Students from Dr Challoner’s Grammar School – Welcome to the Blog

Welcome to our Year 12 guest contributors from Dr. Challoner’s Grammar School, Buckinghamshire, who have been invited to share their literary thoughts and reading recommendations with our own Year 12 students.

I had the pleasure of teaching at DCGS at the start of my teaching career in 2001 and worked alongside the inimitable Miss Day, who will oversee blogging proceedings in Bucks.

The aim of this literary link is to hopefully extend your wider reading and to give you all an opportunity to discuss literature and all things cultural with a different audience. Miss Day and I will eagerly read your comments (hoping to point score and assert the prowess of our own students….no pressure!)

Please post your lively and engaging comments responding to the following three prompts:

  1. What you have enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September – which texts/ characters/ activities/ ideas/ authors
  2. Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some) – favourite books, recommended reads for other A-level students…
  3. Other things cultural – theatre, film, tv, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement


p.s for your amusement…. I have included below an excerpt from a study about gender and reading. Whilst our blog’s name may not do much to recommend our students as post-feminist literary scholars, please be reassured that our girls do not solely read books about ponies…..

Mrs Taylor ( English teacher and literary blogging chaperone)

‘Girls will read books about males or females, while boys choose fiction about males or avoid fiction as a “feminine” genre. Although many interests are common, a large-scale gender analysis of reading preferences reports that males select graphic media such as comics, computers and newspapers (Hall & Coles, 1999) as well as topics such as transportation, sports, and war, while females show greater interest in horses, mystery fiction, romance fiction, and fine arts and crafts (Sturm, 2003).  Girls read more than boys, but they choose narrative fiction to the neglect of other genres. Simpson (1996) argues that boys’ nonfiction reading is more “congruent with the acquisition of social power and financial success” since secondary school and the workplace demand the reading of expository and information texts and the writing of reports, procedures, explanations and arguments.’

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27 Responses to Students from Dr Challoner’s Grammar School – Welcome to the Blog

  1. Freya says:

    (Please excuse the length of the following answers. I like books. But if you also like books, do continue to read.)
    1. What you have enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September – which texts/ characters/ activities/ ideas/ authors
    Desdemona, Emilia and Hero, three characters of Shakespeare’s two plays ‘Othello’ and ‘Much Ado’ are the subjects that I have probably enjoyed studying the most, mainly because they are what I have most extensively explored as they were the subject of my coursework. This doesn’t mean that extensive study is what makes you enjoy something, there are several poems and stories that have died a literary death from being picked to pieces by bored teenagers and their teachers, but I think that Shakespeare’s work is so complex that you can only really love what you’ve looked at in depth. The reason I particularly enjoyed studying those three characters, and why I chose them for my coursework, is because they are ultimately defined by their role as women in Jacobean society, a completely different role than I encounter in my life. Encouraged (perhaps even being pressured) the whole way through 12 years at school to be the greatest and most successful that it is physically possible to be, I found it intriguing reading about women of no education, of whom abject obedience and silence were expected, their only role being to marry a respectable man their father chose for them. Emilia’s anachronistic feminism, her cynicism, and yet her total vulnerability; Desdemona’s courage, but her naïve wish to trust and love everyone; and Hero’s personification of the insipid, pious, damsel in distress- these characters fascinated me.
    Since starting our work on poems, I have really liked the work of Sylvia Plath, depressive and disturbing though they may be. I think it its ignorant to judge art by whether it evokes positive or negative emotion, what really matters is how good art is at being what it is. Plath’s poetry may slightly make you want to kill yourself, but it’s really good at making you want to kill yourself, beautifully and evocatively written. ‘Crossing the water’ especially is one of my favourites, as it depicts a scene of perfect observation in the literal sense, while simultaneously creating a powerfully moving metaphor.
    2. Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some) – favourite books, recommended reads for other A-level students…
    Recently I’ve read the novels of Jane Austen, and enjoyed their wit, their intricate observations of people, and their absorbing yet realistic storylines. Sense and Sensibility, particularly was my favourite, along with Pride and Prejudice, our set novel to study. The people that populate Austen’s novels are perfectly characterised and could exist in modern day just as easily, but especially this so in ‘Sense and Sensibility’- the relationship between the sisters, their lovers and the society- and this is probably why I enjoy it so much. It is not a novel of raw emotional depth, however, as it skirts over most ideas that could not be discussed in a polite drawing room, and therefore I could not say that will ever be number one in my list of favourite books. I enjoyed the E.M. Forster’s ‘Room with a View’ and ‘Where Angels Fear to Tread’ for similar reasons, and would recommend them also, but would also raise the same minor objections to them.
    For books that are intriguing and oddly written in the active effort to remove themselves from aforementioned drawing rooms mentality, I would recommend Woolf’s ‘Lady Dalloway’ and ‘Orlando’ (very weird, a boy lives for 400 years and becomes a girl in the process, but pretty cool). I’m also ploughing through ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ by James Joyce, also kind of strange, and hard to get your head around as is written in the stream of consciousness style and confusing lack of speech marks, and as every emotion is intricately and obsessively noted down. Once you penetrate it though, it’s very strong and powerful in its depiction of the Stephen Dedalus’ world, you get a little confused when you put down the book and realise that you are you again.
    Maybe less weird in style, but definitely even further removed from all ‘politeness’, is ‘Lolita’, one of my favourites, despite the fact its basically the story of grown man on a road trip trying to seduce his 12 year old step daughter. It is a classic, honestly, not just one of those strange ‘abused child’ books that are bestsellers for some reason. It’s witty and insightful and well-described, and nothing like what you would expect, in that you are almost on the side of Humbert (pedo protagonist). Just like Sylvia Plath, the subject matter may be strange and disturbing, but it’s so well done that you have to admire it.
    A vaguely more modern book that I really love is Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami, about a boy at a Japanese university in the sixties and his life and relationships. I would definitely recommend it, it draws you into the protagonist’s mind, and it is really refreshing to read a book in an entirely different setting than what you’re used to (relying on the assumption that most of you, also, don’t know very much about Japan in the 60s, if you do, I apologise most entirely). Also, as apparently boys and girls like different books (though I remain unconvinced) it’s about an young guy and his friends and girlfriends, so please don’t reject it out of hand just because it has been recommended by the same reader who has just recommended Mr Willoughby, immortal hermaphrodites and fifties paedophiles- these subjects may not immediately appeal to you.
    Up until now there has been no ranking order of my eclectic recommendations, but ‘I Capture the Castle’ would come number two on my list of all time favourite books. The journal of a teenage girl in the 1930s, growing up in a castle that is falling down around her, it is the perfect book for anyone wanting to read something more than a chick flick, but a little terrified of going straight into Dickens or Hardy. Cassandra describes brilliantly and wittily one year in her life: her eccentric family, the American visitors to the town and the complex relationships of love and jealousy between the two. Her detached father- an author of a one hit wonder-, her airy, bohemian stepmother- an artists’ model who likes to ‘commune with nature’-, her perfect, beautiful, manipulative elder sister, and each member of the small cast of her life is skilfully described until you feel as if you’ve known them your entire life.
    Finally, (I say, as if you have even had the perseverance to get past Austen, let alone to read to this point), my favourite book of all time would be ‘The Book Theif’ by Marcus Zusak. It is quite simply the most original and stunning and moving book I’ve ever read. It’s the story of a little girl, but it is not a book for children. She’s German during the second world war, and is hiding a Jew in her basement. Growing up with an obsession with those ‘Dear Diary’ books and general children’s historical novels, I have read that basic premise in at least ten different books, but ‘The Book Thief’ is startling and beautiful in ways I can’t really describe. It is enough to make you sob tears of misery, of laughter, of completely mushily deep and meaningful love, of elation, and finally shed tears of grief, as you finish the last page and some small happiness dies a little.
    Alternatively, read something dull, uninspiring and clichéd, at least you won’t get the post-tears headache and puffed up eyes. It’s not an attractive state. I know it well.
    3. Other things cultural – theatre, film, tv, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement
    Attempting to move from tediously loquacious to wryly laconic, my summary of my ‘recent cultural engagement’:
    Film (though originally play): A Taste of Honey. Result of my mother’s recent decision she will not by me a film that is either a) in colour b) in English. 1950s-60s. Grumpy teen girl pregnant by black sailor, moves in with endearing gay boy, irritating, pushy mother wrecks it all. Not uplifting but intriguing. Was scandalous for the time i.e. when pre-marital sex/ not being straight/ not being white, was contrary to polite society.
    Films of Pedro Almodovar. Result of decision b) films not in English. Spanish. Colourful. Female Solidarity. Homosexual/transsexual/prostitution underworld. ‘All About My Mother’= good start to an Almodovar virgin.
    Film (also originally play): History Boys. Teenage boys. Grammar school. 1980s. Literature theme. Witty. Absolutely amazingly awesomely cool. Teacher/student. Includes beautiful bridegroom from Mamma Mia. Also Uncle Vernon. Also James Cordon. Also guy with sticky out ears, very good, actor in recent episode of Sherlock, Him and Her, Being Human (see below).
    Television Series: Being Human. Series 4 is on Sunday nights on BBC3. Vampires, ghosts, werewolves exist. Somehow not awful despite this. Barry Island, Wales. Bloody brilliant. Bloody British. Bloody funny. Bloody scary. Also, bloody (be prepared).
    Digital radio: Absolute Radio. Good old music. Good new music. Unfortunately, adverts.

    • Jordan says:

      You have to love Welsh films when visiting your house 😉

    • Dominic says:

      Hey Freya, I remember studying and some Plath poetry back in GCSE, which I found pretty enjoyable (well, as enjoyable as you can get with poems as depressing as hers!). I particularly enjoyed the vivid imagery used in Blackberrying – her style reminds me of the Hardy poems that we’re studying at the moment.

  2. Bethany says:

    1. What you have enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September – which texts/ characters/ activities/ ideas/ authors. The text which I have enjoyed most throughout my AS course this year would be Othello by William Shakespeare as we have had to write an letter arguing to a critic about their views on Othello. This allowed me to put forward my ideas of how strongly I feel about the characters and their situations. I am particularly interested in Othello and Iago’s relationship in this play because they are contrasting characters which are exceedingly similar. Also, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen which I had already watched previously, but as everyone knows there is a lot more in a book than a film and it showed me different ways how women used to act before. This book shows different views to society and how they acted towards each other. I have found this is significantly different to nowadays. This book has also made me think differently towards our own society and the way that women act now. This is a hard book to get into, but I do recommend it.
    2. Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some) – favourite books, recommended reads for other A-level students… Recently I have been reading Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, which reverses the role of the black and white races, and includes a completely different view of the world. It is about a romance which is frowned apon as it involves a high class society black women and a low class society white man, with many twists and turns throughout the book. There is a terrorist group the noughts (white people) have begun against the crosses (black people). It makes you wonder what it would be like if the roles were reversed. It is a thrilling romance which includes action. I would highly recommend this book to anyone as it has changed the way I think about lots of things.
    3. Other things cultural – theatre, film, TV, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement. I have recently watched a documentary on Global Warming, debating whether or not it has actually begun and what the outcomes will be. I found this extremely interesting as at the moment it is alleged that Global warming is happening now. It mentions how about 10 000 years ago there was a rise in temperature of the Earth, which was name the Medieval Warming period, and just explains how this could just be happening again it is an interesting documentary about the arguments for and against global warming and whether or not it is happening at present. You can find this documentary on BBC Iplayer.

  3. Dani :) says:

    What you have enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September – which texts/ characters/ activities/ ideas/ authors
    I have most enjoyed studying Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare. Mostly, I liked the culture in pride and prejudice with the arranged marriages, chivalry and the big formal dances were my favourite! I admire the character of Elizabeth as she was a very strong women and always expressed her opinion, it didn’t matter about the consequences. The humour in Much Ado About Nothing is what made me interested in the play. It is awfully witty, most of this happening between Beatrice and Benedict who loved each other but just didn’t know it yet. Also, the storyline of love and lies increased my fascination of the play. Overall, I would recommend reading Pride and Prejudice, even if it isn’t on your syllabus.

    Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some) – favourite books, recommended reads for other A-level students…
    I am not a fan of the classic old fashioned books such as Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights etc but as I’m a typical teenage girl I am a huge fan of the vampire/ supernatural books. No, I’m not obsessed with The Twilight Saga and no I’m not a diehard Robert Patterson fan! Good books but rubbish films. A series of books I would highly recommend are The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare as they are amazing! They have a mixer of vampires, werewolves, demons, warlocks, nephlim etc for all ages and genders so if you do like the supernatural books then they are a must read. It may not appeal to you but I have read the Vampire Academy series by Rochelle Mead which is mostly about the royals and guardians who protect the vampires against their enemies. Also, I have recently read Divergent by Veronica Roth which is a glimpse into the future of being separated into factions and living life to the max. It’s an amazingly written book and should definitely be read by loads of people!

    Other things cultural – theatre, film, tv, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement
    Last year I went to London’s Victoria theatre to go see Wicked. It is the wicked witch of the west for the Wizard of Oz’s story of how she became the wicked witch. It was absolutely amazing with a great storyline and fantastic singers. It sent goose bumps all over my body because it was so amazing! I have also seen Billy Elliot in the theatre which was really good, if you enjoy dance and liked the film then it’s a must see. I recently went to see The Woman in Black in the cinema and it was terrifying! It’s extremely jumpy but it’s a really good film to go see. I’m in the middle of watching Whitechapel on ITV on Mondays at 9pm. It’s a detective program about trying to solve copycat murders. For example, in one series there was someone doing the copycat murders of Jack the Ripper. It is gory and creepy but it’s a tense and good show to watch

  4. Stephanie says:

    1. Without a doubt I have found studying the work of Jane Austen the most enjoyable part of the course; looking deeply into her writing style and her background. As an author I find her a fascinating woman and an inspirational figure. She endured many hardships throughout her life yet her books always seem such a pleasure to read, showing that writing was her way of escape; as reading her books is mine. Her novels make me feel as though I can transport myself away from life’s worries to another world, which in some ways doesn’t seem that far away. I love the way Austen manages to criticize people’s mannerisms and absurdities, without ever really coming out and saying it. This makes her criticism twice as witty and funny. Her ability to see hypocrisy in others makes her characters the sparkling gems they are; they are larger than life to me, as the ones who deserve a fairytale ending receive one. But above all of these things I admire her ability to remind us how to love.
    2. So admittedly at the moment I haven’t had much time for reading as I do a lot things outside of school that take up quite a bit of my time, for example theatre groups, and music lessons. But I would like to start off firstly by admitting my weakness for vampire books. Yes I am one of the predictable girls who finds a novel about vampires a gripping read, mostly for its romance if I am honest. However I’ve chosen to talk about the book Sense and Sensibility as it compliments my previous paragraph on Jane Austen. Though this book was not the first novel Austen wrote it was the first one to be published. The message that I gather from it is that people should marry for love and not for money, which is a statement that I cannot agree more with. It not only shows the good and bad decisions a young woman can make in letting her heart rule her head, but also the struggle that a widow can face after losing her husband. In this novel particularly, Austen’s feminist beliefs shine through and I would definitely have to say that this is one of my favourite books.
    3. In terms of all things cultural I can only say go to the theatre!!! For me it is the most beautiful and inspiring place on this Earth. I base my whole life around performing and artistic things as I enjoy them the most. Ive recently been in a production of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ with my musical theatre company securing the lead role of Jill; Jack’s lover whom he has to climb up the beanstalk to save. Our next show is titled ‘Theseus’, a new musical written by Darren Vallier based on the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. I have been very fortunate enough to receive the lead role in this of Ariadne, who helps Theseus defeat the minotaur to buy her own freedom. This is the first time that this musical has ever been performed so all eyes are on our company to put on a great show! I would recommend going to see anything that’s on at the theatre as I have learned that even if it is not something well known like Hairspray or Oliver it’ll still be a great performance. Next week I will be seeing Phantom Of the Opera, one of my favourite musicals, so I am very excited about this! Aside from all the involvement I have with theatre, I have a real passion for art and find this a really relaxing hobby. Not only do I enjoy creating art myself but I also like to explore art galleries and see other artist’s interpretations. The National British Art Show recently came to Plymouth and I was fortunate enough to have a look at the various venues and was blown away with some of the fantastic creations by artists that I had never heard of before. I’ve also been lucky enough to have some of my work put up in Somerset House in London in connection with Plymouth College of Art. As far as films are concerned I enjoy old classics like ‘Singing In The Rain’, ‘Gone with the wind’ and ‘Carousel’. But recently I’ve gotten into watching Marilyn Monroe movies, one in particular I feel deserves a mention as it’s a really great film is ‘There’s no Business Like Show Business’ (and having read that I now hope many of you are singing the tune in your head) but aside from the very well known and overly played song, the film itself has a great story line and is a bit of light hearted fun.

  5. Leonie says:

    1. What you have enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September – which texts/ characters/ activities/ ideas/ authors
    I have most enjoyed studying the novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’. I know the boys from DCGS may not be enthralled by the idea of reading P & P but don’t be put off. It is a love story but this is just one of the novels focus. It looks at many social difficulties of the time in a funny, witty style which I found a pleasure to read. My favourite character would have to be Jane Bennet, the older sister of Elizabeth. She is supportive towards her sister and although rather reserved she always looks for the best in people, something we all aspire to be able to do.

    2. Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some) – favourite books, recommended reads for other A-level students…
    Other things cultural – theatre, film, tv, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement
    As last weekend I was taking the train up to Cardiff I thought this would be the best time to start reading ‘Frankenstein’ which I had been putting off since receiving it for Christmas. Turns out it was a very good book and I couldn’t put it down. I’m not wholly sure why I liked it so much but I think my love of philosophy was a contributing factor. The idea that Frankstein created the stories villain I found fascinating. Even the quotes have stayed with me: ‘When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?’ Earlier this week I went to visit my friend who volunteers in a nearby charity shop and I was pretty amazed. If you’re looking for books I’d suggest you do the same. I managed to pick up 6 books all for 50p including a beautiful, hard-back copy of ‘Huckleberry Finn’. Yes, this does appear to be a childrens book but when reading it I found a lot of difficult issues presented which as a child reader I am sure I would not understand.

    3. Other things cultural – theatre, film, tv, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement
    Not so sure about this question. I went to see the newest ‘Women in Black’ movie at the cinema. Very mixed reviews about how frightening this film was. I personally found it jumpy, but not scary as such. I haven’t seen this at the theatre or read the book (failure of an English student) so unfortunately I’m unsure whether this is a particularly good adaptation but it was a good piece of entertainment. I’ve started listening to radio 4 in the morning which I never though I’d do but they often discuss theology and philosophy which is exceedingly interesting to listen to. I am considering downloading the podcasts but I’m not sure if I’m ready to become a true radio 4 fan yet!

    • Dominic says:

      Hey Leonie! I’ve noticed that a large number of DHS students have been saying that they really enjoyed reading Pride and Prejudice- maybe I should give it a try sometime! I enjoyed Frankenstein too, since the debate of whether it’s right to create artificial life is still going on today

  6. Hattie says:

    1. What you have enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September – which texts/ characters/ activities/ ideas/ authors
    I have really enjoyed getting to know the protagonist of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by the inspiring Jane Austen, Elizabeth Bennet. Like myself, she has a tendency to judge people from first impressions and her complex character grows on me throughout with her wit and her stubborn nature to marry for love; Lizzy does not live by the expectations of her scatty mother, this is something that I deeply admire. Another favourite character of mine from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ would have to be the incredibly amusing Mr. Collins. Despite his inability to charm, his confidence is something that I have a high regard for; even after his knock-backs, he is convinced that he shall win over the heart of his cousin. However, the respect I feel for the insipid Mr. Collins does not come close to the humiliation I feel for him, especially after his dreadful proposal to Elizabeth. Good effort though Collins!
    2. Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some) – favourite books, recommended reads for other A-level students…
    One of my favourite authors would have to be Jane Austen, her complex narratives and intricate characters make all her novels irresistible. The most recent that I have read of Austen’s was ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as part of our AS English, I had read this book before, however, reading it for the second time helped me to appreciate the efforts of Austen and the many relationships between her characters. Another reason for adoring ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is the relationship that she portrays between Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, again, this is a weirdly accurate mirror image of the relation between my sister and I. Like the two Bennet sisters, we are complete foils of each other; nonetheless, we get on like a house on fire! Perhaps I can identify with their bond; also, I cannot help but hope that their closeness continues just like ours! In addition, I have just finished reading ‘Bird Song’ by Sebastian Faulks, as a huge fan of war poetry and novels, this poignant tale was something that I had to read! I urge you to read it – it is great!
    3. Other things cultural – theatre, film, tv, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement
    Theatre: As a budding A Level Drama student, my all time favourite musical would have to be Gregory Maguire’s ‘Wicked’. It shows where the good and bad witches from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ started off, ironically, roommates at a ‘magic’ school in the emerald city – imagine Hogwarts, but 10 times better; the teacher was a goat! I cannot express my love for this musical; I know all of the songs, feel like I know all of the characters, have read the story a dozen times, and seen the show in London twice!
    TV: I am a huge fan of reality shows, name any, I’ll watch it! From ‘The Only Way is Essex’ to ‘Made in Chelsea, there’s something about watching other people’s life and thinking yours isn’t actually all that bad. However, taking ‘Made in Chelsea’ into account, how I wish my life to be – no need to work because of the amount of money you already have and just rolling up in a brand new car every single day! I also love any period dramas, this probably comes from my love of Austen and Dickens! also, totally in agreement with Freya with ‘Being Human’ such a good television program!

  7. Duce Mazumder says:

    What you have enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September – which texts/ characters/ activities/ ideas/ authors
    Well, in our syllabus, we have to study Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, Pride and Prejudice, and Yellow Wallpaper – and we are currently in the middle of studying Poetry of the Land (which, surprisingly, I actually find quite intriguing, because at first I was a bit put off…). I would say that the area I found most enjoyable would be studying Othello and Much Ado – I seriously loved the malicious and conniving villainy of Iago, and enjoyed reading the play and studying all the metaphors and intricate characters of the play in depth. It was refreshing to read about the character of Desdemona, who contradicted the stereotype of feminism during that era, and stood as a diplomatic and independent woman. Additionally, I thoroughly enjoyed the play of Much Ado About Nothing – I have decided that it is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, and I think that the decision had arisen after watching the 1993 adaption of it during a few lessons, that starred Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, which I found absolutely hilarious.
    Moreover, I mentioned that I liked reading the Poetry of Land, which we are studying at the moment – my favourite poems would be ‘Desert Places’ by Robert Frost, and ‘Crossing the Water’ by Sylvia Plath. They are both two quite depressing poems, and I don’t know – I seem to have this thing for the depressing, dark poems! I didn’t think that the land poetry would have so much hidden meaning to it, and reading it makes me appreciate the authoral intentions in the poems, and I love how they use the nature to describe their feelings and personal troubles (especially the depressing ones).

    Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some) – favourite books, recommended reads for other A-level students…
    I’m going to be honest, it might not be the most intellectual book in the world, but my favourite books have got to be every single Harry Potter book. I’d tell you what I love about them – but then I’ll probably be here all day, so I’ll just pass on that one. I have recently read a book called ‘The Winter Rose’ by Jennifer Donnelly – and when I started reading it, I literally could not put it down – I finished reading it at 4am in the morning! It’s about this woman in the 1900’s who became a female doctor, (which of course was rare during that time) and falls in love with a criminal – It’s not my usual type of book, but I would recommend it if you’re into that kind of thing. I also am hoping to read The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde very soon – (once whoever has it loaned from the library actually returns it!)

    Other things cultural – theatre, film, tv, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement
    Two weeks ago, I went to watch The Woman In Black in the cinema, and I feel like the only person that did not find it scary in the slightest – there are so many reviews from people who said that the film should not be a 12A because it was too frightening, and I’m just there thinking, ‘that should be a U, that wasn’t scary at all!’
    I don’t have a particular genre that I like when it comes to films, but I like watching all the gory horror and psychological horror movies, I seriously like being frightened! Then I regret watching it during the night because I lay there in the dark thinking of every single horror movie I’ve ever watched and get too scared to even move.
    As for television, anyone who knows me would immediately say ‘EastEnders’ – which is true, I am the biggest EastEnders fan out there, and am not ashamed to admit it. I also really love the comedy shows – Russell Howard’s Good News, Fresh Prince of Bel Air (classic), Mock The Week – Russell Howard having to be my favourite comedian! I don’t know if this is an unpopular opinion, but I absolutely detest reality TV Shows such as The Only Way Is Essex, Made In Chelsea and Big Brother – I just don’t see the point…
    And finally, Desperate Housewives. Things would be so much more interesting on my street if things happened like the events in Wisteria Lane.

    • Jordan says:

      Ahh, The Woman In Black did make me jump onto the person sat next to me at one point 😦 I must admit, I don’t like jumpy films. Give me Saw or Law Abiding Citizen over that any day :L

      • Dominic says:

        Saw!? I watched one of those films once- I really didn’t see the appeal; too much blood and torture for me! While we’re on the topic of scary films though, I did enjoy Paranormal Activity 🙂

  8. Alice Congdon says:

    1) What you have enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September – which texts/ characters/ activities/ ideas/ authors
    I would have to say over the course so far this year, I have enjoyed most of the topics covered I loved Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice but I have to say that our current topic of land poetry is probably my favourite. Before the topic I did not have high expectations and wandered how ‘nature’ could be interesting but have actually loved the topic. I have particularly found a new love for Sylvia Plath and her ‘joyful’ poetry in the anthology, I loved ‘Crossing the Water’ and ‘Mushrooms’ as she possibly highlights the up rise of women through its structure. I love the menacing tone to this poem and would recommend it to anyone whether they were taking the course or not.
    2) Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some) – favourite books, recommended reads for other A-level students…
    Other than Pride and Prejudice I have surprisingly widened my reading slightly so far this year. I read George Orwell’s 1984 which I thoroughly enjoyed. Being a big fan of the popular TV show Big Brother I was interested to see where this idea originated from and so decided that I would give in and read it and actually liked it. I found terrifying but a brilliant read and would definitely recommend it. Obviously as everyone has probably seen The Woman in Black has recently been released in the cinema and after going to watch it and not being able to sleep for a few days I decided to read the original novel by Susan Hill and was shocked to find out that it was completely different to the film but just as good. I loved how it was written and will be interesting in reading more from Susan Hill.
    3) Other things cultural – theatre, film, tv, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement
    As I have already mentioned I recently saw The Woman in Black in the cinema starring Harry Potter or Daniel Radcliffe whatever you want to call him and not ashamed to say that it did scare me and didn’t sleep very well for the next couple of days but it was probably one of the better horror films I have seen in a while so definitely go and watch it if you can. I also saw a few months ago The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which was also very good and has now interested me to read the book and the rest of the trilogy, The last thing I saw in the theatre apart from Cinderella at Christmas but I don’t think that counts was a dance company, Alvin Ailey and it was amazing I particularly enjoyed this as I used to dance myself. As for television going to be blunt and say I haven’t watched anything decent in a while if I am honest. Thanks for reading 🙂

  9. Bethan. says:

    Whilst the Shakespeare coursework is annoyingly time-consuming, I have actually enjoyed studying the Poetry of the Land anthology. With coursework, anyone can just say “no, that’s wrong.” But with poetry half the ‘fun’ is exploring and discovering more of the infinite number of interpretations for each poem. For example ‘Mushrooms’ by Sylvia Plath firstly has a literal meaning, the growth of mushrooms. Simultaneously, it’s been viewed as symbolising the growth of power of women, but personally I find all that feminism malarkey increasingly tedious. (There always will be gender stereotypes, just live with it.) The semantic field of dark and menacing lexis, draws me further towards the idea that the growth of the mushrooms infact is an extended metaphor for the development of Plath’s mental illness, an exploration of her pathway through life alongside a manic confusion and depression.
    I’m currently reading “The Highway Code- fully updated and complete” in an attempt to pass my driving theory & test before summer. Before that, all I’ve read are my chemistry & biology textbooks. Actually, the last book I read was last summer. I think we must have gone beach a fair few days in a row because I finished it super-fast. ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaleid Hosseini was the only book I’ve read all the way through since about year 6. I was completely obsessed with reading it for all 364 pages. It was very intriguing, as it’s about a completely different culture. Considering Cornwall is the furthest we venture in the holidays (excluding driving to the south of France in a people carrier in the hottest weather I ever remember) the emotions and senses incited by the imagery used were fascinatingly capturing. Read it. The next ones called ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ but I’m too lazy to find it.
    Last night we went to watch ‘The Woman in Black’ at the cinema. There were no seats left so we ended up seeing ‘Chronicle’, a film neither of us had heard anything about. Turns out it was about three lads who found a large, glowing rock underground. Having touched the rock, they developed what they thought was telekinesis, but as the film progressed they basically turned into superheroes. Obviously, to make at least a fairly decent plot there has to be a problem. This problem came in the form of Andrew, one of the boys who has lead a somewhat disheartening life, having his mother dying of a degenerative illness, and an alcoholic father who beats him up daily. With his newfound powers, he could fly around the world and move buses, or hundreds of policemen at once. The film took a disturbing turn and Andrew leaps out of being in a coma, to go and destroy the city, demolish whole buildings and kill thousands of people because he decided he is what is known as an ‘apex predator’, at the top of his food chain. He justifies his actions by saying humans to him, are as flies are to humans. The film ends with his cousin, another superhero except more attractive and normal, who kills Andrew by telekinesising (is that a word?) a massive stone sword through his power crazy cousin and into the ground. The film was all shown from the perspective of Andrew’s handheld video camera which made the whole thing appear real. We were sat in the front row which was intense. But all in all rather grim, Harry Potter in a supposedly scary 12A would have been far more entertaining. GET TO FILMS ON TIME.

    N.B. Ferdausi. Russell Howard. With you on that.

  10. Jenny says:

    Iago (satanic genius and villain of ‘Othello’) has been an absorbing character to analyze; no matter how far you research, his malevolence is impenetrable. I suppose I’d also better give some credit to Don John (petty and unsuccessful villain of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’) for successfully highlighting Iago’s strengths with his own downfalls. Being the villain of a Shakespearian comedy can’t be too fun- everyone knows he’s inevitably going to fail before the play even starts.

    I wouldn’t say Iago’s devilish nature was easy to relate to exactly, but that’s where the interest lies; he manages to connect with the viewer and influence their thoughts, without them ever seeing a glimmer of reasoning in his mind. He not only manipulates the characters but also the contemporary and modern audiences, maybe not so far as to murder their spouses like Othello did, but his language certainly does control the crowd’s emotions throughout the play.

    As a wanna be medical student, I’ve been massively busy with volunteering and work experience this year, but I have had a few moments to enjoy the delights of reading some real literature: Ben Goldacre’s ‘Bad Science,’ and even a magazine or two: the Student BMJ or New Scientist..

    I’m actually really enjoying ‘Cold Comfort Farm,’ though it is slightly unusual, in fact the humor in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ seems more similar to today’s, but then I think Austen’s wit will be applicable in any era, while ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ may be so far ahead of its time that perhaps, after 80 years, we still haven’t quite caught up with it.

    I recently watched ‘Women in Black’ which I found hilarious; I was pretty surprised by this considering I was in tears the entire way through ‘War Horse’ (which was inconvenient as I was trying to recognize parts of Dartmoor because it was filmed here.) ‘The Help’ was also an amazing film, and I now have the book which I’m looking forward to.

    As for TV you may have guessed from my reading list that I’m a fan of ‘Scrubs’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ I also loved watching ‘Call the Midwife’ while it was on, especially Miranda.

  11. Clarissa says:

    1. What have you enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September?
    As a dutiful English student, I of course feel obliged to declare my love of the entirety of the English course, but I have found studying land poetry to be the most rewarding so far. My favourite poetry that we have studied so far would have to be the work of Sylvia Plath, particularly Crossing the Water, as her poems are so embedded with double meanings and complex references, for example to greek mythology. Plath being a confessional poet also means her poems are highly personal, and are genuinely moving. I have often thought that although prose and plays are admirably detailed and complex, there is nothing like poetry to give you a snapshot of someone’s inner mental state – the ambiguity gives a sense of richness and depth to the poem, and means that each poem leaves a very personal mark on you, since everyone interprets poetry differently based on their own experiences. Perhaps I should then rephrase my first statement – I find class discussions of interpretations poetry and meaning fascinating, as everyone comes to the classes with their own interesting and valid opinions. This may be what I enjoy most about the whole of English, actually: the discussion, the debate, forming and arguing opinions, as well as the satisfaction that comes from being an intellectual and opinionated person. I must also say I found studying Shakespeare – Othello and Much Ado About Nothing – has been another highlight, as his plays are so cleverly devised and written, still as, if not more relevant than they were in the 17th century. I find Shakespeare’s rich language fascinating in the same way as Plath’s deep-reaching metaphors, communicating hidden details about characters and plot that have unfortunately been sadly largely lost to most people through the common phobia of long or unusual words. I thus consider myself highly privileged to be offered the joy of studying this literary gold dust. Now, before I ramble on, long into the night…

    2. Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some)
    What with the shock of AS levels catching up with me, I have not had an enormous amount of time to read – something which I deeply regret, having almost certainly been a bookworm in a previous life. However, I am currently enjoying 1984 – a great book, as well as being very thought provoking and cleverly written. I like it for much the same reasons that I liked The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood – something about the writing style and the subject matter makes me hungry for more!
    I am a classics person generally, and though I have read both Dracula (it gets good at the end!) and Jane Eyre (call me a hopeless romantic, but I completely fell for Mr Rochester) as well as Pride and Prejudice (several times), I still manage to have a huge  pile of classics that I hope to get round to reading soon – Sense & Sensibility and Wuthering Heights, among others… I also hope to read Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway – I want to explore different styles of writing, and stream of consciousness seems to be a good place to start.
    As far as book recommendations go, I must second all of Freya’s comments about I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith – I LOVED it, especially since as I am myself an aspiring writer with a love of Debussy, stuck in a big crumbling house, I identified with Cassandra, the protagonist, so much. This book will be forever connected with the warm, sweet memories of the summer in which I read it. In addition, I also loved Zusak’s The Book Thief for being imaginatively told and movingly written.
    I must also recommend Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, the story of how an extremely musically gifted girl, depressed after the death of her brother, finds a cause in the tragic story of Louis XVII, who as the son of the guillotined king during the French Revolution was imprisoned and died in captivity. As well as being a great history lesson on the french revolution, the book was spectacularly well written and moving – I am unashamed to admit I cried several times, and had large difficulties distinguishing between reality and fiction for several hours after each reading session, so immersive was the writing. Just… read it!

    3. Other things cultural
    One of the major difficulties with living in literally the middle of nowhere is that I seldom have the opportunity for ‘cultural enrichment’, so the last time I went to the theatre was last year, to see To Kill A Mockingbird – another amazing book, for anyone who hasn’t read it.
    However, this doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy- I am an avid (and admittedly slightly obsessive) fangirl of all things Harry Potter (obviously), Star Wars (primarily the deeper, interesting, character stuff) and most recently, the BBC series of Sherlock, which I can confidently describe as made of pure awesomeness, the most cleverly written thing on tv at the moment. Watch it! Mrs Taylor loves Sherlock also, and will second my opinion. Hopefully. 
    Anyway, my ‘interest’ in these films/tv shows has spilled over into my writing, and has led me to write fanfiction (writing using the basic premise and characters of a tv series/movie, for example Harry Potter), and post it on the internet, a interest in which I take far too much delight. Although you may scoff, I insist that fanfiction is not quite the lowest form of writing – this is the part where I drag Freya in, who I know did a brief stint writing fanfic, a very long time ago… 
    Musically, I am passionate about classical music and soundtracks, of which I have far too many to count. For example, as I am writing this I am listening to the soundtrack from Harry Potter 7 part 1 – I do recommend soundtracks as good work music, when you need to be listening to music, but lyrics distracts you. 

    There, I’ll stop before I waffle myself into oblivion – and I thought I had nothing to say…

  12. Jenny says:

    1. What you have enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September – which texts/ characters/ activities/ ideas/ authors
    The two pieces of text that I have enjoyed studying the most this year are ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and ‘Othello’ by William Shakespeare. The better known of the two- Othello, presented an intricate genius in the shape of Iago, the man who is best known for his deceptive ways and ability to manipulate the more trusting characters within the play. Although the complex plot took a while to understand- as there were many love triangles- once I had pieced together every character, I was amazed. William Shakespeare in my eyes was a genius who’s plays and poems are works of art that will allow him to be remembered for following generations to be inspired by literature.
    The lesser known ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is an eerie short story, describing the mental decay of a woman named Jane. The story was so cleverly crafted that it allowed me to feel as though I was also becoming slightly crazy. Through first person narrative, the story makes both the speaker and the reader become trapped and suffocated by what cannot be described more as wallpaper.

    2. Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some) – favourite books, recommended reads for other A-level students…
    I am ashamed to say that I have probably only read a handful of books that would be deemed ‘proper’ by the literature world. However, in light of next year’s texts I have decided to give myself a head start to get a whole book read and have chosen ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ by Thomas Hardy. Before reading the book a few people had commented on Hardy’s uninspiring descriptions that fill a dozen pages at the beginning of each story. After reading this book it appears that they were wrong. Although the opening of the book may have been a little slow, I found it gripping. Yes, there were a couple of pages Hardy used to describe a mountainous landscape, however I found his uses of colour beautiful.
    I would recommend this book to anyone studying English Literature, even if it won’t be in your syllabus next year, Hardy’s literary devices are useful to take note of and you will be able to become absorbed in the story.

    3. Other things cultural – theatre, film, tv, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement
    To anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, I highly recommend either watching or reading ‘War Horse’ by Michael Morpurgo. At first I was a bit skeptical and thought the film would just be about a horse at war, however, I found the whole film compelling! There was laughter and tears from the audience and overall I thought some moments of the film were magical. The bond that was displayed between a horse and its owner was very well shown by the director Steven Spielberg. A definite must see!

  13. Chez says:

    1. What have you enjoyed most on your AS literature course since September?
    I’d have to say studying ‘Othello’ has been the best and worst part of my English AS. I was skeptical of the storyline when I was first introduced to it – it just seemed Iago had a field day and everyone else was too stupid to realize! However, I have been converted. The intensity of Iago’s malice is both appalling and compelling. I have watched a few versions of ‘Othello’ now and every time I find myself trapped. Written almost from a 1st person Iago perspective –he makes me unwittingly his confidant and I take a vested interest in seeing his scheme through to completion. However, against this I cannot help but feel Othello’s desperate torment. When I came to writing my coursework, I discovered interpretations of ‘Othello’ which took the characters from the text and brought them into a reality which I could relate. This journey to today’s society made Shakespeare seem more alive and relevant than ever before- but more than this, allowed for a much deeper empathy. However, the word coursework, we come to the end of the best part of my AS. I found my coursework draft a massive struggle this year, with much higher expectations and, what felt like, much tighter time constraints. I think by the time I had finished it ‘coursework’ and ‘stress’ had become almost synonymous. However, I’m going to put that down to a practicality issue of trying to juggle exams and conclude that ‘Othello’ has been an enjoyable and rewarding venture!

    2.Wider reading.
    I’m going to share with you about a book I read called ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ by Kurt Vonnegut. As the name implies, it isn’t the happiest of books and I’m not even sure if I liked it, however, the reason I’m sharing it is because it had the most interesting and unique style I have ever come across. It’s about an old man, Billy Pilgrim, and his fractured recollections of WW2 –memories often confused with science fiction as we read through the veil of his insanity. The old man believes that Billy is a fictional character – a time traveler who jumps from his war experiences to his current home to his world of madness. Eventually all reality becomes a distorted mix. This book cannot really be explained further without being read. What I will say is that I was more moved by this than any other post-war protest and it is the closest I have come to truly understanding the damaging mental effect the war had on soldiers.

    3.Other things cultural
    In the Friday night of the half term, my brother dragged me along to a production of Peter Pan – in which his friends were starring. Despite a slightly whiney Wendy, the cast were brilliant and I surprisingly enjoyed it. However, it was a long show- so to occupy my mind I decided to try and decipher the authorial intention of the famous story. Looking past the goodie versus baddie theme, I found myself intrigued by the fact Peter Pan never grows up. Wendy and the boys are at first tempted by perpetual childhood but throughout is the repetition of a need for a ‘mother’. At last they embrace reality – with a pang of guilt about their worried family – and return home to become adults. However, Peter never returns but stays in Neverland. As the protagonist, I could not work out why the author would have him refuse reality and responsibility for a selfish existence? We as humans cannot defy the inevitable progress of life. To consolidate this I decided Peter must represent childish innocence and freedom. At the end, as it is decided Wendy can visit Peter from time to time, I took this to mean that we all can return to freedom and fantasy from time to time but must accept the return to reality just the same.

  14. Jordan says:

    1.What you have enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September – which texts/ characters/ activities/ ideas/ authors
    This term I have most definitely enjoyed studying ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ as the use of imagery used by Gilman is so vivid, you’re really drawn into the book. The deep psychological issues within the book that have to be studied deeply may be slightly disturbing but always gets an emotive response from myself every time I read it (yes, I have read it many times). The idea of feminism within the story is rather interesting when compared to ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as we are able to see how social normalities have changed for the modern day woman. No one should be shut away under control of a man who prefers you to be seen and not heard. Furthermore, I have enjoyed studying ‘Othello’ as we also get to see how Iago’s mind works but in a much more tactical way than in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ yet we are still able to follow his thoughts and we are able to look at where the seed fr his idea was planted, and more importantly why.

    2.Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some) – favourite books, recommended reads for other A-level students…
    As childish as this sounds, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime’ has always been one of my favourite books and I still love to read it when I’m stressed. The broken down thoughts of the character of Christopher makes a refreshing change to having to look at all the ambiguity and different themes within the books we read in class. I am also currently reading ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ which as everyone knows is one of Shakespeare’s plays but I am in love with Puck and the twist in the story in which one mistake creates a huge palava and everything goes wrong. After having seen ‘The Woman In Black’ in both the theatre and the cinema, I felt it was time to read the book, so using my newly aquired Kindle, I have downloaded it and I have to say the sinister style in which it is written stirs as much haunting images as it did when I saw it live. I would even say it can be considered more sinister as all the images are created by the imagination and sometimes it can become very vivid.

    3.Other things cultural – theatre, film, tv, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement
    Having recently watched ‘The Woman In Black’ on a romantic singles day on Valentine’s day, I have had to constantly look over my shoulder any time I am near anything which could cause death, just to check there is not a ghost stood behind me watching me. One day, it will happen and I’m sure it will result in a panic attack on my part. As Chez has mentioned above I also went to watch the production of ‘Peter Pan’ and although I do agree with comment about Wendy, I am slightly biased towards loving the actress who played Peter – who happens to be my best friend. I love the story of Peter Pan and to see a production of it (three times! – I was helping back stage) has made me a very happy girl although the ending always leaves me sad as Peter will be alone with Tinkerbell forever 😦 but Peter Pan wants to ‘always to be a little boy and have fun!’ and for him to stick by his decision and not be peer pressured to leaving Neverland can teach everybody in modern day society a lesson and if every book character had the determination to be what they wanted, they may have been happier.

    • Kelly says:

      But Peter loves Wendy! And he’s too cowardly to admit it, so he lives alone in Neverland forever, despite the fact that all his friends have left him. Having been forced to engage with him on a personal level in order to play him, I’ve only just realised how childish a character he really is… ‘Peter Pan’ is different from the average fairy tale as he seems to be the only protagonist who doesn’t grow throughout the story; he appears at first to be a brave and impressive character, but his flaws soon overcome his own drive for happiness and he lives alone, without even the fun of a nemesis to poke with the proverbial stick! It’s pretty tragic really. I feel sorry for Wendy, as she tries to help him find himself and he just pushes her away.
      The film, ‘Hook’ shows how he realises his mistake, too late, and Wendy is old, and has given up waiting. It’s sad. I think this shows how we all need to grow up at some point, and let go of our fantasies… if not, the real rewards to be earned in life will be lost.

  15. Rhys says:

    1) The aspects of the course I have most enjoyed so far would definitely include the poetry of Hardy and Tennyson. Primarily, the enchantment of Tennyson’s poetry for me is in its depiction of the arising doubt of social and religious traditional values, certainties and truths, all of which were cast into question in the Victorian period. Poetry allows for an encapsulation of the desperate attempt to hold onto comforts of tradition in a new age of technology, religious doubt and scientific discovery, and Tennyson’s portrayal of nature as brutal, of a longing for the existence of a God and of a loss of hope results in poetry I couldn’t help but admire, as he perfectly crystallizes turbulent emotions that can still be related to today. Hardy’s poetry intrigued me not through the emotions he describes but through how his different poems show his progression through guilt, anger, denial and finally acceptance of his wife’s death. The theme of loss is one that will never be restricted to one period in history, but is an eternal note of sadness that every person at some point feels, and so Hardy’s elegant poetry to me is a timeless expression of human nature, and in being so is simply captivating.
    2) Without a doubt a play I would recommend from my wider reading would be “A Doll’s House” by Ibson. The highly controversial unseen presentation of a woman believing in her duty to herself over all else, leaving her sham of a marriage and even her children in an effort to figure out for herself what morals, religion, duty and society mean to her is as fascinating now as it was shocking in the Victorian times. It also raises interesting ideas on whether morality should override the law, on the relationships between husband and wife, and on the oppression of women. But trying to choose a favourite book is a much harder decision. A Clockwork Orange is probably one of the most intriguing books I’ve ever read, but for an all-time favourite I’d have to return to my love of fantasy when I was younger, and the book Song in the Silence by Elizabeth Kerner. Embarrassing as this is to post it’s essentially a story of wanderlust, the need to escape mundane life and break out from society and the love that follows, though combined with action and adventure throughout, and an added element you’ll have to read it to figure out! (lame as that is)
    3) Most recent cultural engagement… well, film first, I recently saw The Artist in the cinema, and the dynamism that being in black and white gives to a film is definitely not to be understated. This led me to watching more films from the era The Artist is a throwback to, and so I watched Nosferatu, a silent film about a vampire, though if you wish to be scared, this is certainly not the film you’re looking for. I hope to see one of my favourite films The Princess Bride in the Prince Charles cimena in london soon, which for anybody who enjoys quirky films and not necessarily blockbusters is a cinema definitely worth looking at! Theatre wise I was lucky enough to be on a trip to see James Corden in One Man Two Governors, and musically I hope to see the electronic music artist Anchorsong in london soon. Last weekend I was at the Saatchi art gallery for a selection of German surrealist art, not sure if my mind has still recovered from the oddity of it all, but either way it was certainly different. Finally The Bodleian Library in oxford had illuminated manuscripts from the time of Chaucer on display in an exhibition on literature of romance and chivalry, which while the books were nearly illegibly written in old English was well worth a look in, and was astounding in how it showed just how much the English language has changed over the years.

    • Mrs Taylor says:

      I’m all about the wanderlust Rhys! I am tickled that you mentioned German surrealist art and The Princess Bride in the same post 😉 it will be interesting if any student I teach picks up on your admiration for Hardy; we have recently looked at ‘Beeny Cliff’ about the loss of his wife and it provoked strong opinions – some who felt it very moving and others who felt it was insincere and contrived. Thanks for you interesting comments.

  16. Dominic says:

    Hey everyone, I’ve just been reading the blog entries that are already here and I think I’m prepared enough to make my own. It probably won’t be as long as some of the more formidable entries on here, but I hope that I can show my passion for the subject through this blog!

    What you have enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September – which texts/ characters/ activities/ ideas/ authors:

    We’ve studied a whole range of texts through our AS Literature course, so it’s difficult to pin down my single favourite character or idea, but I enjoyed studying “North and South” by Elizabeth Gaskell, since I feel that the character of Margaret could actually be compared to the modern day reader, since it can be argued that neither her nor a modern reader really understood the struggles and suffering of the Victorian factory workers. In this respect, we can actually use the novel as a historical source to get an idea of what it was like for the mill workers in the north of England during the Victorian period. In some respects, there is still a bit of a North/South divide in Britain today, so it’s possible to look at “North and South” to gain empathy for those struggling that you know little about – whether that be in northern England or somewhere distant like China, the concept can still apply today.
    Another novel that I’ve really enjoyed studying is “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë, simply because of the true sense of madness that can still be appreciated even today – it feels like an entry into the mind of Brontë, which definitely seems like a wild and dangerous place! Continuing on from the idea of using a novel as a historical source, I also found it fascinating to read about a Victorian woman’s idea on complicated themes such as love and death. All this makes for a genuinely interesting novel that I would have considered reading even if it wasn’t part of our AS course!
    Finally, I’ve enjoyed studying the Hardy poetry due to his very interesting take on life and death that made me think more deeply about the world and universe as a whole, particularly his war poems considering the fragility of human life such as “Drummer Hodge”. I never really understood why people could be as fascinated by poetry as they could with novels, but after reading some of Hardy’s work, I’ve started to realise the way that poetry can effectively convey ideas in a meaningful way.

    Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some) – favourite books, recommended reads for other A-level students…:

    I have done some wider reading, although I plan on doing more – quite possibly following the recommendations of some of the novels that I’ve seen written on this blog! Out of the wider reading that I’ve seen, I enjoyed studying “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, since the debate over the morality of artificial life is still going on today, so it’s appealing in that respect. It’s also really interesting to see how the developments of science in Victorian society was having such an effect on people’s thoughts on the future – the way that they were considering the possibility of even forming a living human from dead body parts shows just how confused the Victorians were due to the rapid scientific progress that was occurring at the time. This is also reflected in some of the poetry that we’ve studied in our AS course, such as the work of Tennyson. Frankenstein was a really exciting book that was difficult to put down- it had a great sense of atmosphere that is difficult to find even in modern literature.

    3. Other things cultural – theatre, film, tv, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement:

    I’m lucky enough to be a member of my school’s culture club, which has sent me so far to an opera (Tosca), an orchestra, a play (One Man Two Guvnors) and even a ballet (The Nutcracker)! These have been brilliant trips out, and definitely made a pleasant change from the normal school routine (not that I have anything against the normal school routine, of course!)
    I don’t really watch much TV, and when I do it’s not really anything cultural/educational! I have watched the film interpretation of some of the novels that we’re studying (North and South and Wuthering Heights), which were entertaining – I’m generally not much of a film watcher though; I’ve never seen Star Wars, much to the disgust of my friends!

    Thanks for reading, and for letting us be the trial group of this blog!

    • Mrs Taylor says:

      Thank you for joining us Dominic and sharing your thoughts and ideas -and your shameful confession about Star Wars. I don’t know if Miss Day is a fan of Wuthering Heights? I read it when I was 18 and it was the site of my first literary pilgrimage – up to Haworth to stand on the moors and feel passionate and wild (before returning to a travelodge and a teasmaid). I bought a postcard of the Bronte parsonage which I had bluetacked to my bedroom wall throughout university. Very tragic I am sure. I laughed when reading your comment about the north/south divide and empathising with the poor of the north…or China! What must you think of us yokels in Plymouth?! A super post- thanks for investing such time in it.

  17. Robert says:

    What you have enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September – which texts/ characters/ activities/ ideas/ authors:
    I had heard a lot, mainly from my older brother, about the English Literature AS course and was somewhat excited at expanding my knowledge whilst building on the skill base I had established at GCSE. On the whole I have not been disappointed, other than the occasional moment whilst studying the poetry of Hardy and his less than flattering views on humanity, love and religion. I have particularly enjoyed studying ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte and ‘The Admirable Crichton’ by Barrie. ‘Wuthering Heights’ for its vivid description of the moors, and – typically boyish as it may seem – the violence between Heathcliff, Catherine and Hindley. In ‘The Admirable Crichton’ I was entertained by Barrie’s Satirisation of the upper-class through Lord Loam and also the somewhat simple, but lovable Tweeny.
    Equally, I also enjoyed reading and studying ‘Convergence of the Twain’ by Hardy. The experimental and bold techniques utilised by Hardy in this poem really caught my eye, whilst his imagery relating to life beneath the sea was as vivid as ever. Amongst all of this he was still able to make a strong point to society in his criticism of opulence and unneeded progress whilst highlighting the power of nature. This earned the poem the number three spot on my list of favourite poems, after ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ and ‘Stop All The Clocks’.

    Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some) – favourite books, recommended reads for other A-level students…:
    My wider reading can’t exactly be described as monumental, but I have read one or 2 other books, and am currently tackling another. My favourite piece of wider reading was Oscar Wilde’s only novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. The style of Oscar Wilde in this novel is smooth and luxurious matching its initial surroundings and it is a real shame he did not go on to write more novels, as I greatly enjoyed reading this one. Although the idea of a book being a ‘page-turner’ and one ‘I couldn’t put down’ is horribly cliché, it was in this instance entirely true. Lord Henry continued to amuse and fascinate me throughout the book and I found myself agreeing with his somewhat cynical views much more than I would have hoped. The idea of influence in this novel was particularly engaging, especially as it made me look around in modern life and notice the influence, influence has, on society … if that makes sense! The dark, demonic and criminal sides of the novel were also very noticeable – even more so after watching the film! – and worked well as they contrasted with the opulent and innocent presentation of Dorian and life at the beginning of the novel. Finally, the ending was one that genuinely shocked me, and I feel was a perfect way to end the novel, I shall say no more on this, as I fear it may ruin the plot for you entirely … but Oscar Wilde has written an extremely engaging, entertaining and though provoking novel that I strongly encourage you all to read!

    Other things cultural – theatre, film, TV, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement:
    I recently frequented the local cinema after possibly the biggest Nandos of all time, and despite good company in a bunch of my best mates, really didn’t find ‘Hunger Games’ all that it was cracked up to be. The start was dull, and only reminded me of Communist Russia – not the happiest of times – and the presentation of the ‘Capitol’ was pretty much a rip off of Charlie and the Chocolate factory. In its defence, it did cast a pretty hot main character, and had plenty of fight scenes which just about kept me interested, but I would much rather watch ‘Mean Girls’ again than rush out to see it for another 2 or so hours.
    However, I did very much enjoy many of the Culture Club trips much like Dom, particularly our final trip to see ‘One man two guvnors’ starring the lovable James Corden. Upon entering the theatre my expectations were very high, and, luckily for me this production far exceeded them. I can genuinely say I was crying with laughter. I needn’t say much more, it is hilarious, unfortunately it has flown off to Broadway, so I need to find another play to see, any suggestions would be much appreciated.

  18. Lewis says:

    What you have enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September – which texts/ characters/ activities/ ideas/ authors:
    I’m not going to lie, I enjoyed the GCSE course more than I have enjoyed the AS course so far, although there have been a few gems this year. I very much prefer plays to novels as I enjoy how they are often satirical and mocking of society, whereas novels are really really long and often whilst reading they just becomes words on a page as opposed to an enthralling story. My favourite play this year has been ‘Mrs Warren’s Profession’ by Shaw as it was interesting and reasonably comedic, I did also enjoy ‘The Admirable Crichton’ and the mocking of society that Barrie included so generously, as well as the presentation of Crichton as the protagonist. In terms of poetry, I have enjoyed studying Tennyson and Arnold as I find their more philosophic style interesting as I am also studying R.S A-Level. Thomas Hardy is less enjoyable with his depressing outlook on the world, although I did find ‘The Blinded Bird’ and ‘The Darkling Thrush’ more interesting with the presentation of hope. I found ‘Wuthering Heights’ more enjoyable than ‘North and South’ as Bronte’s presentation of Heathcliff was exciting and reasonable gripping, although I have to admit I think I would call the novel the lesser of two evils as opposed to a good read. Possibly the most enjoyable part of the course was “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti as it brought lots of immature giggles to the class.

    Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some) – favourite books, recommended reads for other A-level students…:
    I suppose I have to be honest and admit that I haven’t partaken in a huge amount of wider reading (honesty is the best policy) although I do plan to do more over the revision period. I enjoyed ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ at the theatre so I plan to re-read it in order to gain quotations and what not for the exam. Also on my to do list is to study some of Oscar Wilde’s short plays (short being the word that captures my attention) and possibly his highly rated novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ of which I have heard positive things from my good friend Robert.

    Other things cultural – theatre, film, TV, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement:
    I do enjoy a good trip to the cinema although my plans for summer have wiped out all my savings so the 6 Pound ticket feels like a stretch for me. My favourite films last year were definitely The Inbetweeners Movie and The Hangover Part II which both left me in tears of laughter, although they don’t particularly relate to the AS course. Recently I ventured to see John Carter 3D which was a very good watch and I got the cool 3D glasses of course… TV and radio is a daily thing for me so hard to pick out only a few things, I listen to Radio 1 every day which is great and the best TV on at the moment has to be One Tree Hill and 90210 and I would recommend celebrity juice as the best programme on TV if you have an immature sense of humour like myself.

  19. Abbie says:

    1.What you have enjoyed studying most on your AS Literature course since September – which texts/ characters/ activities/ ideas/ authors
    I would say that in my opinion, the most enjoyable aspect of this course was, for me, the land poetry as I found the many different interpretations of the poems and the language somewhat intriguing. I found Mushrooms the most enjoyable as it was powerful, however I did not find it emotive.
    I also loved the Yellow Wallpaper and found our narrators descent into complete madness fascinating to follow and debate with our class.

    2.Your wider reading (yes, we hope there has been some) – favourite books, recommended reads for other A-level students…
    First and foremost, if you haven’t, I suggest that you read the Hunger Games. The trilogy are the best books I have ever read, and found impossible to put down, so much so that I finished reading them in around 4 days! I know that many people see the trilogy as another Twilight or something, but there is no comparison.
    I have read over 200 books in my lifetime, and add a new book to that nearly every other week currently. My most recent reads have been the many books published my Sophie Kinsella, and I found these a great read if you love a romcom book or even if you just fancy a change for the normal run of the mill romcom, and Kinsellas writing brings a fresh persepective to the genre.

    3.Other things cultural – theatre, film, tv, music, radio… A round up of your recent cultural engagement
    I regularly go to the cinema, although the genre of film I see rarely changes.
    I will never go and see a thriller/horror/ghost story in the cinema, as I don’t think my sobbing and screaming would be appreciated.
    I went to see The Woman in Black in the theatre a few years ago, and without putting you off, it scarred me for life. I can’t describe how many emotions I went through that night, from pure fear, to laughter, to crying my eyes at when the woman appears.

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