EnglishReadings podcasts are now also available on iTunes.
Category Archives: Education
A personal memoir of a modern British poet, Ken Smith (1938-2013)
How about these first year exam questions?
If you think first year exams are daunting, how about this? From 1974.
FIRST YEAR ENGLISH LITERATURE, Paper II: Renaissance Drama, Leeds University 1974.
Time allowed: 3 hours.
- Either: (a) The idea of time seems to be very important in Shakespeare’s last plays. Describe the presentation of this idea, and indicate the nature and effect of its operation. You may, if you wish, restrict your answer to any one play.
Or: (b) ‘Her [Nature’s] World is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden.’ (SIR PHILIP SIDNEY). In what ways might this comment be applied to the works of the English Renaissance dramatists? Discuss at least two dramatists.
Or: (c) Outline the features which, in your view, are characteristic of Shakespeare’s ‘Romances’.
- Either: (a) ‘The progress of the minds of the central figures towards deeper and deeper self-knowledge, the approach to the impenetrable mystery of fate perceived in the moments of intensest suffering and action, which are also the moments of clearest insight.’ (ELLIS-FERMOR). Illustrate and discuss this aspect of The Duchess of Malfi.
Or: (b) Examine, with reference to Hamlet or to The Revenger’s Tragedy, the ways in which imagery and symbolism are used to create, and sustain, a particular tragic mood.
Or: (c) What are the features which commonly distinguish the Tragedy from the Revenge Play?
Four Victorian Thinkers In Three Minutes, Microlecture
The latest upload to my English Readings channel on YouTube:
Reading list for my Edwardian Lit students, 2nd semester
READING LIST FOR MICHAEL’S GROUPS, ENL1013M, 2018
These are the main texts we will be dealing with (not necessarily in this order) so please make sure you have obtained copies and read them in advance. A schedule of the seminars will be released shortly on Blackboard.
The Hound of the Baskervilles, Conan Doyle
King Solomon’s Mines, Rider Haggard
Dracula, Bram Stoker
The War of the Worlds, H G Wells
Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K Jerome
The Diary of a Nobody, George and Weedon Grossmith
Peter Pan, J M Barrie
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
The Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen (in the Dover Thrift edition)
Poems: “Convergence of the Twain” by Thomas Hardy; “Cargoes” by John Masefield
The following short podcasts are available on YouTube: “Dracula As The Jew”; “Peter Pan And The Mother Lode”; Three Men In A Boat: A Microlecture”; “An Air That Kills: Housman’s Blue Remembered Hills”; “Dowson’s Cynara: A Microlecture”. These are at English Readings: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYJz11iRqn9CJMh4Zr7DLlA
Melvyn Bragg and others discussing the sensation novel
For students interested in the 19 century sensation novel, here’s a discussion by Melvyn Bragg and others.
“Analogy” – a poem by Brian Higgins, read by Michael Blackburn
Brian Higgins (1930 – 1965) is now forgotten as a poet but published three collections of poetry during his lifetime. This poem, “Analogy” comes from his second, Notes While Travelling (Longmans, London, 1964).
His first collection, The Only Need, was published by Abeland-Schuman (New York – London – Toronto) in 1960, and the final one (posthumously), The Northern Fiddler, by Methuen (London) in 1966. His death was ascribed to a ”rare heart condition”.
More on Higgins available on Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Higgins_(poet)
The portrait of Higgins is by Patrick Swift and is used courtesy of Wikipedia.
“Nostalgia” (aka “The Iron Music”) by Ford Madox Ford, read by Michael Blackburn
Ford Madox Ford, 1873 – 1939.
Best known as the author of such novels as The Good Soldier and No More Parades, Ford was also an accomplished modernist poet. He enlisted with the Welch Regiment in 1915 at the age of 41, served at the front and was wounded. “Nostalgia” (with the alternative title, “The Iron Music”) is one of a number of poems that take their rise from his experiences of the Great War.
Image of Ford c/o The Ford Madox Ford Society (http://www.fordmadoxfordsociety.org).
The text is taken from Ford Madox Ford: Selected Poems, edited with an introduction by Max Saunders, published by Carcanet Press, 2003.
Second podcast on Tennyson’s “Ulysses”: its Dantean origin.
This is the second of my podcasts on Tennyson’s poem, “Ulysses”, this time looking at its origins in Dante.
Towards the gulag, one vote at a time.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzheitsyn.
Solzhenitsyn’s short masterpiece should be essential reading for all young people. It’s a reminder (or perhaps the first encounter for some) of the horrors of communism in the Soviet Union. Socialism, communism, Marxism, whatever you want to call it, ends inevitably in labour and death camps or in complete social collapse, as is happening now in Venezuela.
Here’s the blurb from Penguin Books about One Day…
Bringing into harsh focus the daily struggle for existence in a Soviet gulag, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is translated by Ralph Parker in Penguin Modern Classics.
This brutal, shattering glimpse of the fate of millions of Russians under Stalin shook Russia and shocked the world when it first appeared. Discover the importance of a piece of bread or an extra bowl of soup, the incredible luxury of a book, the ingenious possibilities of a nail, a piece of string or a single match in a world where survival is all. Here safety, warmth and food are the first objectives. Reading it, you enter a world of incarceration, brutality, hard manual labour and freezing cold – and participate in the struggle of men to survive both the terrible rigours of nature and the inhumanity of the system that defines their conditions of life.
Though twice-decorated for his service at the front during the Second World War, Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) was arrested in 1945 for making derogatory remarks about Stalin, and sent to a series of brutal Soviet labour camps in the Arctic Circle, where he remained for eight years. Released after Stalin’s death, he worked as a teacher, publishing his novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich with the approval of Nikita Khrushchev in 1962, to huge success. His 1967 novel Cancer Ward, as well as his magnum opus The Gulag Archipelago, were not as well-received by Soviet authorities, and not long after being awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970, Solzhenitsyn was deported from the USSR. In 1994, after twenty years in exile, Solzhenitsyn made his long-awaited return to Russia.
If you enjoyed One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, you might also like Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, available in Penguin Classics.
‘It is a blow struck for human freedom all over the world … and it is gloriously readable’
For a more detailed and more gruelling read, there’s The Gulag Archipelago, also by Solzhenitsyn.