Flowers and fancies in Shakespeare

We all know if we ask for symbols of love, the rose is high up the list. Floriography – studying the meaning of flowers – has more or less dropped out of English custom. We might occasionally hear that lilies are better for funerals, but most of us don’t attach much symbolic meaning when our loved ones show up with a bouquet. Pre-twentieth century though it’s a different story. Victorians wrote whole handbooks on the meanings of flowers and dedicated time to deciphering the hidden messages of a buttonhole. Flowers in paintings back to the medieval period were also loaded …

How to write comparison essays in an exam

When you start writing essays this seems really complicated, but breaking it down can help. Remember these two simple facts: 1. Comparison means similarities and differences 2. Comparison means there has to be some link or connection The similarity, specifically literature and English Language, can be either technical – looking at a way of writing, for example a specific use of metaphor – or thematic – the way a similar idea is represented. Ideally the comparison is knitted together, so interwoven that you can’t pull one text apart from the other. That’s the ideal, but there are some ways to …

Planning comparison essays for GCSE and A Level

One of the most difficult skills to do well is, I think, comparison, and it’s often what distinguishes really good writers – the ability to hold both texts together and weigh them against one another. This post explores some ways to plan a comparative answer – before you’re in the exam hall! I actually think the A-Level style of questions works better to prompt good, focused comparison – so let’s compare the two: GCSE: Explore the way Browning presents painful relationships in ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and one other poem from the Relationships cluster. A-Level: Dystopian writing often portrays a bleak future …

Revision tips plus guidance booklet to download

Re-read the set texts For some this is the longest bit! Re-read them, peeferably in full study mode making notes and annotations as you go. if you need to use some of the audio books – you can find most of the set texts on youtube or the BBC (radio 4 on the iplayer can be helpful!) and have someone read to you. Get your books in order They’re the best revision guide you can have. Go through, make sure your notes are thorough and detailed, you’ve filled any blanks and know what you were doing! Try highlighting the page …

How to memorise quotes for English Literature exams

Download this post as a pdf Go through your exercise book and gather quotes It’s the best revision resource you have! Look back through your notes and essays. Make a list of the quotes you’ve used often – there’s a reason you keep coming back to them. Little and often Choose five or six at a time to work on. Trying to memorize too many will be difficult and you’re likely to get them mixed up. You won’t be able to learn 100 quotes in an afternoon – so start early, choose your list, and work through them gradually. Keep …

Appropriation of Language in dystopian fiction

As an English teacher – and student, still, I think! – I love novels that engage with the idea of language itself. For me, literature’s how we enter and understand the world, and dystopian novels often bring that to the forefront. They explore communication, memory, story-telling, and the way that language works to soothe, manipulate, warn, and memorialise. In particular, I’ve been studying The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984 with A-Level students, and both novels have some interesting discussions about language’s role in our society. World-building Setting a novel in the future, as many speculative fictions do, language is a good …