Discussing the Conceptual in English: A Concrete Classroom Strategy

It all too easy sometimes to get lost in the small stuff of textual analysis. The micro. The single words and images. This is, it goes without saying, key to any literary discussion, but so is the macro. The big stuff. The conceptual. How might we build into our classroom routines more opportunity for such... Continue Reading →

The What How Why of WHW: Introducing and Using ‘What How Why’

Several years before becoming a secondary school teacher, I taught at university whilst completing a PhD and did a lot of private tutoring on the side. I didn’t have many resources but I did have one that I would use with all of my university classes and tutees: a single side of A4 with three... Continue Reading →

Teaching Poetry: A Step by Step Guide

Ok: first of all an admission. The title of this post, with its impossibly bold claim to distil teaching poetry into a series of neatly packaged steps, is somewhat overzealous. In a manner somewhat, and unfavourably, all too familiar to the last year, I fear it will overpromise and underdeliver. However, what it will do,... Continue Reading →

An Analysis: Love’s Philosophy

Throughout the poem Shelley refers to the speaker’s love by comparing it to natural imagery and the natural order. He uses this imagery in order to try and seduce the woman he is addressing: he is attempting to justify why the woman should be with him by referencing how nature works in the world. Thus,... Continue Reading →

An Analysis: Walking Away by Cecil Day-Lewis

What is it about? A father, the speaker, watches his son play football at school. As his son walks away from him he becomes worried that their relationship has fundamentally changed, since his son is growing up and becoming more independent. However, the speaker comes to realise that this is an experience all parents have... Continue Reading →

An Analysis: Winter Swans by Owen Sheers

The poem begins with the weather mimicking the emotion of the couple: ‘The clouds had given their all –’. At a literal level, this image is referencing how the clouds have expended all of their rain. However, at a more symbolic level it reflects how the couple are emotionally exhausted and how the relationship is... Continue Reading →

An Analysis: When We Two Parted by Lord Byron

Context & Plot Byron's fellow Romantic poet William Wordsworth once remarked that poetry was the ‘spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’ and one notices that in this poem the speaker is certainly coming to terms with ‘powerful feelings’.Byron was known to be an especially licentious and promiscuous individual and thus it is no surprise to find... Continue Reading →

‘Diveable’ Quotations

After recently finishing Jennifer Webb's superb How to Teach English Literature: Overcoming Cultural Poverty, I started to think about what she calls 'juicy' quotations. These are those images or quotations in a text that almost demand detailed linguistic and thematic analysis. They are those quotations that if successfully grappled with will yield countless interesting things... Continue Reading →

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