Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Y12: Easter Revision Programme- Donne

1. Choose a poem (like you’re not all going to do “Song II” because it’s short- go on, surprise me!). Translate it into modern prose. Don’t worry about the lines- just try to make it fluent. I’ve given an example below- I’ve tried to show how my lines correspond with Donne’s, but that’s just to make it easier to follow. You can jst write in paragraphs as normal. The purpose of doing this is: it demonstrates the density of Donne’s language; it means you really understand your chosen poem; it shows how much of the meaning of poetry is in the way it’s written, not in what it says. When you’re finished, post your result on ‘Lightingfools’ under the copy of this sheet I’ve put there so we can share each other’s research. I’d like a hard copy as well, though.
2. Choose one of the following essays and do it. I’d like you to do both- it’s all good practice- but one is acceptable.

‘Poetry is what can’t be rephrased’
An attempt to rephrase ‘Love’s Alchemy’

Some people reckon they have explored the Mine of Love more deeply than I have
and say that they know where the centre of happiness lies.
They say it lies in having loved, and got hold of the loved woman, and told her that she’s loved.
But even if I love women and get them and tell them I love them until I’m an old man,

I still don’t think I’ll find the answer to the mystery of happiness.
It’s all an act of deception (imposture).
No chemist has found the elixir of life,
they just makes their chemical apparatus seem important
by chancing on

smelly or medicinal things.
In the same way, lovers think that one day their love will be a perfect,
but all they get is cold nights in the middle of summer.
Should we really sacrifice our relaxation, our money and our reputation for the sake of some worthless fantasy?

Is this all love is; that a man
can only ever be as happy as me
even though he has to
put up with the aggravation of being in a relationship?
That pitiful lover who reckons
that minds can unite like bodies do,

who believes that his lover is an angel,
he would also be deluded enough to say that he can hear
the beautiful music of the universe in the ordinary, ugly noises of a day.
Don’t hope for much thought or consciousness in women.
Even the sweetest and cleverest women are no better
than a dead body that happens to be animated.

Love’s Alchemy
a) What does the poem reveal of the speaker’s attitude to love and women?
b) Explore the ways in which Donne uses imagery related to alchemy in the poem.
c) Comment on how Donne presents different attitudes to love and women in one or two other poems.

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.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Y13: Satire, Irony and the Literature of War
-with special reference to the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon-

It’s probably fair to say that the dominant tone of First World War literature is irony.
Irony can be defined as: a mode of discourse for conveying meaning different from- and usually opposite to- the obvious, ostensible semantic meaning.
Irony depends on the exploitation of the distance between words and their contexts.
Irony can be comic or tragic, and often it’s both. For example, there is tragic irony in the meaningless deaths of many of the soldiers written about in war literature (the contrast between the accepted glory of dying for one’s country is in ironic contrast to the pointless slaughter of many Great War actions- something Wilfred Owen explores pointedly in ‘Dulce et Decorum est’, for example). There is comic irony, of a morbid sort, in these kinds of events too (Burns’ traumatic mouthful of German corpse is described in Regeneration as ‘a joke’- both Rivers and Burns recognize that if Burns had landed in, say, a cow-pat, the event would be a good, funny anecdote. The fact that he landed in a rotting corpse does not drain the event of humour, it just makes it black humour- there is an ironic contrast in the relief of surviving the shell and the horror of what surviving the shell did to Burns’ psyche).
Sassoon’s irony is heavy and pointed. There is a good reason for this:
-Irony depends, as we have said, on the difference between words and their context.
-The context for the trench poets is that the war is pointless, badly run and horrific. However, the public still largely chose to ignore these truths or were so misinformed by government propaganda that they believed the war was efficient, necessary and glorious.
-Sassoon, and writers like him, therefore needed to point out the horror of the war (the context) before words like, ‘You Marshals, gilt and red, / You Ministers and Princes, and Great men,’ (‘Great Men’) can be seen for what they are- an ironic attack on those running the war, not a more traditional praise or glorification of them.
· Irony relies on techniques like understatement, paradox, puns and so on to point out the difference between the semantic meaning of the words and their meaning in context. There are examples of both puns and paradox in the lines from ‘Great Men’ quoted above. What are they?
· The irony in Great War literature is often satirical. Satire- pointing out human stupidity and folly- like irony itself, is usually both tragic and comic: it’s funny that our leaders are idiots, it’s also tragic that that our leaders are idiots!
· Irony also allows writers to hold events at ‘arm’s length’. This is often called ironic distance. It is an English trait to be suspicious of overt expressions of emotion, which is one of the reasons many Americans don’t ‘get’ English humour. Sassoon, brought up in a typically ‘English’ aristocratic environment, is conditioned into this sort of distrust of emotional expression. Add this to the psychological ‘danger’ of reliving traumatic war experience and it is not surprising that he often chooses to commentate on the conduct of the ‘top brass’, rather than ‘writing himself into’ the poems in a more emotionally direct fashion in the way that, for example, Wilfred Owen often does (on a simplistic level, Owen’s poetry is more often in the first person than Sassoon’s).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Look again at Act IV scene 3 of Romeo & Juliet.
What does the scene tell us about Juliet’s predicament and personality?

-This is a version of the ‘skeleton’ I talked through in class on 22/3/06. Remember, the social and cultural context, the literary tradition, the overall structure of the play and analysis of language should come naturally into this as you write, rather than being ‘bolted on’ as separate paragraphs-

· The status quo in Verona: patriarchy, male bravado, the objectification of women, the feud intensifying this. Romeo’s participation in this culture. This establishes the predicament of women generally.

· Juliet’s love for Romeo- this contradicts the ‘rules’ of the feud and makes her predicament more vulnerable. The purity and intensity of their love, the sonnet, her strength of character and rational, reasoned personality allows her to manage this predicament better than Romeo.

· Romeo and Juliet’s only night together- the secret marriage reverses the value of light and dark imagery in the play. The death of Mercutio and Tybalt and its political consequences: Lord Capulet puts Juliet in the impossible predicament of having to marry Paris so he can elevate the position of his family after the death of Mercutio at the hands of a Capulet (Tybalt). Lord Capulet’s patriarchal domination of Juliet, her abandonment by Lady Capulet, the Nurse, Romeo- her predicament of complete isolation. Juliet’s personality becomes rebellious and almost irrational under these pressures- argument with her father. Goes to her last friend- the friar. His rather precarious to allow Juliet to escape her predicament plan.

· Juliet’s predicament in IV.3 and how it is affects her personality- begins to break down, lose her strength of character and rationality under the enormous political and psychological pressures. How this breakdown is enacted in the soliloquy- discuss the way Shakespeare uses the soliloquy to reveal personality and predicament, rather than simply move the plot forward- literary tradition.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sarah M, Kyle, Aimie, Edward (and, for that matter, the others in 13A/El): Your essays so far. Please remember there's nothing wrong with using this site as a forum to share ideas, but your essay shouldreflect your own personal response and judgements- there's a difference between getting ideas and copying each other. You'll also find these essays as comments on the posted model essay.

Aimie B

Pat Barker’s novel Regeneration is set in the war hospital for psychiatric trauma, Craiglockhart, just outside of Edinburgh. Barker uses fictional and fictionalized characters throughout Regeneration with one of the main characters being W.H.R Rivers, historically one of the hospital’s doctors. Barker uses her characters, be they fictional or fictionalized, to illustrate the psychological consequences of The Great War on a range of soldiers and civilians from different social classes and varieties of background. Barker took a fresh new approach to writing a war novel in this sense as she doesn’t focus on the battlefield itself, as many war novel authors choose to do. Expand this: why does Barker chose to base her work on the consequences of the battlefield rather than the battlefield itself? Relate it to her purposes as an author- her interest in writing believable male characters, her focus on social history and the larger consequences of war on society.

As Barker has so many vivid characters her choice to narrate in the third person is a wise one. She makes Regeneration a polyphonic novel through the use of free indirect style, which allows her to have more then one voice and to drop into all the consciousness of many of her characters, making them psychologically transparent. This gives the novel more depth and movement, as Barker is not restricting her novel to one perspective. Regeneration was written as proof to Barker’s critics that she could write about men in a male environment as she it was something she had never done before, and the other reason was purely for entertainment. More than that- see my comment above. Also, you need to get the idea of the balance between the novel as a a reflection on the social consequences of war- which tends to favour multiple characters and therefore a third person narrator- and its psychological consequences, which tends to favour a first person voice, and how she manages to compromise between these two.
In contrast with Barker’s historical perspective, writing as she did with a modern sensibility about the war and almost 80 years after the events took place, Siegfried Sassoon was writing contemporaneously with The Great War. You need to mention here that Sassoon, and his poetry and Declaration, are actually features in the narrative of Regeneration. There are many contrasts between Barker and Sassoon with the main one being that Barker wrote a novel and Sassoon wrote a collection of poetry Give an idea of how this difference in literary type is important: Sassoon’s poetry is often brief, punchy, powerful- he exploits the ability of poetry to present a single voice with emotive power through the careful manipulation of language. Compare this with the exploratory, polyphonic, more discursive tendencies of a long prose narrative. The purpose of Sassoon’s poetry was partly to make a political point as he became strongly opposed to the war. He also wanted to show civilians back at home what the war was really like for the soldiers involved. Quote the Declaration here and illustrate how, in some ways, it is a starting point for both Sassoon’s voice and Barker’s collection of many voices. At the home front, there would have been almost a picture perfect image of the British troops fighting hard and defeating the Germans. Sassoon wanted to show that it was bloody and ruthless and that manly young men died needlessly. His poetry is emotive as he was writing from first hand experience more or less at the time it was happening, unlike Barker whose text is the product of research and literary imagination, rather than of recollection and literary imagination.

Good start, Aimie: you’re working at around a B here. You now need to get into quotation and analysis- start with an exploration of how and why Barker uses free indirect style- look at a variety of episodes and how the character’s voices are heard in the narrative space itself, not just in dialogue, and what effect this has.

Sarah May

Pat Barker’s Regeneration is a war novel set in 1917 at Craiglockhart hospital, where those who were directly involved in the war and suffered from neurasthenia were sent for pioneering psychological therapy and treatment. W.H.R Rivers, an army psychologist, and Seigfried Sassoon, a soldier who has been sent to Craiglockhart, are the main characters. You need to discuss the reasons for Sassoon being at Craiglockhart- remember he is as much there for political reasons as medical ones. Not only are fact and fiction entwined in the characters, but their experiences are too. Not sure what you mean by this- do you mean Rivers and Sassoon have an entwined, complex relationship, or that the story is largely told through a combination of their two perspectives?

Regeneration was written in the 1990’s so Barker has a historical perspective and this allows her to reflect on the events and attitudes of her characters with some detachment, allowing her to present the reader with a variety of different viewpoints on the war and its consequences from a variety of different characters. Barker’s main purpose for writing her novel was to give a fresh approach to writing about the war as she takes her readers through the psychological and social consequences of the trenches, rather than describing the action of the battles themselves. The novel presents us with three dimensional, developed characters, fictional and fictionalized, and shows the effects of the war on a variety of people with a variety of civilian and military experiences.
Seigfried Sassoon was an educated, aristocratic trench officer in the war, Compare this with Pat Barker- working class, female, no war experience- how does this influence their writing? Much of his poetry was actually written whilst in trenches or in hospitals: in fact, some of his poems were written during his stay at Craiglockhart in 1917, the setting for Barker’s novel. Sassoon had a number of purposes for his work; he used it as a symbol of protest, to create sympathy for the soldiers and because it was therapeutic: as Rivers notes in Regeneration of the fictionalized Sassoon and his relatively speedy recovery: ‘writing the poems had obviously been therapeutic’ (page 26) His poetry is short, dense, direct, powerful and makes his point very clearly.
In Regeneration, the governing narrative voice is varieties of free indirect style. Free indirect style is a technique of third person narration, which allows the narrator to drop into the characters’ ‘heads’ unannounced. Give an example here just to illustrate how it is done. Barker uses this throughout the novel because if she used purely third person narration the reader would not get the full effect that they do from free indirect style What full effect? Explain what Barker achieves by using FIS. This is because there is a separate narrator and the reader isn’t presented with the character’s thoughts and opinions. You mean without FIS the nly voice we hear is the narrator’s, perhaps even the author’s- remember , Barker’s own voice isn’t entirely ‘silent’- she favours some character over others, which gives us an idea of her prejudices and opinions. If she had used first person narration the character’s viewpoint would always be mediated through the omniscience third person narrator, so the reader is more distant from the character. NO- you’re just confused here- if she had written in the first person there would be no omniscient third person narrator, would there? You mean ‘If she had used third person narration the character’s viewpoint would always be…’
As Regeneration is a psychological and sociological novel, it looks at the consequences of the war on society and on the people in it. Barker examines and analyses the psychological effects of the war by using free indirect style and constantly dropping into a character’s consciousness. By this we can see how the war has affected them. ‘He woke to a dugout smell of wet sandbags and stale farts’ (page 101). This is when Prior has been hypnotised to help him recall what incident struck him dumb, Barker drops into his head so the reader can see what he is recalling too.

Good- couple of mistakes here but you’re definitely on the right lines and at about C/B. Continue with your discussion of how Prior’s voice can be heard in the hypnosis passage- look at the vulgarity and harshness of the language, the black humour, the simultaneously tender and callous attitude to his fellow soldiers, reflect on how this is typical of Prior’s personality, how it enacts that personality rather than telling us about it.

Kyle N

Pat Barker’s Regeneration is a novel based around the patients and staff of Craiglockhart hospital for soldiers psychologically traumatized by their experiences of the Great War, a genuine historical setting that allows Barker to include a mixture of fictional characters and fictionalized historical figures, such as Siegfried Sassoon and Captain W.H.R. Rivers. Braker uses their voices in order to tell not only the story of the novel but their each individual stories from their own perspectives, and couple with the viewpoints of the characters she invents this gives a real richness and depth to the text’s reflections on the consequences of war. Barker maintains an informed historical perspective on both real and imagined events, along with a fresh approach to the well-trodden ground of novels about the Great War; Regeneration is concerned with the psychological and sociological consequences of war experience, rather than with the battlefield itself. The larger architecture of the novel helps present rounded characters and Barker’s third person narrator is able to dip in and out of their viewpoints using free indirect style, perhaps the dominant narrative technique of the novel. In contrast with Barker’s historical perspective, Siegfried Sassoon wrote most of his poetry contemporaneously with the war and his purpose was to present not only what he had personally experienced but also to make a political point: to help show his opposition to the war’s continuation and highlight “political errors”. Not only this, he wanted to show sympathy for the suffering soldiers and help raise the public’s attention about what they were going through. The often short, linguistically dense poems Sassoon wrote are much more emotionally direct than Barker’s more expansive, exploratory text. For example, in Enemies, he presents the reader with an in-depth venture into the voice of a soldier stood among “ Germans” he “shot”, showing the effects and repercussions on him. Good, but you need to support this kind of assertion that the text is ‘hard hitting’ with some close analysis of quotation- look at the language of the poem. Very hard hitting and to the point which is constant throughout Sassoons poetry. It is interesting, however, that Rivers muses that the fictionalized Sassoon of Regeneration may have recovered from war trauma so quickly because his poetry was a “therapeutic” way of him expressing his feelings, helping him to deal with his repressed memories and horrifying nightmares.Within, Regeneration, Barker often uses many different voices in order to not only convey different sides of stories but also to help dip into their own lives and experiences. She does this so effectively by using free indirect style, giving her the ability to gain many perspectives. Also, and perhaps more importantly, the variation in narrative style gives the reader a way to distinguish the characters’ voices as she alters her style of writing to correspond with the individual characters. This helps gain an intimacy with each character and develops a recognizable voice for the reader to be able to identify. For example from Sassoon’s perspective You need o put this quote in context- just say what’s happening in the scene- first interview between Sassoon and Rivers- we hear him describe the light in the room as a “glimmering arc” Mention the almost identical phrase in Sassoon’s poem ‘The Death Bed’ the poetic voice used helps the reader know who is talking. This is also easy to describe using the character of Captain Rivers “Pipes lined the walls……gurgling from time to time like lengths of human intestine” again through the medical references used we know it to be from Rivers’ viewpoint.

Rather good so far Kyle- certainly top end of a B. Continue with this for a while- take some examples of FIS and pick apart in as much detail as you can how Barker changes her style to reflect the character whose viewpoint the reader is sharing. You also need to show how FIS allows the novel to be both sociological (looking at the war and its consequences from lots of different angles) and psychological (giving insights into the minds of the traumatized characters like Prior and Burns etc.)

Edward Rance

The novel Regeneration by Pat Barker is set in a Craiglockhart war hospital, Scotland, in 1917. Some of the patients featured in the novel are fictional characters and some are fictionalised historical figures, such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Barker is a female novelist of the 20th century who usually writes about northern working class women, so it is a perhaps surprising choice for her to choose to explore the psychological consequences of war on a group of men, and largely upper class men at that. However, this gave Barker a fresh perspective on the Great War and makes her novel stand out from the tradition of texts about The Great War, especially as she uses sophisticated literary techniques to express the voices of a variety of characters, both soldiers and civilians, both male and female. Siegfried Sassoon, on the other hand, was an aristocrat who wrote war poetry. Edward, this introduction of Sassoon is almost comically brief after your investigation of Barker’s purposes and techniques. Expand it- what were Sassoon’s purposes? How were they different from Barker’s? How is he different from Barker- gender, historical period, personal experience etc? How did this influence his poetry?Regeneration is largely about the psychological and sociological aftermath of the Great War, with the only details of the bloody battles coming from the memories, dreams and flashbacks of the characters in the hospital. This allows the novel to be more about the consequences of war, rather than a detailed description of trench combat itself. Because of this overall theme and purpose in the novel, Barker uses free indirect style as her central narrative technique. This is to allow her to highlight not only the psychological aspects of the war but also the sociological aspects at the same time. To get the social issues across, Barker must feature a number of characters where we can experience the action through their point of view.

Free indirect style allows the narrative to enter the thoughts of a character unannounced and their personality will sometimes invade the narrative space. Free indirect style is affected by the style of the characters and we can experience the action in their own language, for example Rivers’ medical speak and stammer. Give a quotation here to support your discussion As well as wanting to express the views of a range of characters, Barker at the same time wants intimacy with her characters to show the physiological aspects of the war. Explain how F.I.S allows Barker to do both of these, perhaps with another example where the style of the narrative reveals the psychology of the character- Burns’ trip to the woods is a good example.
Regeneration has a historical perspective on the war, as it was written in 1992. This contrasts with the poetry of Sassoon, which was written contemporaneously with the war, and with many of the real events described in Regeneraton, as the novel is set during one of Sassoon’s most fertile periods: he wrote much of his best poetry in Craiglockhart in 1917. Sassoon’s poetry is not only written to show personal experiences through the war but also as a political protest. As well as this, unintentionally, writing poetry helped Sassoon. It was described by Captain WHR Rivers as being “therapeutic” for him as it helped him get through the trauma of the war. Expand this, using quotes from the Declaration to support your point about protest and from chapter 2 to support your points about the poetry as therapeutic, which also allows you to contrast the way the voices of the novel are an invention of Barker’s and the voice of Sassoon’s poetry is largely Sassoon’s own, informed by his own painful trawling of his memory.
The poems of Sassoon are obviously a great deal briefer than the novel and this allows for a more emotionally powerful text with more direct, less exploratory feelings and viewpoints. The novel, in contrast has more scope, and multiple characters have to be developed and this novel in particular is nuanced, as it expresses many viewpoints in many voices.

Good start, Ed. You now need to explore in detail Barker’s use of FIS and use detailed analysis to show the difference between, say, Sassoon’s, Rivers’ and Lumb’s voices and viewpoints- how does the vocabulary, sentence style, imagery, even punctuation of the narrative space change according to who the narrative focus is?