosen word "seemly" lets the reader into her mind while forbidding curiosity. "It wouldn't be seemly" is something she says, we imagine, that brooks no further argument.
This use of free indirect style to show how things are left unthought as well as unspoken is common in Trevor's stories, and especially appropriate in "The Hill Bachelors". The widow's youngest son, Paulie, finds himself drawn back to the hill farm, compelled to give up his hopes of escape and marriage to take up his dead father's work. Or what will his mother do? Nothing has been said about the inevitability of this; his mother has not even let herself think about it. But her silence has done its work
Y12: Donne and Metaphysical Poetry

A term used to group together certain 17th-century poets, usually DONNE, MARVELL, VAUGHAN and TRAHERNE, though other figures like ABRAHAM COWLEY are sometimes included in the list. Although in no sense a school or movement proper, they share common characteristics of wit, inventiveness, and a love of elaborate stylistic manoeuvres. Metaphysical concerns are the common subject of their poetry, which investigates the world by rational discussion of its phenomena rather than by intuition or mysticism. DRYDEN was the first to apply the term to 17th-century poetry when, in 1693, he criticized Donne: 'He affects the Metaphysics... in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign; and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts.' He disapproved of Donne's stylistic excesses, particularly his extravagant conceits (or witty comparisons) and his tendency towards hyperbolic abstractions. JOHNSON consolidated the argument in THE LIVES OF THE POETS, where he noted (with reference to Cowley) that 'about the beginning of the seventeenth century appeared a race of writers that may be termed the metaphysical poets'. He went on to describe the far-fetched nature of their comparisons as 'a kind of discordia concors; a combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike'. Examples of the practice Johnson condemned would include the extended comparison of love with astrology (by Donne) and of the soul with a drop of dew (by Marvell).

Reacting against the deliberately smooth and sweet tones of much 16th-century verse, the metaphysical poets adopted a style that is energetic, uneven, and rigorous. (Johnson decried its roughness and violation of decorum, the deliberate mixture of different styles.) It has also been labelled the 'poetry of strong lines'. In his important essay, 'The Metaphysical Poets' (1921), which helped bring the poetry of Donne and his contemporaries back into favour, T. S. ELIOT argued that their work fuses reason with passion; it shows a unification of thought and feeling which later became separated into a 'dissociation of sensibility'.”
Y12: Past paper questions on Donne and some general advice about LTB2

Practice Questions For LTB2: Genre Study: Poetry and Drama (John Donne)

Although the Drama question has more marks than the Poetry, you should still aim to split your time 50/50. The exam is 1 hour 45 mins., so about 50 minutes per question.
This advice comes direct from the chief examiner: ‘The most important thing in the exam room is to think and plan. If candidates have studied and revised carefully, they are full of knowledge, but it’s too easy to misuse this knowledge or present it ineffectively. They must remember to deconstruct the question and not believe they ‘recognise’ it, and plan their answers carefully: too many candidates don’t actually start delivering until halfway through their answer.’

1. The Flea
a) What arguments does the speaker use to persuade his listener to “learn how false, fears be”?
b) How does the language of the poem convey a sense of the speaker’s personality?
c) Discuss the ways in which Donne uses persuasive speakers in one or two other poems.

2. The Good Morrow
a) What do you think is the significance of the poem’s title?
b) How do the references to exploration and discovery contribute to the poem’s effect?
c) Comment on the way in which Donne employs similar references in other poems.

3. Elegy XVI- On His Mistress
a) What attitudes to ‘the Mistress’ does the speaker reveal in the poem?
b) The poem features a number of ‘lists’. Discuss what these add to the poem’s effect.
c) Compare the attitude to ‘the Mistress’ in this and one or two other poems.

4. Song II
a) How does the speaker persuade the listener that, “Thou art the best of me.”?
b) What is the purpose and effect of the references to the sun?
c) Compare this poem with others where the mistress is directly addressed.

5. The Canonization
a) Comment on the use of sacred and secular imagery in this poem.
b) What attitude does the speaker of the poem have to those he addresses the poem to?
c) Discuss how Donne uses religious references in one or two other poems.

6. Love’s Growth
a) What do the references to alchemy and cosmology add to the poem’s effect?
b) How does the structure of the poem contribute to its argument?
c) Comment on the way in which Donne structures an argumentative line in one or two other poems.

7. The Ecstasy
a) What is the speaker’s attitude towards the idea of love as a spiritual union?
b) Comment on Donne’s use of metaphor and simile in the poem.
c) Comment on the ways in which Donne use metaphor and simile in other poems.
Y12: Some biographical information on John Donne

John Donne was born in Bread Street, London in 1572 to a prosperous Roman Catholic family, a precarious thing at a time when anti-Catholic sentiment was rife in England. His father, John Donne, was a well-to-do ironmonger and citizen of London. Donne's father died suddenly in 1576, and left the three children to be raised by their mother, Elizabeth, the daughter of John Heywood, epigrammatist, and a relative of Sir Thomas More. Donne's first teachers were Jesuits. At the age of 11, Donne and his younger brother Henry were entered at Hart Hall, University of Oxford, where Donne studied for three years. He spent the next three years at the University of Cambridge, but took no degree at either university because he would not take the Oath of Supremacy required at graduation. He was admitted to study law as a member of Thavies Inn (1591) and Lincoln's Inn (1592), and it seemed natural that Donne should embark upon a legal or diplomatic career. In 1593, Donne's brother Henry died of a fever in prison after being arrested for giving sanctuary to a proscribed Catholic priest. This made Donne begin to question his faith. His first book of poems, Satires, written during this period of residence in London, is considered one of Donne's most important literary efforts. Although not immediately published, the volume had a fairly wide readership through private circulation of the manuscript. Same was the case with his love poems, Songs and Sonnets, assumed to be written at about the same time as the Satires. Having inherited a considerable fortune, young "Jack Donne" spent his money on womanizing, on books, at the theatre, and on travels. He had also befriended Christopher Brooke, a poet and his chamber-fellow at Lincoln's Inn, and Ben Jonson who was part of Brooke's circle of literary associates. In 1596, Donne joined the naval expedition that Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, led against Cádiz, Spain, and the following year joined an expedition to the Azores, where he wrote "The Calm". Upon his return to England in 1598, Donne was appointed private secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, afterward Lord Ellesmere. Donne was beginning a promising career. He sat in Queen Elizabeth's last Parliament, for Brackley. But in 1601, he secretly married Lady Egerton's niece, seventeen-year-old Anne More, daughter of Sir George More, Lieutenant of the Tower, and thereby ruined his own worldly hopes. Donne wrote to the livid father, saying: "Sir, I acknowledge my fault to be so great as I dare scarce offer any other prayer to you in mine own behalf than this, to believe that I neither had dishonest end nor means. But for her whom I tender much more than my fortunes or life (else I would, I might neither joy in this life nor enjoy the next) I humbly beg of you that she may not, to her danger, feel the terror of your sudden anger."1 Sir George had Donne thrown to Fleet Prison for some weeks, along with his friends Samuel and Christopher Brooke who had aided the couple's clandestine affair. Egerton dismissed Donne from his post, and for the next dozen years the poet had to struggle to support his growing family. Donne later summed up the experience: "John Donne, Anne Donne, Undone." Anne's cousin offered the couple refuge in Pyrford, Surrey, and the couple was helped by friends like Lady Magdalen Herbert, George Herbert's mother, and Lucy, Countess of Bedford, women who also played a prominent role in Donne's literary life. It was not until 1609 that a reconciliation was effected between Donne and his father-in-law, and Sir George More was finally induced to pay his daughter's dowry. During the next few years Donne made a meager living as a lawyer, serving chiefly as counsel for Thomas Morton, an anti-Roman Catholic pamphleteer, later Bishop of Durham. Donne may have collaborated with Morton in writing pamphlets that appeared under Morton's name from 1604 to 1607. Donne's principal literary accomplishments during this period were Divine Poems (1607) and the prose work Biathanatos (posthumously published 1644). In the latter he argued that suicide is not intrinsically sinful. As Donne approached forty, he published two anti-Catholic polemics Pseudo-Martyr (1610) and Ignatius his Conclave (1611). They were final public testimony of Donne's renunciation of the Catholic faith. Pseudo-Martyr, which held that English Catholics could pledge an oath of allegiance to James I, King of England, without compromising their religious loyalty to the Pope, won Donne the favor of the King. In return for patronage from Sir Robert Drury of Hawstead, he wrote A Funerall Elegie (1610), on the death of Sir Robert's 15-year-old daughter Elizabeth. The elegie won for Donne and his wife an apartment in Drury House. The two Anniversaries— An Anatomy of the World (1611) and Of the Progress of the Soul (1612) continued the patronage. Sir Robert encouraged the publication of the poems: The First Anniversary was published with the original elegy in 1611, and both were reissued with The Second Anniversary in 1612. Donne had refused to take Anglican orders in 1607, but King James persisted, finally announcing that Donne would receive no post or preferment from the King, unless in the church. In 1615, Donne reluctantly entered the ministry and was appointed Royal Chaplain later that year. In 1616, he was appointed Reader in Divinity at Lincoln's Inn (Cambridge had conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity on him two years earlier). Donne's style, full of elaborate metaphors and religious symbolism, his flair for drama, his wide learning and his quick wit soon established him as one of the greatest preachers of the era. Fully 160 of his sermons survive. Just as Donne's fortunes seemed to be improving, Anne Donne died, on 15 August, 1617, aged thirty-three, after giving birth to their twelfth child, a stillborn. Seven of their children survived their mother's death. Struck by grief, Donne wrote the seventeenth Holy Sonnet, "Since she whom I lov'd hath paid her last debt." According to Donne's friend and biographer, Izaak Walton, Donne was thereafter 'crucified to the world'. Donne continued to write poetry, notably his Holy Sonnets (1618), but the time for love songs was over. In 1618, Donne went as chaplain with Viscount Doncaster in his embassy to the German princes. His Hymn to Christ at the Author's Last Going into Germany, written before the journey, is laden with apprehension of death. Donne returned to London in 1620, and was appointed Dean of Saint Paul's in 1621, a post he held until his death. Donne excelled at his post, and was at last financially secure. In 1623, Donne's eldest daughter, Constance, married the actor Edward Alleyn, then 58. Donne's private meditations, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, written while he was convalescing from a serious illness, were published in 1624. In 1624, Donne was made vicar of St Dunstan's-in-the-West. On March 27, 1625, James I died, and Donne preached a sermon before Charles I. But for his ailing health, (he was emaciated and suffering from infections of the mouth) Donne almost certainly would have become a bishop in 1630. Obsessed with the idea of death, Donne preached what was called his own funeral sermon, Death's Duel, just a few weeks before he died in London on March 31, 1631. The last thing Donne wrote just before his death was Hymne to God, my God, In my Sicknesse,

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Year 13: Please find below two essays from previous students, one comparing Regeneration to the poetry of Wilfred Owen and the other to the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon. These essays are not quite 3,000 words and were written in 2002, when the requirements for this part of the course were slightly different, but they do give you a good idea of the kind of thing you're aiming for.
Discuss the presentation of images, dreams and nightmares in Pat Barker’s “Regeneration” and the war poems of Wilfred Owen .

Throughout the novel Regeneration by Pat Barker the psychological traumas of war are vividly shown through nightmares and dreams. The detailed imagery that Pat Barker presents in the novel can be seen at the beginning of Chapter Four where Anderson and Rivers are discussing a nightmare of Anderson’s. It seems that the way in which Pat Barker presents the dream is in a Freudian manner, therefore Barker gives the reader permission to interpret the symbolism present in the dreams in a Freudian way, and for example “Then I looked down and saw that I was naked.” Apparently Anderson feels vulnerable and frightened about the judgement from other people present in his life for example from his wife, therefore Anderson’s dream appears to provide a perfect metaphor of this vulnerability. Many of the poems present in the book “The complete works of Wilfred Owen” similarly reflect the traumas of war. This book contains the first hand experience of war by Wilfred Owen, who is also present in Pat Barkers Regeneration.
Pat Barker presents the different types of war neurosis and their devastating effects thoroughly throughout the novel, for example Sassoon has hallucinations, Anderson has a fear of blood and Prior has mutism. The way in which Barker presents these effects is through graphic imagery similar to the type of imagery seen in war poetry, however Barker uses an almost Freudian slant in the way she reflects this. It can be seen that perhaps she is relying on the fact that her readers have some form of psychological knowledge. This can be seen in Chapter Four when Burns is in the forest he witnesses some dead animals hanging in a tree. At first he runs away in fright however he returns and takes them down out of the trees, in an almost ritualistic fashion as he places them in a circle and sits in the middle. His reasoning for doing this is that “Now they could dissolve into the earth as they were meant to do.” It seems that Burns would have liked to have had a similar ritual or burial for his fellow soldiers when he was at war but because of the large scale of death he was unable to. Also when he takes the animals down from the trees it seems that he is almost relieving the animals from “Purgatory”, and when they are on the ground they are with nature. Burns may long to do for this fellow soldiers, almost as though he needs closure. After Burns takes them down from the tree he takes his clothes off and sits in the middle of the circle. He feels that “This is the right place to be” This could suggest that Burns wants to be like the animals and his fellow soldiers and decompose into the ground. From the modern psychologists point of view it would appear that Burns may have a “death-wish,” possibly because he is suffering from what is known as “Survivors guilt.” This is also suggested in the poem ‘Apologia Pro Poemate Meo,’ in the second stanza Owen reveals the idea that the soldiers feel no “sickness or remorse of murder.” This highlights the fact that the soldiers have become completely desensitised to what would normally be seen as something completely disturbing. One of the striking factors about this poem is that Owen is making light of something that is so horrific. With this in mind Burns’ ritual could be perceived in the similar way as Owen’s poem, a mirror that makes beautiful that which is distorted. When Burns looks in the mirror he sees beauty in what he is doing, however the reflection to the contemporary eye is deformed.
Another interpretation of this extract is that Barker could be using religious imagery. In chapter 14 when Rivers visits Burns at his home he discovers that in Burn’s bedroom he has many books on Theology, “He wondered whether this was an expression of faith, a quest for faith, or an obsession with the absence of God.” Although Rivers is unsure why Burns has the books on Theology, Burns must have a broad knowledge on religion which therefore leads the reader to believe that the ritual that he does with the animals could be almost religious. On page 184 Barker uses a religious metaphor for the regeneration of the patients like Burns, she reveals Rivers’ theory that in order for his patients to recover they have to go through a similar process as a caterpillar that metamorphoses into a butterfly. Before the men go to war they are completely different when they return from war, for example Burns was seen as a “Jack the lad” before he went to war and when he returned he became thoughtful and obsessed with God. This imagery of the Caterpillar could be interpreted as the image of the resurrection of Christ, because when Christ was resurrected he was changed man like Burns. This metaphor emphasises the effect of war because for a man to have to completely decompose or die in order to recover, is an image likely to be seen in a nightmare.
Owen’s poetry reflects the idea of the chrysalis as he allows the reader to see inside the mind of a man who has completely broken down: the reader witnesses the “rotting caterpillar.” Owen extends this idea of a broken man, to a broken society in the poem, ‘At a Calvary Near The Ancre.’ Before the war Religion was a huge factor in many people’s lives, in this poem Owen highlights that Christianity is failing; Christ has “lost a limb,” and “his disciples hide apart.” The disciples that hide apart are the French, German and English soldiers, therefore this goes against everything that Christianity signifies. At the time this was a completely unorthodox image as everything that society had believed in is being questioned.
One of the most common fears during the war was a fear of emasculation. Not only is this reflected through most of the patients’ dreams, nightmares and relationships at Craiglockhart but it can also be seen in many war poems too. In Regeneration in chapter four when Graves and Sassoon go swimming, Sassoon comments on a scar that Graves has at the top of his thigh. Graves appears to be very sensitive towards the comment made by Sassoon that if “It was an inch further up” he should join a ladies choir. Overall emasculation appeared to effect the soldiers in many ways, because the relationship between Prior and Sarah is hindered by Priors fear of emasculation. Prior clearly would like to express his true emotions about the war, but due to society during this period it was looked down upon for a man to appear feminine by admitting the fact that war was terrible. This can be seen in Regeneration where Barker presents the Paradoxes of war (Pg.107) in the poem “Disabled” by Wilfred Owen. The tone of this poem is clearly very bitter about the propagandists who sent innocent men, like the man described in this poem to war. It also has the theme of emasculation too. This is seen in the Sixth Stanza “He noticed how the women’s eyes passed from him on to the strong men who were whole.” This metaphor to present the idea that the soldier feels that he is no longer “man enough” spiritually as well as the obvious; the fact that he is physically not whole. In Regeneration Barker reflects this idea of women looking differently upon disabled men. This can be seen when Sarah goes to visit Prior at the hospital and she accidentally walks into the conservatory where all the disabled men are. The imagery that Barker uses in this chapter appears to be nightmarish, “One of the men had lost all of his limbs, and his face was so drained, so pale, he seemed to have left his blood in France as well.” Owen uses very similar imagery in the poem “Disabled.” The soldiers that are sitting in the conservatory also seem to have this fear of emasculation. When Sarah walked in they were not trying to catch her eye like all of the other men would have been trying to do, they were just fearful of the fact that they were not “man enough”, “It was fear, fear of her looking at the empty trouser legs. Fear of her not looking at them at all.” The repetition of the word “fear” highlights the trauma these disabled soldiers had.
It also heightens the sympathy felt by the contemporary reader because not only are these soldiers never going to walk again but also during the time, society would not have given them sympathy. This can be seen in “Disabled” “some cheered him home…only a solemn man thanked him and enquired about his soul” Only one man thanked him for his efforts, and only “some” cheered him home. It seems that Owen is reflecting the idea of a nightmare becoming reality. The idea of a nightmare becoming reality can also been seen in Regeneration when Burns continually wakes in the night vomiting from his traumatic experience of war, he was flung into a rotting corpse therefore eating and sleeping has become a living nightmare. This imagery that Barker has used appears to be shocking for the contemporary reader as generally the contemporary reader has not had traumas similar to Burns; therefore it is difficult to connect personally with him. This could be the reason Barker has presented this imagery in a nightmarish manner, as the reader is able to connect with nightmares.
Owen has also used this method of shocking the reader with nightmarish imagery in the poem “Dulce et decorum est” this can be seen in the fourth stanza, “If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace behind the wagon that we flung him in.” It seems that Owen is conveying the idea that the reader is only going to see this image in a “smothering” dream or nightmare, however what makes it more shocking is in reality the soldiers like Owen have seen these horrible images in reality. To make the statement even more directed at the reader Owen uses the personal pronoun “you” in-order to draw the reader into the poem and to relate to his statement. Originally this poem was directed at propagandists such as Jessie Pope, and this is clearly evident when he addresses her as “My friend” in an ironic tone. At the end of the third stanza, Owen presents his own personal nightmares, “In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.” Owen conveys the idea of his own innocence and weakness through the words “helpless sight” From the readers perspective sympathy is heightened as Owen feels that no-one can help his trauma, and the Onomatopoetic words “Guttering, choking, drowning” reflect the nightmarish and horrific imagery of war. In the poem “Dulce et decorum est” Owen has a vivid imagination, it seems that the idea of imagination becomes thought provoking for the reader as someone had to imagine how to crucify Jesus for example or how to create mustard gas. However imagination for the poets is therapeutic: as writing poetry is one of the reasons why they are cured from war neurosis so quickly, and the lack of imagination by civilians lets the war continue. This is one of the reasons why the war poets used such graphic and horrific imagery like in “Dulce et decorum est,” as they wanted civilians to imagine the image of what ten thousands deaths would look like in-order to stop the war from continuing.
In Regeneration Barker has written the novel in a third person narrative, however Barker often conveys several characters thoughts, emotions, nightmares etc. As she has multiple foci in the novel it is difficult to convey the individual characters thoughts and feelings and this is an important factor in a psychological novel. To solve this problem she uses free in-direct style. It seems that this is therefore an effective way to convey different characters nightmares in a more detailed and personal manner. Throughout the novel the conversation and dialogue is central, partly because one of the central characters Rivers; is a psychologist and therefore communicating with his patients is his job. In war poetry the poets often write in third person narrative, or in free-indirect style like Barker or in first person. Owen wrote his poetry in first person narrative, giving his nightmare images a feeling of lyrical authenticity. Owens style could almost be seen a modernist perspective. War poets often commented on personal first hand experiences and poets such as Seigfried Sassoon had political statements to make. It seems that the war poets want society to realise the true horrors and pointlessness of war and one of the most effective and hard-hitting ways in which they did this was through the graphic imagery that they used.
Traditionally Barkers subject matter in her previous novels was mainly about the struggle of northern women; therefore the subject matter of regeneration is in juxtaposition. However the character Sarah is northern and Barker presents a glimpse of her hard life, however from the perspective of the reader Sarah’s struggle in life is no comparison to the patients at Craiglockhart due to the mental and physical trauma they have exceeded. Although Barker does not have the first hand experience of war like the war poets she seems to convey the traumas of war effectively through her characters and the imagery that she uses. Due to her free in-direct style the reader is able to witness many different effects of war neurosis and its effects in the form of nightmares and images from many different perspectives.
The main difference between the novel Regeneration and the war poetry of Wilfred Owen is that, Regeneration not only allows the contemporary reader to identify and sympathise with the characters but also reveals the effects of war from many angles. In contrast war poetry is often restricted to a singular theme and is shorter in length. However the war poetry is hard-hitting due to its graphic imagery and moral message. It seems that both Regeneration and the works of Owen vividly reflect the horrific images of war but in completely contrasting ways.

An exploration of the ways in which Siegfried Sassoon in his poetry and Pat Barker in her novel Regeneration present the psychological trauma of the Great War.

Trench poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon produced their work perhaps as a kind of therapeutic self-expression; the poems have a sense of confession and authenticity though their striving for a poetic language that can articulate the trauma of the trenches. Conversely, Pat Barker seeks to revivify the shock value these poems had on their first audience by setting them against the context, not so much of the battlefield, but of the psychological landscape those battlefields produced. Sassoon and Barker come from different perspectives and understanding of the world and of the psychological impact of war.

The novel Regeneration centres on the relationship between Siegfried Sassoon and Captain W.H.R Rivers, an army psychologist (based on the real psychiatrist and anthropologist who worked at Craiglockhart Hospital). The novel explores the psychological impact of war, as Sassoon (interned for going public with his anti-war views) and his fellow patients struggle to make sense of their experience on the front line. The novel also explores Sassoon’s first attempts, with Wilfred Owen, to develop a new poetic language to communicate the horror of trench warfare. As a major voice of dissent against the war, Sassoon used his poetry and literary skills to make political statements about the futility of war.

Barker explores the psychological impact of war on individual characters rather than setting her narrative in the trenches themselves and perhaps this tends to de-emphasise the traumatic reality and violence of trench war that is so well expressed in Sassoon’s work. The counter argument to this is that Sassoon strives to give an account of the violence and promote anti-war opinions without exploring the psychological impact, often favouring a emotionally distant, ironic tone, for example in passages like this one:

I wondered where he’d been then heard him shout
‘They snipe like hell! O Dickie, don’t go out’
I fell asleep……Next morning he was dead,
And some slight wound lay smiling on the bed.[1]
The last line portrays a shocking juxtaposition between the words ‘wound’ and ‘smiling’ which contradicts the image of pain and death. The reason for Sassoon’s unusual wording may be to describe the curved shape of the wound which looked as though it was smiling, almost smugly at how it has killed while being so apparently minor. The poem presents the immediacy and shock of trench violence but lacks the more subtle, tentative exploration of the long-term consequences that typifies Regeneration.

In this quotation there is a very casual and unemotional comment when the poem’s voice saw his friend’s dead body. This may be because at the time the voice was suffering from shock. The war not only hardened the soldiers’ emotions but numbed them completely, an idea which is also portrayed in Regeneration, where for instance Prior can make a joke about a dismembered eyeball: “What am I supposed to do with this gob-stopper?”[2] His grief and compassion is numbed by prolonged exposure to the horrors of the trenches and it is his own disgust with this callousness, rather than the shock of seeing the eyeball itself, which causes his neurasthenia. This detailed exploration of the psychological trauma of the trenches is missing from the bitter, brief, and in some ways simplistic protest poems that made up much of Sassoon’s work.

“Stammering, disconnected talk” [3] a failure to string sentences together coherently and being mute are symptoms that are explored in Regeneration. They are attributes to shell shock or ‘neurasthenia’ which manifests differently depending on the social background and education of the individual. When Rivers says to Prior “We-ell it’s interesting that you were mute and that you were one of the very few people in the hospital who doesn’t stammer.” [4] Rivers saw that a majority of the working class soldiers made themselves subconsciously mute in contrast to ‘public school’ officers who seemed to stammer. Rivers explained to Prior that “for a private soldier the consequences of speaking his mind are always going to be far worse than they would be for an officer.”[5] Private soldiers also had a prevalence of physical symptoms such as paralysis, blindness and deafness, Rivers believes that the working classes would never accept a soldier suffering from a mental illness because of their lack of education.
Prior especially brings to the novel an examination of social class from the time. His relationship with Rivers is confrontational. When Prior met Rivers he communicated by writing in capitals which implies that, had he not been muted by his psychological trauma, he would be shouting. This demonstrates that at first Prior’s character was rude and extremely defensive. Barker’s programme is to portray social comments mainly, in comparison to Sassoon who tended to concentrate more on the political side of the war in his poems. Rivers also suffers from the symptom of stammering and Price responds to his observations regarding his having been mute and officers stammering by saying “It’s even more interesting that you do’……..Rivers was taken aback, ‘that’s d – different” [6] Rivers listens to secondary information about various experiences that happened during the war from traumatised soldiers. Listening to each story made Rivers suffer through similar symptoms to the soldiers, such as stammering and having nightmares.

Civilians at home would never understand the mental trauma the soldiers went through and because of the lack of knowledge, this created a growing division between the soldiers and civilians. Sassoon in his ‘Declaration’ uses dramatic techniques and emotive, destructive language to emphasise his bitterness and portrays sarcastic remarks to highlight the lack of imagination “those at home”[7] had.
“I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realise”[8]

In the poem ‘Does it matter?’ Sassoon, writes about society’s patronising sympathy towards those who have become disabled as a result of the war:

“Does it matter?- losing your leg?….
For people will always be kind”. [9]

The opening line is ironic as it in sharp contrast to the psychological and physical debilitation of losing a leg implied by the following lines:

“when the others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.”[10]

Sassoon seems ignorant of class and only applies his ideas to his own experiences and way of life: the working class veterans, disabled or otherwise, who would never go ‘hunting’ or eat ‘muffins and eggs’. In Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man Sassoon talks of the merits of an upper middle class life and ease as a fox hunter and loafer, but in a way Sassoon can be seen as being arrogant throughout his poems as he assumes he speaks for all men.

The opening line of Sassoon’s poem ‘Survivor’ gives the reader a sense of misleading hope:

“No doubt they’ll soon get better”, [11]

The throw-away feeling emphasised by the assured “No doubt’ calls to mind the sinister complacency of ‘Does it matter?”, and the general tone of ironic distance in Sassoon’s poetry is perhaps a way of distancing himself from the horror of his trench experience which, while it fuelled his poetry, had to be handled carefully because it also fuelled his nightmares. These nightmares continued during his convalescence at the hospital, and if it were not for the pioneering work of Rivers it is probable that his decline would have led to a total break-down.

Sassoon expresses guilt in the poem ‘Sick Leave’. Here Sassoon falls asleep, pictures ‘the noiseless dead’ (L.2) who seek him out, reproaching him for not being back at the front with his Battalion. “- and they’ll be proud/of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride”[12] Again the poet presents us with a sense of hope, immediately reversed by a harsh reminder of brutal reality. The survivors, once they have managed to reflect on the ‘glorious war’ with pride; but this, in turn, will remind them of their time spent overcoming the horror, when they had no self-esteem having been reduced to helpless children.

“with eyes that hate you”[13]
Sassoon ends the poem in an accusatory manner, no doubt directed at the supporters of the war, the people who can easily push soldiers back to the front without ever knowing the horrors of trench warfare.

A typically disassociated, unfeeling voice makes its presence felt in this line from the poem ‘Survivor’, “of course they’re longing to go out again”[14]. The flippant remark, implying that all soldiers were willing to return to the front, is typical of the attitude Sassoon perceived in the non– combatants at home. The phrase, “These boys with old, scared faces”, [15]emphasises the youth and innocence of the soldiers with the ageing process of the war. Yet, although these men are made old before their time, they are also reduced to infants; they are decribed as ‘Children’ (L.10) having to re-learn such basic processes as how to walk, showing again the debilitating psychological consequences of the trenches.

In Regeneration Pat Barker describes the social rather then psychological repression of the truth of the battlefield, by using the character Sarah Lumb, who stumbles upon a group of disabled veterans. “Simply by being there, by being that inconsequential, infinitely powerful creature: a pretty girl, she had made it worse.”[16]Her presence made their lives seem worse, because of their freakish appearance created from the war. Sarah concludes: “If the country demanded that price, then it should bloody well be prepared to look at the result,” [17]Not only does this show the psychic damage to the veterans but allows Pat Barker to indirectly comment on how society at the time refused to look at the result of the war, especially the men who were missing limbs and were isolated from the rest of the world, “They’d been pushed out here to get the sun, but not right outside, and not at the front of the hospital where their mutilation might have been seen by passers-by.”[18]

Sassoon and Barker both explore the male ego and the damage done to it by the war in very different ways. Barker’s most interesting and complex characters are men: Prior, Rivers and Sassoon. In her writing Barker often explores male characters and the way the war endangers the soldiers’ sense of masculinity in roles and situations where they play the traditional female role: passive, immobile, sitting trapped in one place, mending their own clothes, sharing talk, until the orders come from a superior man to do different. “The war that had promised so much in the way of ‘manly’ activities had actually delivered ‘feminine’ passivity, and on a scale that their mothers and sisters had scarcely known. Know wonder they broke down.” [19]

Sassoon ignored any sense of sexual confusion within his poems (possibly as a form of self protection) whilst in contrast, in Regeneration there are many references about sexuality between the officers. “There was an enormous emphasis on love between men-comradeship-and everybody approves. But at the same time there’s always this little niggle of anxiety. Is it the right kind of love?” [20] Society didn’t except homosexuals at that time and a man who was ‘found out’ would have to face many penalties, including a possible prison sentence. During the war ‘comradeship’ also made emotions blurred, “one of the paradoxes of the war-one of the many-was that this most brutal of conflicts should set up a relationship between officers and men that was………domestic and caring.”[21] In parallel to this, in Sassoon’s poem, The Death - Bed, the poem’s persona shows compassion for his men this reveals femininity, which can be interpreted as being a male - mother figure, “Someone was holding water to his mouth.”[22]

War writers such as Sassoon had an important case to make against the war and were aware that they needed to use dissembling techniques in order to do so. For example phrases like, “The counter attack had failed”. [23] Impact and technique was important, so poets like Sassoon could tell the nation how they had deliberately had the wool pulled over their eyes about the realities of war and the psychological traumas it caused. It is particularly important to note that in order to do this they actually edited the truth and used falsehood. In this sense Sassoon’s work is no more a reality than the novel of Barker: both are motivated to communicate messages about the psychological trauma of the war from their own social and historical perspectives.

In this respect Barker re-imagines real people and her setting is during the war, not its aftermath. She does not distinguish between reality and fiction and there is a danger that this undermines the reader’s understanding of the issues she is trying to examine. It is as if Barker wants to make important points about the psychological fallout of the war that she feels have not been covered before, perhaps because she understood that the war writers exaggerated and lied to make their points. However, Barker seems to want her readers to assume that the war writers speak the truth in order that she can enlarge on her arguments in a modern context, taking the names of Sassoon and Owen in her texts as some sort of guarantee of historical accuracy.

Another aspect of Regeneration is that Pat Barker expects us to believe that in 1918 doctors and officer-patients in shell-shock hospitals were discussing the finer points of Freudian psychology with each other. Many, including the neurologists advising The War Office, had poor medical education. It is therefore a highly unlikely that every one shared this view or that psychotherapy became generally available in the way it is in Barker’s novel. However, Barker artfully ignores this so that the modern reader, who probably is equipped with some awareness of Freudian theory, can be easily and fluently involved in the examination of the psychological consequences of the war that are the novel’s main theme. This is in sharp contrast with Sassoon’s poetry, which, in its ironic tone, can be seen more as a product of psychological trauma than an exploration of it.


Regeneration Pat Barker Penguin Books London 1992
Siegfried Sassoon-The War Poems Siegfried Sassoon Faber London 2002

Word count: 2,360

[1] L9 -12 Died of Wounds - Sigfried Sassoon
[2] Page 103 Paragraph 2 - Regeneration - Pat Barker
[3] L 2 Survivor - Siegfried Sassoon
[4] Page 97 Paragraph 2 - Regeneration - Pat Barker
[5] Page 96 Paragraph 5 - Regeneration - Pat Barker
[6] Page 97 Paragraph 2 - Regeneration - Pat Barker
[7] Page 3 Paragraph 5 - Regeneration - Pat Barker
[8] Page 3 Paragraph 5 - Regeneration - Pat Barker
[9] L 1-2 Does it Matter - Siegfried Sassoon
[10] L 4-5 Does it Matter - Siegfried Sassoon
[11] L 1 Survivor - Siegfried Sassoon
[12] L 7-8 Sick Leave - Siegfried Sassoon
[13] L 10 Sick Leave - Siegfried Sassoon
[14] L 3 Survivor - Siegfried Sassoon
[15] L 4 Survivor - Siegfried Sassoon
[16] Page 160 - Paragraph 3 - Regeneration - Pat Barker
[17] Page 160 - Paragragh 3 - Regeneration - Pat Barker
[18] Page 160 - Paragraph 2 - Regeneration - Pat Barker
[19] Page 107 Paragraph 4-3-2 - Regeneration - Pat Barker
[20] Page 204 Paragraph 5 - Regeneration - Pat Barker
[21] Page 107 - Paragraph 4- Regeneration - Pat Barker
[22] L7 The Death - Bed - Siegfried Sassoon
[23] L 39 The Counter Attack - Siegfried Sassoon