Example Close Reading or Critical Analysis of The Little Match Girl

Close reading or critical analysis is a key skill in reading but how do we do it? Students often ask for examples so here goes … a simple example of how to do a close reading of a text. The … Read More

How can I work out what Romantic poetry means? Help!

Getting to Grips with Romantic Poetry: What are Wordsworth and Coleridge saying and how can we work it out? I had a lovely email from a clearly hard-working and enthusiastic A’ level student in the UK who is studying Romantic … Read More

Othello Lecture: storms, star crossed lovers & that handkerchief!

Idealistic lovers from different backgrounds, scheming politicians. What could go wrong? Here’s a clue: it involves a handkerchief. I’ve just tidied up an old lecture on Othello, which I’ve published in the hope that it might help some of you … Read More

How do I write an essay on Macbeth as Hero?

How do we approach essay questions when we feel stuck? Trying to launch into writing an essay from a blank page or screen is always going to be difficult because you have no foundation or building blocks to start with. … Read More

Exam Myths

Bullet Points If I run out of time it’s ok – I can just write lots of bullet points and the examiner will take out the bits that are relevant and give me good marks. If you have had a … Read More

What is ‘Textual Analysis’ or ‘Close Reading’?

So your lecturer has asked you for a ‘close analysis’ of a piece of text. You have no idea what that means. What do you do? Panic. Not good – panic breeds paralysis and you no doubt have a deadline. … Read More

Student Problems: ‘I’m lost and the set texts make it worse’

‘I don’t really know what’s relevant – I just get lost and the set texts don’t help because they’re too complicated’. There are two issues here: you find the set texts difficult to read and you’re not sure how to … Read More

Student Problems: ‘I can’t cope with big books!’

“I’m hitting a text wall – I read a page over and over and the words just swim in front of me – nothing goes in.” Sounds like you’re having to mark too many exam scripts 🙂 . I’m tempted … Read More

What is Plagiarism & Why is it Bad?

What is Plagiarism? Plagiarism is the deliberate unacknowledged use of someone’s else’s material ie passing off someone else’s ideas as your own. That’s why we have referencing systems 🙂 . Plagiarism is NOT repeating a point that your lecturer made … Read More

What is the difference between tutorials, seminars and lectures?

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A tutorial is where you meet a lecturer either for a one-to-one session or as a small group, usually either in the lecturer’s office or a seminar room. You will probably have to read something to prepare for the tutorial … Read More

How to Cope With Exams: Preparation and Survival Tools

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It’s spring, which means that lambs are running happily around the fields (in my area at least) and students are running around in desperation worrying about how to face the coming exams. The good news is that you still have … Read More

Women and the Eighteenth-Century Novel

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The eighteenth-century canon is still largely dominated by male writers but researchers have shown increasing interest since the 1980s in eighteenth-century women not only as readers but as writers. My students are often surprised to learn that freedom of speech … Read More

Gulliver & 18thc Europeans as ‘pernicious odious vermin’!

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Swift was a humanitarian, deeply concerned with the political issues of his day and practically involved in supporting the poor and fighting for change. Gulliver’s Travels, much loved by children for its fantastical figures, tells us much about the political … Read More

Devon Council To Ban the Apostrophe?

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No, it’s not April Fools’ Day… Extract from The Huffington Post: Councillors in Devon are considering banning apostrophes from their street signs because of the “potential confusion” the punctuation causes… Council communications manager Andrew Lacey said: “Our proposed policy on … Read More

Who was Petrarch?

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Who was Petrarch and why do lecturers in English Literature talk so much about him? Petrarch is a particularly important figure in Renaissance culture. Campbell argues that ‘Petrarch was responsible for the idea of romantic love which was celebrated in … Read More

What was the ‘Renaissance’?

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Students are often rather put off by the term ‘Renaissance’, yet surprised to find themselves becoming fans of Elizabeth I and enjoying Renaissance literature in spite of the language… Stick with it guys. I don’t know who told you that … Read More

Richardson, Aubin & rape in 18thc novels

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Taken from my essay, ‘”Minerva’s favourite Sholar”: Penelope Aubin Reconsidered’ – full text available here. Bizarrely, the terms ‘rape’ and ‘seduction’ are often used pretty much interchangeably in eighteenth-century writings. Women were often accused of passive consent in rape cases, … Read More

Should I use journal articles for undergraduate study?

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Journals are excellent sources for up to date research but on a practical level they are usually highly specialised, with a natural focus on research rather than teaching and are written with academics rather than students in mind. The language … Read More

18thc ‘Judge Thumb’ and Current Domestic Violence Debates

New domestic violence legislation is being debated in the UK at the moment. In 1782 Sir Francis Buller, later known as ‘Judge Thumb’, ruled famously (I should say infamously) that a husband could beat his wife if the stick was … Read More