Sunday, 12 June 2011

Final advice for the prose question in for Edexcel's Unit3 Exam

The texts we studied were: Captain Corelli's Mandolin, The Great Gatsby and, to a much lesser extent, Rapture.

Remember, that the weighting of marks are for the last two assessment objectives:

AO1 - 10
AO2 - 10
AO3 - 20
AO4 - 20

Do not go for the blunderbuss approach by trying to write about everything. You would be much better selecting chapters and then passages from those chapters for comparing and contrasting these texts around the theme of "Relationships." Remember that the theme isn't simply "Relationships" but it is "Relationships which confront readers with powerful emotions." This last part should be your clue to reading the question(s) carefully and finding chapters or passages which enable you to do just that! The chapters can be short.  And you can choose passages within your chosen chapters. There's nothing wrong in choosing a letter by Carlo or even the poem at the beginning of the novel, if it fits what you need to write about.

You could also briefly justify your choices by referring to particular events how they affect characters, etc. in the novels, poems.

Whatever you do BE RELEVANT. Tie your points every time to the question's key words or phrases.

There is nothing to stop you ranging across the texts for your quotations but when you use focussed pieces of text, of say several paragraphs, you will something meaty to discuss. It is far easier to discuss the writer's method's (AO2) when you are focussing on a passage from a chapter. Then, you can discuss the question's key words and phrases with the text's form, viewpoint, imagery, language, symbolism, lexis, etc AND then develop your points using the POINT - EVIDENCE - ANALYSIS/COMMENT method. In some analysis/comments you may be able to discuss how OTHER READERS might interpret the passage; in other ANALYSIS/COMMENTs you may be able to write about HISTORICAL CONTEXTS; sometimes you may even be to put both together and examine how modern readers might read/interpret your chosen passages.

Modern Readings of the Texts - over time (AO4)

When The Great Gatsby was published around 1925 only the most perceptive readers would have seen excessive consumerism for what it was: deadening, leading the cynicism. Newspaper reviews when the novel came out were lukewarm, at best. The novel didn't sell and the Great Crash and Depression which followed were still years away. Readers in our time might draw parallels with the run-up to the crash in 2008, when house prices and the stock market rose and along with it conspicuous consumption. There are fewer stories around now of city slickers spending £300 a bottle on champagne and burning cash in restaurants.
But our coming depression may be even greater than that witnessed in the 1930s.  Modern feminist readers will draw their own conclusions over the representation of women in Fitzgerald's text.

Serbia apologises for the Srebrenica massacre

Captain Corelli's Mandolin (1993)
Time hasn't simply moved on since this novel was published: the world has changed utterly since. The reason the Italians and their "whores" were massacred in the novel was because no one saw fit to intervene. The western powers did not want to lose anyone in coming to the rescue of up to 10,000 Italians who, only a little while before, were on the opposing side. If you go to the Cephalonia today there is a never ending stream of Italian visitors who drive up to the hill-top memorial of their compatriots. A similar massacre took of Bosnian Muslims by Serbs less than two years after the novel was published in 1995, Srebrenica_massacre . Many of the town's women were raped and the the little Dutch force of "peace-keeper" were ineffective. Everyone in the West knew that when this enclave was overrun by the Serb this would atrocity would happen. But the West let it happen because it did not have the will do DO anything about it. No one wanted to risk their soldiers lives for ethnic muslims in Bosnian. Today one of the main perpetrators, the Serb commander Ratko_Mladić has only recently been caught and sent for trial to the Hague, ironically, part of Holland.

After 9-11 the West lost its taste for non interference around the world and losing soldiers and was less likely to allow people to be massacred. Earlier, during this Arab Spring, the people of Benghazi faced being massacred by Colonel Gaddafi's forces. Readers of de Bernieres novel today would bring these experiences to their reading, if they were informed about events around them today.

There's so much more but no time to discuss it all. For instance, de Berneries and Carol Ann Duffy's representation of gay love would have been impossible before the 1990s. Even so, some think that de Bernieres's representation of Carlo in some respects is somewhat stereotypical.

For AO4 the Greek and Roman literary contexts for De Berniere's and Fitzgerald's texts should be meat and drink for comments on passages from the texts where they are significant. I'll upload my recent handout on these contexts tomorrow.

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About Me

I teach Film, Media and English Lit.