Year 12 Secondary Source wider reading 2016-7

Dear Year 12 contributors, please comment on your secondary source wider reading . Please reference your source so other students can go and read it for themselves.

This type of reading is so important to enrich your understanding and help you develop as independent learners.

Mrs Taylor, Ms Murphy, Mrs Sharp, Miss Burch, Mr Lintell & Mrs Morgan

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This entry was posted in A-level Enrichment, AQA A-level Literature, New AQA A AS Level Literature (from 2015), Wider reading. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Year 12 Secondary Source wider reading 2016-7

  1. Jodie Bradshaw says:

    Why Shakespeare?
    ‘Why Shakespeare’, a question often following a series of groans when an enthusiastic teacher runs through the dreaded …‘old English’ section of the specification. This was explored in a critical and objective article by Andrew McCulloch, which I will outline below:

    It’s not quite limited to our patriotic pride in a literary genius walking on the same grounds we call ‘home’. Some argue it is the aesthetic appeal of his prose, playing on our heart strings with Romeo and Juliet’s shared sonnet, engaging us in a superior form of literature. Often, though complicated, readers can empathise with the characters, who endure drama which even resembles everyday modern life. They are also described by Samuel Johnson as ‘models of human behaviour’, three-dimensional in their referral to emotions when acting impulsively, forming a mirror image for how many of us would instinctively react. Harold Bloom supports this, deeming the work as an ‘insight into humanity that reality could never provide’, simplifying the incomprehensible, which he appears to have grasped. The same critique advances in this ideology in claiming Shakespeare has ‘created [some elements of] human nature’ in his ‘art’. He goes on to explain this with ‘he has…invented our understanding of human personality’. Overall, many feel deeply in-touch with the very real feelings expressed through his fables.

    For others, it is a political appeal as this revolutionary thinker continues to challenge society’s tendency to lean on a false appeal to tradition. According to cultural materialists, Shakespeare has become ‘woven’ ‘into our cultural fabric’. Likewise Jonathan Bate describes him as an ‘apologist for order and hierarchy’ as seen in the 1990s ‘political annexation of Shakespeare by the Tory right’. However, Shakespeare has been manipulatively used for individual political ends. This is seen in Bate’s secondary example: politician Michael Portillo’s quote from Shakespeare ‘Take but degree away, untune that string, / And hark what discord follows’ was used in order to support his claim that society can only be held together by authority and social order. Yet, what this Conservative used for his personal agenda was undermined by the content of Troilus and Cressida as Ulysses presents parallel behaviour as she goads Anchilles back onto the battlefield. Seemingly, Shakespeare’s political rhetoric can out-manoeuvre this exploitation of his work, even from beyond the grave.

    Then there’s the application of Shakespeare’s texts to warrior virtues, which begs the question ‘Why Shakespeare?’ once more. This was an issue as recently as during the 2003 Iraq war when American soldiers ironically received copies of Nicholas Hynter’s play of the work by the US Defence Department. The producer responded in an interview ‘presumably they were expected to skip the brutality, the squalor and the war crimes and go straight to the King’s famous rallying cries’, conforming to the common consensus between Shakespeare readers that to use his work as pro-war propaganda is to misunderstand the problems with military leadership it is associated with. As McCulloh summarises: ‘to argue that this represents Shakespeare’s core beliefs more accurately than his recognition of the need for political cunning and the occasional personal betrayal in the interests of national stability would be to ignore the intellectual wholeness of Shakespeare’s grasp of any subject’.

    Moreover, Shakespeare was a dramatic shift from the classical form of prose, rivalling it with national literature. Overall, his radical texts appear to have foreshadowed the future, allowing modern readers to feast on his forward-thinking.

    On the other hand, Johnson argues favourably that Shakespeare ‘assert[s] British cultural supremacy’. It is their political and cultural contexts that disputably led to Shakespeare’s success. He claims it is not a matter of Shakespeare being the ‘best’, as traditionalist may argue, but because of ‘his use as ‘cultural ammunition’ in periods of international conflict or British imperial expansion’. Such critics disagree with thinkers like Jonhson and Bloom with identifying Shakespeare’s work as speaking out universally. They claim there are ‘differences of class, gender and education’ denying the accessibility of his work. Accordingly, certain groups in society are said to ‘interpret and edit the texts to suit their own ends’. The essential message of this is that the aforementioned classroom groans are not limited to young students, in a broad sense many others are not captivated by Shakespeare as may be publicly assumed.

    Indeed, the most obvious appeal is stated by Samuel Taylor Colergide; Shakespeare deservedly evokes awe from us through his vivid use of imagination and wit in his writing. He utilises these tools to make ‘one image or feeling…modify many others and by a sort of fusion to force many into one’. In turn, it is the uniqueness of the plays that engages us the most.

    So whether Shakespeare gained his reputation through aesthetic appeal or convenient political references to his work, he ultimately allows us to explore the human character in immense detail. In the same way Othello is ‘far more fair than black’; a mixture, none of Shakespeare’s characters are plainly black and white.

  2. Maddi Higginson says:

    Leah Scragg-Discovering Shakespeare’s Meaning-An introduction to the study of Shakespeare’s dramatic structures

    Pg 30-60
    This is a short summary of the chapter:
    The chapter I read had a specific focus on imagery used in Shakespeare’s plays. It discussed that imagery can be used to create atmosphere, suggest attitudes or define the world the play is set in. There is figurative or literal imagery. Literal gives you a visual impression of a location or an object e.g. if a garden was described using imagery, and figurative is where an object or state is described in terms of another e.g. describing the coming of day as a man walking across a hill. The chapter also notes that emblems and symbols are also important in Renaissance drama. An emblem is a picture (or combination of picture and motto) that conveys an abstract idea, and is a type of symbol. A symbol takes one object or concept and suggests another with it e.g. the sea representing a journey. Shakespeare uses lots of figurative language to bring his relatively bare stage to life with colour, scenery and changes of light. The dramatic language he uses is to convey setting in the world of the play (location of a scene or of the play world in general), reveal deeper meanings, atmosphere, events, or to define characters-and also represent them as more than they appear i.e. a character can be a symbol of something and use them to show themes and interactions between concepts. The chapter also puts emphasis on the importance of linking the action on stage with imagery, as each gives meaning to the other for the play and audience.

    Some examples of imagery with AO4 links mentioned in the chapter:
    • The wicked daughters in King Lear are compared with animals to suggest both their violence and degeneracy. They are described as ‘Tigers, not daughters’. This could be linked with Othello when Iago compares him to animals e.g. Barbary horse.
    • Imagery could also be used to imply supernatural features within characters. For example, in Antony and Cleopatra, superhuman qualities are implied as Cleopatra describes Antony (who’s dead) like a god-like figure using similes and metaphors defining him in relation to the cosmos and seasons of the year: Cleopatra “his face was as the heavens, and therein stuck/A sun and moon, which kept their course, and lighted/The little O, the earth”. This could possibly be linked to Othello in the way that Desdemona is described in an idolatry way by other characters. For example Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 68-73, as Cassio speaks of Desdemona being able to influence nature so she can arrive safely on the island.
    • Imagery can also be used to foreshadow events. For example, in King Richard ‘See, see, King Richard doth himself appear/As doth the blushing discontented sun/From out the fiery portal of the East/When he perceives the envious clouds are bent/To dim his glory and to stain the track/Of his bright passage to the occident’. This imagery is used to anticipate the movement of the remainder of the scene-the sun is obscured by clouds as the kings glory can be dimmed by envious nobles. This can be linked to Othello when foreshadowing is also used within the play, for example the storm.

    Key notes on Othello to do with imagery mentioned in the chapter:
    • Dark and light imagery is important in Othello
    • Particularly in Act 1, images of the opposition of dark and light imagery are used, with speakers reinforcing this motif throughout e.g. (1.1) Iago calls to Brabantio ‘an old black ram/is tupping your white ewe:’.
    • The idea of this imagery is important in Act 1 as it supports many subsequent things:
    o It is important in conveying to the audience that the scene is taking place at night (accompanied by dialogue and the actors), and that this darkness is representative of the encroachment of hell onto the play world. This is shown many times, for example on line 140 Brabantio calling for candles (tapers) implying he can’t see, or Iagos cries of ‘thieves’ or injunction ‘awake’ before Brabantio appears, implying he has been asleep and not about his daily business.

    o The establishment of this darkness (and the repeated use of dark and light imagery) is important for Othello’s entrance with Iago as it associates him with the darkness and therefore the encroachment of hell onto the world.

    o Linking to this, imagery helps to portray Othello as the devil as when Brabantio and his attendants enter, the situation escalates to almost a riot in torchlight. The devil was frequently depicted as a grotesque black man, surrounded by leaping flames and one who would carry off souls-who would be females-as Othello has apparently carried off Desdemona.

    o This image of Othello as the devil is important to the play as a whole and its impact on the audience. It sucks the audience into mistaking appearance for reality, as they show black to be evil (described above) and white (Iago) to be good. However, it is actually Iago that speaks evilly and Othello admirably and powerfully, therefore setting the audience to reject the stereotypes that have been offered in the play, to reserve them.

  3. Merryn says:

    Spanish Othello- By Barbara Everett
    Summary:
    Everett explores the connection within ‘Othello’ to Spain, including the names of Shakespeare’s characters, Othello’s heritage, Elizabethan associations with Spain, and comedy in ‘Othello’.

    Key points:
    • Shakespeare’s Othello is likely to be based in a Spanish play by Cintheo, which is called ‘Moor in Venice’ (translated!). ‘we assume he read it… immediately before he began to write his own tragedy’ ‘it was the subject of the… displaced moor… fused together rich and diverse potentialities within the dramatists (Shakespeare’s) and, called his nee tragedy into being’
    • Roderigo and Iago are Spanish names. Why? ‘Roderigo has a Spanish name… because Iago has’. Why then does Iago have a Spanish name? Iago translates as James- this could have two important reasons. James was King of England at the time, and was also Shakespeare’s patron- which does not explain why he wanted or was allowed to create this association. However, Iago- or rather Santiago was the patron saint of Spain at the time and was ‘commonly known in Spain as… St James the Moor-Killer’. ‘it is possible that if Roderigo came into the play because of Iago then Iago came into the play because of Othello- the Moor Killer along with the Moor’ ‘Shakespeare’s audience remembered what we have long forgot’
    • The Spanish armada lead to a ‘Spanish name sounding very different to Elizabethan ears then to our own’
    • Many Moors lived in Spain at the time however they were oppressed by the Spanish leaders, and were rebelling. England became ‘a political asylum for refugee Moors from Spain’ and ‘these refugees would not have been anything we would recognize as black’ – so Shakespeare’s audiences would have visualised Othello differently. ‘ There can have been very little difference between a dark-skinned Spaniard, and an olive skinned Moor’
    • Moors fought with the Spaniards as they tried to retain their cultural identity. Shakespeare would have seen Othello as ‘a member of a more interesting and permanent people: the race of the displaced and dispossessed’ ‘he is one of the strangers who does not belong where they once ruled’. But Roderigo and Iago ( as Spaniards themselves) would see Othello as a ‘civilized barbarian of fierce repressed lusts’
    • ‘Shakespeare utilized some of the forms of previous comedy borrowing scenic structures from ‘much ado about nothing’ and ‘merry wives of Windsor’. But ‘what makes Othello’s ‘spanishness’ of strikingly relevant is that in Italian learned comedy the ‘baggart solider’ (cuckolded husband) had a national type – a Spanish solider’.

    Key AO3- Literary contexts:
    • Elizabethan experience of Moors would be limited- but those that came as refugees from Spain would influence understanding- and these Moors would not have been that dark
    • Shakespeare’s contemporary audience would have been aware about the oppression of Moors in Spain because of political interests
    • The Spanish Armada influenced negative perceptions of the Spanish- for trying to invade Briton and failing

    Key AO5 phrases- critical analysis:
    • ‘in Othello the Moor is a mixture of black and tawny; negro and Arab. He is almost any colour one pleases as long as it permits his isolation and destruction by his enemies and himself’
    • ‘a play that is often treated as a simple love tragedy, is in fact impregnated with the subject of power and social hierarchies. These possibilities opened up to Shakespeare, I believe, as soon as he envisaged Othello as some kind of Spaniard’
    • ‘ it is fact that Othello contains devices that seem a distant disturbing ironical echo of braggart conventions which such trivial comedies exemplify’

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