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Crazy Like the Fox
  1. IB Coursework – HL Essay

    25/03/2020 by axonite


    As you draft your HL essays, here are a few points to remember:


    IB Higher Level Essays
    Length: 1,200–1,500 words.
    Word Count.
    Works Cited page.
    Pages should be numbered consecutively.
    Font should be Arial 12.
    Line spacing should be 1.5 or 2.
    The IB no longer wish people to put their names (nor name of the school) on their assignments – just the candidate’s personal code


  2. Translations by Brian Friel

    18/03/2020 by axonite



    “Thou art translated”  – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (III. i. 112-13)


    While Shakespeare’s play is clearly not about interlingual translation in any overt sense, there nevertheless is a respect in which it reflects the issue of what is involved in the translation from one language and cultural tradition to another, and most particularly the fact that such an activity inevitably entails a displacement and transformation as well as a potential deformation of its object.
    Oxford Journals: Essays in Criticism


    Because the Qur’an stresses its Arabic nature, Muslim scholars believe that any translation cannot be more than an approximate interpretation, intended only as a tool for the study and understanding of the original Arabic text.
    Just Islam


    Do we mean what we say?

    Language is an approximation of meaning, but as meanings change, so the language must too. However, for many people, particularly those from marginalised groups, language is an important expression of identity. To deprive a people of their own language and to impose another is a form of cultural imperialism. French was the legal language in England for 200 years, but while English survived, it emerged different, transformed – a reflection of new realities. However, some languages vanish without trace.


     IMG_6019Honesty in advertising?


    Why do we learn?

    In Friel’s play Translations, the initially innocent-seeming translations of place names are gradually revealed to have more sinister implications – but he does not stop there. As many critics note, this is not a two-dimensional play. No matter what the rights and wrongs of displacing a language, many will wish to learn the oppressors’ tongue (Hence the Latin and Norman French roots of words that survive even today in English) for practical reasons. The language of poetry or of love may be replaced by the language of commerce – and this issue strikes deep, going far beyond words to values. Do we learn to edify alone or to fit ourselves with skills for the world? And if we only learn to acquire skills, are we then missing some essential part of our humanity? Those who study purely for edification become irrelevant, whereas those who study purely for skills become philistines.


     IMG_7591Poor old Pete


    It’s a kind of magic!

    My words when they speak me


    Do we speak the words or do the words speak us? This is a question that has puzzled the brightest of minds (and which we will encounter again in other plays in this unit). Some claim that the concepts embedded within a language (and even the sounds of the words) shape our thoughts. Words have power over us, we are told. In its extreme form, we see in the Bible that Peter’s words condemn him – he denies three times that he knew Jesus (Matthew 26:72), then later must undo this curse that he has brought upon himself by saying three times that he loves Jesus (John 21:14).




    Rose theatre, Kingston

    Crucible, Sheffield

    Syracuse University


    Dying Languages

    Intl Business Times

    The Independent




    Structuralism and Semiotics

  3. Getting into the Zone (Exam Prep)

    16/03/2020 by axonite

    For those of you with exams coming up, here is some advice. For those who don’t have exams, read anyway – it may well be of use later.



    It’s not all about knowing the texts and demonstrating your command of the English language. What about you as a person? It’s natural to feel nervous before an exam. Use that energy. Channel it into your revision and exam practice, but don’t let nerves get the better of you. In the exam, breathe in slowly through your nose, hold for a moment, then breath out slowly through your mouth – you will find yourself becoming calmer.


    Ensure that you get a good night’s sleep the night before the exam.


    Use the toilet before the exam, but don’t feel embarrassed about asking to use the loo during the exam – it’s better to concentrate on your answers than on your bladder.


    Make your table your world. Ignore everyone and everything else in the room – nothing else matters. Put your watch on the table and ignore the clock on the wall.


    Ensure that you have two pens (at least) in the exam hall. There are always some students who have pens that run out of ink (and some even forget to bring pens with them!).


    Start with whatever section gives you the possibility of the most marks (You can always rearrange the order of your papers at the end). Give yourself at least five minutes at the end to proof-read what you’ve written – you wrote fast under pressure, so there will inevitably be mistakes.


    Don’t think that you can fob the examiner off with waffle. Here’s a genuine Year 11 essay:


    This poem written by … is a poem that gives the reader a thought of the poem. As the reader reads the poem, he/she would get an image of the poem. The reader would be able to imagine a picture of what is going on in the poem. The choice of words that the poet uses makes it easier for the reader to get an image of the poem.


    This bland, fault-ridden opening tells us nothing. One could apply it to any poem or prose excerpt that one has never bothered to read. No examiner will ever be fooled by this nonsense. It is waffle that the student hopes will disguise the fact that he/she does not understand the piece. Do not waste time writing this rubbish – instead, make meaningful and specific comments about the piece.
    Now compare it to this response from the same class about the same poem:


    …is a romantic piece about two estranged lovers who live in different places.


    Don’t rely on the teacher or think to blame everything on him/her. Even before the Internet, students were expected to demonstrate initiative and do their research in the library. Today, you have a wealth of information at the touch of a button. Use it – and don’t be tempted to make excuses. If something is unclear, don’t wait until the lesson. If you have a problem with your written expression – fix it (You will find many useful links on this very site).


    Remember that you are students of Language primarily – in a sense, there is no such thing as a student of Literature – because it’s all about the words and their construction! With this in mind, don’t shy away from the poetry in the unseen exam – because you should be writing about pace, fluency, pitch and other such devices even when writing about prose.
    Take the time to explore the texts and the language exercises to discover what you think. Don’t just blindly repeat what your teacher has said. CIE say:


    “Examiners can easily differentiate between students who have genuinely responded to literature for themselves and those who have merely parroted dictated or packaged notes.”


    Smell is a great aid to memory (apparently). Try wearing the same perfume/aftershave on the day of the exam that you use when revising.


    Timing! Plan your time properly. Start by answering the questions that have the potential to give you the greatest numerical score. Allocate your time appropriately. Read the questions three times to ensure that you understand – but don’t ever waste time on first drafts! Try to finish at least five minutes before the end of the exam – spend the last few minutes proof-reading – you can pick up valuable extra points this way.


    Practise! Practise! Practise!


    Here are the funniest (and most alarming) mistakes from previous exams. Enjoy.


    “strucked…striked…hitted…builted…digged out”
    “…about how they survived this disaster and geologists.”
    “The earthquake was informed.”
    “The speaker reveals everything that happens, using words.”
    “Seamus uses some words to depict the mood and foreshadowing and metaphors.”

    [n.b If you do not understand the words illustrate, depict and foreground, it is probably best not to use them]
    Next, we have those who waste time with the blindingly obvious or the completely vague:

    “The Mid-term Break is either ironic and not ironic.”
    “Heaney expresses his feelings through various techniques.”
    “The poet uses the word ‘angry’ to show that the mother is angry.”


    And finally, we have the Just Plain Weird category:

    “The message will be sent forth” (Presumably with Moses from Mt Sinai)
    “The destruction was handmade”
    “…a warning to warn.”
    “The poet instigate alliteration and assonance to emphasize the stopping of blood and life.”
    “This past member is dead with bloods.”
    “An illustration of a picture or the creation of imagery was extrapolate in the concluding stanza of the poem.”
    “Seamus wants the conveys.”
    “Seamus ironicly twisted both the tone and mood of his poem.”
    “This poem consists of irony, sad mood and tone, and symbolism.”
    “He was alone with his brother and many literary terms.”
    “The person is Death.”
    “emotional feelings”
    “Heaney adds assonance and alliteration.”


    Just relax, do your best and don’t panic

    Good luck


    Exam Skills (University of New South Wales)

  4. Feedback on today’s past exam practise paper: Follower

    16/03/2020 by axonite


    Firstly (and most importantly) answer the question. You have been told repeatedly to do this – and yet the majority are still in the habit of ignoring it! It is not rocket science. In fact, it is the same the question every time! It will always ask you how a writer achieves his/her effects. It will not ask you to explain what the words mean. You must talk about techniques.
    Take one technique for each topic paragraph. Extrapolate upon it. State clearly what/how/why.
    There are no extra points available for writing about things that are irrelevant. Only answer the question.
    Stop using the word vivid (even if it appears in the question). It does not mean the same as ‘descriptive’ nor ‘evocative.’
    Look at the title. First think of the literal meaning before thinking of any possible figurative application and possible implications. Here, the title “Follower” literally means someone who walks about following someone else. It also suggests one who wishes to emulate and/or venerates another. It may even suggest a disciple.
    As you read the poem it should become quickly apparent that the words demonstrate just this sense encapsulated in the title – that the son ‘followed’ his father. He expresses how, as a clumsy small child, he idolised his father (both literally around the farm and figuratively as his most ardent fan). The father is described as “an expert” who worked with skill (“mapping the furrow exactly”) and verve (“…with a single pluck”). He was a powerful giant of a man whose strength was seemingly that of Atlas (“His shoulders globed…”), whereas the child felt inept (“I stumbled…a nuisance…yapping…”). Heaney contrasts the two to communicate the shame and inferiority that he felt at the time. However, now, with the passing of years, an ironic reversal has occurred – now, as a famous poet, Heaney finds that it is his father who ‘follows’ him. The last two lines seem very harsh as Heaney says that his father is the one who ‘stumbles’ (presumably making mistakes and possibly being the embarrassment now) and “will not go away.” The venerated and the follower have switched places – but Heaney (the ‘voice’ of the poem not necessarily being exactly the same as the poet himself) appears to accept the situation with far less grace than his father before him.

  5. Feedback on the recent Romeo & Juliet exam practice

    11/03/2020 by axonite


    The vast majority of people chose the first question. Here, most concentrated on explaining the meaning and implications of the imagery though – rather than on addressing the question of “in what ways does Shakespeare make you sympathise with Romeo and Juliet here?” Adapting your knowledge to the exact requirements of the question is a vital skill that you will need to practise.
    In this particular question, the temptation to explain meanings should be resisted! (in fact, you will never be asked what – only how). There is so much content that could demonstrate your understanding – but if it is irrelevant, then it does not belong in your essay. This is very annoying when it happens, but you need to prepare for just such an eventuality. Here, in this question, it is only the emotional effect that interests us. There is no need to explain in detail in this response what birds or pomegranates signify – because what is important is that each element represents separation. Night and Day, the birds of night and day, the reference to Persephone, the sun and moon, life and death are all opposites – because the lovers are being pulled in opposite directions! They are torn between their desires and the demands of reality. The main way in which Shakespeare “makes us feel sympathy/creates a sense of” invites sympathy for the eponymous lovers is through the rich language. Yes, it is performed on stage (a visual medium) but it is not a movie – much of the visualisation arises from the words that Shakespeare has the lovers speak. It is hyperbolic. To modern ears, this exaggeration may seem silly, but it was intended to create emotional intensity.
    The comical moments add piquancy to the lovers’ piteous parting, as they switch roles when Juliet realises the implications of Romeo staying any longer – her kinsmen will murder him. The notion of the lark “straining harsh discords and unpleasing sharps” is also amusing, undercutting the seriousness of their imminent separation. Thus, Shakespeare has Juliet declaim that (usually) “the lark makes sweet division” between night and day – but not now because it heralds the morning and Romeo’s hasty flight.
    What of the rest of the extract? From the entrance of the Nurse, there is an even greater urgency, and they exchange intimate, highly relatable, tender assurances of love (I must hear from thee every day in the hour”). During their hurried terms of endearment, Juliet questions if they will “ever meet again.” Despite Romeo’s assurance that they will laugh about this in their future life today, the foreknowledge of their doom (from the chorus at the outset) ensures that this is a particularly poignant parting.
    Question 2 is the general one. Here, we need to reflect on the ways in which Juliet and the Nurse interact over the course of the play. It is comical that this rambunctious and earthy woman (with her ribald humour) should be the surrogate mother for a highborn lady! As Friar Lawrence is confidant to Romeo, so the Nurse is to Juliet. When first we meet the Nurse, she talks of how she was originally a wet nurse to the baby Juliet (after her own daughter died). She speaks fondly of how Juliet “wast the prettiest babe that e’er I nursed” (that ever I nursed) indicating that there had been others. She also talks of how she dreams of one day seeing Juliet married. When Juliet confides her love for Romeo, it is the Nurse who acts as go-between. Although her duty is to Lady Capulet, her devotion to the daughter overrules her sense of decorum. Moreover, when Juliet is eager for the latest news of Romeo, the Nurse teases her by withholding the information, complaining about her aching feet and how she is out of breath. Juliet is exasperated, but quickly pleads with (and manipulates) the Nurse. This is more like the joshing of friends (a counterpoint to Romeo and Mercutio). However, ultimately the Nurse’s sense of pragmatism (in her advice to marry Paris and forget Romeo) leads to Juliet rejecting her. At the close of the play, whether or not the Nurse was truly a “good friend” to Juliet is thus a matter for personal judgement.


  6. IGCSE Language Assignment 1

    14/01/2019 by axonite



    IGCSE Language Assignment 1: writing to discuss, argue and/or persuade in response to a text or texts of approximately two sides of A4 in total.


    The text(s) should contain facts, opinions and/or arguments. Candidates respond by selecting, analysing and evaluating the content of the text(s). They may write in any appropriate form that they wish. Different candidates in the same teaching set may choose to respond to different text(s) and/or in different forms.


    In this piece, you reflect on the writing of another – but you have great freedom in your choice of format (see page 13 of the syllabus).


    A newspaper opinion piece should be fun to pick apart – but you don’t have to present it as an analytical essay (It could, for example be a letter to the writer or the editor of the paper). Alternatively, you may wish to respond to an advertisement, a webpage, a couple of pages from a comic book, pages from a holiday brochure etc. Whatever the writing to which you respond, you need to ensure that you reflect on how the writer manipulates our response.


    A writer’s job is to encourage us to adopt his/her views – or make us ‘believe’ in an imaginary world – or tempt us to think that our lives will be so much better if we just buy a particular brand of coffee. In a sense, everything that we read is a form of propaganda. Some of it is blatant (as in the comic books that I read as a boy)…


    Seven Penny Nightmare

    Best of Battle


    …and some of it is more subtle (as in adverts and political language).


    Whatever you’re looking at, just remember that your chosen piece has to include facts and opinions (see the details above).

    Finally, the examiner is looking to see that you are versatile in your writing. Thus, you should aim to have three very different pieces of writing in your final submitted work, demonstrating clearly that you can adapt to a variety of writing tasks and that you can utilise the most appropriate style. If you have fun with your writing, you will already be on to a winner – because the examiner will be able to feel your enthusiasm. So, Enjoy!

    Don’t forget that there is a wealth of Assignment 1 stimuli material on Google Drive.

  7. Lord of the Flies – General intro

    10/09/2018 by axonite

    When looking at any text (poem, short story, novel excerpt, holiday brochure etc), look first at the title. In this case ‘Lord of the Flies’ (Baal-ze-Bub, later Beelzebub) is indicative of evil. This hints at the topic of the narrative.

    As the story opens, it seems similar to Coral Island – jolly good fun with no adults to spoil it! The boys sound like quaintly old-fashioned English school children from 1950s books and magazines (with one exception). Nothing an author does is accidental. Here, Golding explores the difference between expectation and reality. Will the boys build their utopia? Will their ingenuity get them rescued? Will they have lots of fun in the meantime?

    The island (on which the boys find themselves) is, in a sense, a microcosm of the world. Each boy is a person in his own right but also represents character types. We have the well-meaning, charismatic but not very clever or successful leader, the natural victim (who is intelligent, but ignored because he is of a lower social class and less physically attractive than others), the warlord/gang boss, the henchmen, the mystic and so on. We also see how the desire for an easy life and simple answers can lead to ruination. The story has real life implications – it is allegorical (like parables or fables).

    “…is indicative of…” is a great IGCSE style expression. It sounds much better than repeatedly saying “…tells us that…”
    narrative = story
    narrator = story teller
    narrates = (verb) tells the story
    topic = one word (e.g. Power)
    theme = a ‘truth claim’ about the topic (e.g. Power corrupts)
    message (the ‘moral’ of the story) = how we should respond (Don’t be corrupted by Power)
    micro = a smaller version of something (e.g. the family is a microcosm of society)
    macro = a larger version
    charismatic = having a ‘magnetic’ personality (one to whom others are drawn)


  8. Reading list by Genre

    31/05/2018 by axonite

    Now is always the perfect time to chill out with a good book.


    “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
    — Groucho Marx




    “So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install, A lovely bookshelf on the wall.”
    — Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

    “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”
    — Walt Disney



    Best Sci-Fi Authors

    01 Isaac Asimov
    02 Arthur C Clarke
    03 John Wyndham
    04 John Christopher
    05 Ray Bradbury
    06 H.G. Wells
    07 Fritz Leiber
    08 Orson Scott Card
    09 Brian Aldiss
    10 Jack Chalker
    11 Theodore Cogswell
    12 Theodore Sturgeon
    13 Harry Harrison
    14 Jack Williamson
    15 William Nolan
    16 Harlan Ellison
    17 Larry Niven
    18 A. Bertram Chandler
    19 Margaret Atwood
    20 Bob Shaw


    Brian Aldiss_Helliconia_cover set_TRIAD BOOKS

    Best Fantasy Authors

    01 J.R.R. Tolkien
    02 Terry Brooks
    03 Steven Erikson
    04 Philip Jose Farmer
    05 George R.R. Martin
    06 Ursula K. Le Guin
    07 Robin Hobb
    08 Roger Zelazny
    09 Terry Pratchett
    10 David Eddings
    11 Frank Herbert
    12 Raymond E. Feist
    13 T.H. White
    14 Robert Jordan
    15 David Gemmell
    16 Stephen R. Lawhead
    17 Mervyn Peake
    18 Jack Vance
    19 H.P Lovecraft
    20 George Clayton Johnson



    Best Comedy Authors

    01 P.G. Wodehouse
    02 Bill Bryson
    03 Harry Harrison
    04 Terry Pratchett
    05 Jerome K. Jerome
    06 Kingsley Amis
    07 Tony Hawks
    08 Stella Gibbons
    09 Evelyn Waugh
    10 Douglas Adams
    11 Joseph Heller
    12 James Herriott
    13 Isaac Bashevis Singer
    14 Malcolm Bradbury
    15 Grant Naylor
    16 Bob Shaw
    17 J.K. Rowling
    18 Spike Milligan
    19 Sue Townsend
    20 Gerald Durrell



    Best Crime Authors

    01 Arthur Conan Doyle
    02 Agatha Christie
    03 Stieg Larsson
    04 Raymond Chandler
    05 Dashiell Hammett
    06 Ruth Rendell
    07 Henning Mankell
    08 P.D. James
    09 Dorothy L Sayers
    10 Patricia Cornwell
    11 James Patterson
    12 Colin Dexter
    13 Ellis Peters
    14 Patricia Highsmith
    15 Ed McBain
    16 Harlan Coben
    17 Ian Rankin
    18 Ann Cleeves
    19 Barbara Vine
    20 Josephine Tey



    Best Horror Authors

    01 M.R. James
    02 Stephen King
    03 Bram Stoker
    04 Mary Shelley
    05 Jack Williamson
    06 Richard Matheson
    07 Edgar Allan Poe
    08 H.P. Lovecraft
    09 Ray Bradbury
    10 Clive Barker
    11 Robert Bloch
    12 Algernon Blackwood
    13 Ambrose Bierce
    14 Dean Koontz
    15 Clarke Aston Smith
    16 James Herbert
    17 Anne Rice
    18 Peter Ackroyd
    19 Charles Beaumont
    20 Ira Levin



    Best Modern Playwrights

    01 Tom Stoppard
    02 Arthur Miller
    03 Brian Friel
    04 Samuel Beckett
    05 Bertolt Brecht
    06 Caryl Churchill
    07 Harold Pinter
    08 George Bernard Shaw
    09 Willy Russell
    10 David Williamson
    11 T.S. Eliot
    12 David Mamet
    13 Ariel Dorfman
    14 Stephen Sondheim
    15 Lucy Prebble
    16 Wole Soyinka
    17 Alan Bennett
    18 Alan Ayckbourn
    19 J. B. Priestley
    20 Terence Rattigan


    Thorgal Foto 5

    Best Graphic Novels


    01 Charlie’s War
    02 Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
    03 V For Vendetta
    04 Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm
    05 Persepolis
    06 Space 1999: To Everything That Was
    07 Nausicaä
    08 Thorgal
    09 Galaxy Express 999
    10 Dan Dare
    11 Watchmen
    12 Maus
    13 Storm (Don Lawrence)
    14 The Freedom Collective
    15 2001 Nights of Space
    16 Wulf, The Briton
    17 The Vagabond of Limbo
    18 Citizen of the Galaxy
    19 Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth
    20 Strontium Dog


    London 1940
    London (1940)



    The Big Read

    The 100 Best Novels

    Libraries that look like Alien Spaceships

    Who killed Literature?

    Ursula K. Le Guin Names the Books She Likes and Wants You to Read


    Book Suggestions (by Year Group)


  9. Hitting the Right Note

    30/01/2018 by axonite

    Here are some examples of good practice in essay writing from my Year 10s:


    This is a strong introduction because it is clear, direct and concise. The quotations could probably be shorter (and indented) and colloquial expressions (like “sugar-coat”) and abbreviations should be avoided. However, despite minor detractions, this opening impresses because of its clarity. It covers the three essentials for commentary (or practical criticism): what, how and why.


    Generally, it is a good idea to avoid weak words like “give” and “show,” substituting active terms (such as “creates; argues; describes; renders; posits” etc). Nevertheless, this is again clear, direct, concise and expressive.


    Another great introduction, this one is pared-down to the essentials – there is not a wasted word. It is crisp in its exactness, expressing (again) what, how and why.


    This piece contains a good example of the correct use of terms. See how “juxtaposition” is slipped in deftly as a verb (This is what you should do, where possible, in your own writing). However, take care to avoid unfounded claims (“he wants reality to become”). If you make an assertion, you must provide evidence to support it (usually in the form of a brief quotation).


    Again, this is concise but meaningful.


    Learn from these pupils.  Look over your own writing to see how you can improve it.


  10. Year 8 Book Reviews

    05/12/2017 by axonite

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