Hillcroft LRC

Posts Tagged ‘English literature

We’ve got many keen women who are students of literature and budding creative writers. One piece of advice given to writers looking to improve their wordcraft is to read as widely as possible. Reading and writing go hand-in-hand, which is why magazines like Mslexia are so vital to bring together women with creative energy to learn from each other.

So how do writers achieve the effect of creating imaginative scenes, characters and worlds? This TEDEd video by Nalo Hopkinson suggests that good writers play with language to evoke our senses. From Shakespeare to Angela Carter, there are certain literary devices such as alliteration, imagery and tone which combine to build a multi-layered story full of movement, sound, taste, sight and smell. You could probably give me some examples.

If you are new to creative writing a good book to read is ‘Experiencing Poetry‘ series. In these short books, they describe famous poets’ use of language simply and get you thinking about how to put into words what seems impossible to say.

"Well-behaved women seldom make history"I’ve been watching the BBC’s ‘Versailles’ series on iPlayer which has lead me to Google whether it or not some things actually happened or were dramatised versions of events. Changing history. Humanity likes to gloss over the past or adjust it to make it more palatable or suit the agenda of the present (in ‘Versailles’ case – to entertain). This happens most famously in George Orwell‘s 1984 on an industrial scale:

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” – George Orwell, ‘1984’.

Women have been left out of much of history (and quotations). Things are changing as there are more books and articles written by and focusing on women who have changed the world. That’s why first-hand accounts and primary sources are so vital for historians to re-examine the past.

Here’s an authoritative list of history websites compiled by Oxford Quick Reference to accompany the Oxford Dictionary of World History:

http://www.oxfordreference.com/page/worldhist

You’ll also find women feature prominently in our print biographies and main collection.

Don’t discount your skills in investigating inaccuracies and overlooked facts and figures – they are not confined to the classroom. It is more important to use your critical thinking skills in everyday life, in reading the news and participating in society. Seeing connections, questioning potential bias, probing the facts and respecting evidence. Women can change history in a good way starting with you and me.

Shakespeare and theatreSaturday 23 April marks 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare. We’ve been adding new material to our reference section to compliment the bard covering not only Shakespeare himself but his plays, sonnets and the theatre.

To start off we have William Shakespeare: a Very Short Introduction by Stanley Wells which is one from our favourite Oxford University Press series. It’s a great introduction to Shakespeare’s life, work and the different types of plays he wrote from comedies to tragicomedies and tragedies. Next we have The Shakespeare Book edited by Satu Fox. This one is a Dorling Kindersley book listing each play with a plot summary, a timeline outlining the key parts of the plot and dramatis personae (list of characters) and an ‘in Context’ section exploring themes, origins of the material and the impact of the play. The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare by Michael Dobson and Stanley Wells is an alphabetical listing of the plays and characters, themes, plots and famous actors who played the roles. Lastly The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare By Albert F Kinney is for the more serious student of Shakespeare and holds chapters dedicated to issues in Shakespearean studies from the versions of the text, to interpretation of the works, issues within them and transfer of the material from stage to film and television.

You cannot study Shakespeare without looking at theatre so we have Theatre: a Very Short Introduction by Marvin Carlson to help you put the history plays and others into context. In addition we have the Oxford Guide to Plays by Michael Patterson which acts like a dictionary listing the plays alphabetically. Each entry summarises the plot, gives you the playwright’s name, when it was written, when and where it was first performed, categorises them by genre and tells you when and where it is set. There is also an index of playwrights and characters. Last but not least the Oxford Dictionary of Plays by Michael Patterson lists plays from around the world alphabetically and organises them by country and historical period. Basically a larger version of Oxford Guide to Plays.

There is a special Saturday night on television  Shakespeare Live! From the RSC on 23 April at 2030 which will be available on the iPlayer after the broadcast. A host of stars perform snippets from Shakespeare. Find out more on the BBC Shakespeare Special page about other programmes celebrating the anniversary.

Interested in studying more about Shakespeare? How about joining one of these Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) I found on the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s website. If you don’t fancy that there’s a free exhibition of primary sources you can examine on Shakespeare Documented. Great for students and teachers!

 

Jean Rhys and Charlotte Bronte Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre DVD book and audio CDThis week our Access to Higher Education Humanities and Social Sciences students have started reading Jean Rhys’s novel the Wide Sargasso Sea. One of the students was asking me if there are any online literary criticism notes to help with novel. There are two free online from Shmoop and Spark Notes. We have a paper copy of Carl Plasa’s Jean Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea in the Learning Resources Centre for students to borrow too.

Many of our students also find it useful to watch a DVD version of novels and plays they study. We have the Wide Sargasso Sea directed by Brendan Maher which was originally broadcast on BBC television. In addition there is a recording of a BBC Radio 3 broadcast from the 17 January 2016 which you can listen to on BBC iPlayer called the Sunday Feature, Literary Pursuits, Jean Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea which uncovers the story behind the novel.

Our students read Rhys’s novel in tandem with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Take a look at our 24 February blog post for more links on Jane Eyre material to match. Plus as this year marks the bicentenary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth there is the BBC programme Being the Brontës which was broadcast over Easter which you can rewind on the BBC iPlayer.

 

Feminist writersDid you know that BBC Radio 4 are running a season on feminist writing from the 1970s to the present day? It’s called Riot Girls.

You can catch up with broadcasts on BBC iPlayer.

The season includes Fay Weldon’s The Lives and Loves of a She Devil. The next episode is 2100 on Saturday 27 February. There is a set of 3 plays called Katy charting the feminist movement across three generations of women. Plus there’s Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying which is running in 5 episodes examining a young woman’s sexual liberation which was published in 1973. The next episode is today at 1945.

This year is the bicentenary of Charlotte Bronte’s birth. For our Access to Higher Education Humanities and Social Science students Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre in the Fifteen Minute Drama slot will be broadcasting on Radio 4 next week at 1045.  There’s a In Our Time episode on Jane Eyre on BBC iPlayer too. Our learners compare Bronte’s novel with Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea. Spark Notes gives you a summary of the plot and analyses themes and characters. As it does for Jane Eyre too.

Snowy Winter Road in a Forest (Hanacek)This time of year the decorations and festivities brighten the coming of the longest night. It feels merrily bleak. Oxymoronic perhaps, but you may agree. A good time to cosy up with a book or poem that in the summer just wouldn’t have the same effect. An atmospheric poem set in the winter that is very famous is ‘Stopping by woods on a snowy evening‘ by Robert Frost. The repetition of the last line is particularly spooky. Is the narrator just standing there being seduced by the snow or are they continuing on their journey? This article on the The Paris Review blog points out how unusual it is for a poem to be famous in a time when poetry is often thought of as old-fashioned and out-of-touch. What do you think? Are poems just for English class?

If you like poems, you might like to try Carol Ann Duffy or Cynthia Antoinette Roomes. Over the holidays you can also browse the Scottish Poetry Library’s online collection by the ‘Winter’ tag.

 

 

Jane Eyre Graphic Novel

Jane Eyre – graphic novel adapted by Amy Corzine

A new acquisition for the LRC is Jane Eyre, a classic of English literature by Charlotte Brontë. This book can be a daunting prospect to read. The Penguin paperback edition has over 500 pages. However, this edition is adapted as a graphic novel.

Graphic novels are closely linked with comic books with the story mainly told in pictures. Unlike comic books, graphic novels tell the story in one volume rather than over separate issues. Don’t just think they about superheros either! They cover all genres of fiction and non-fiction. Many graphic novels have serious, adult themes such as war, love and belonging. They can be sophisticated and engrossing as they bring together two artistic forms – illustration and writing.

Graphic novels can be more a accessible format especially for visual learners. It can be a good medium for those people who don’t like reading but want to be immersed in a story. The artwork kick-starts the imagination and helps you engage with times, characters and places far away from your everyday experience. It can make a nice change to read something less dense in words, particularly for ESOL learners (English for Speakers of Other Languages).

It takes some adjustment to read a graphic novel, but the basic principle is the same as all books: left to right and from the top to bottom of the page.

One of the most widely-known graphic novels is Marjane Satrapi’s autobiography Persepolis which tells her story of growing up in Iran and emigrating to France. This has been made into a film too. Either the book or DVD forms you can borrow from the LRC.

We also have a number of other graphic novels available for example:

  • Fables: Rose Red – tells the story of Snow White’s sister but it is not the fairy tale as you might be familiar with.
  • Adamtine – a horror story involving a group of strangers who vanish on a train journey.

Please tell us what you think of graphic novels by email, in person or leave us a comment below. We are hoping to start a shelf to promote graphic novels. Which adapted books would you like the LRC to add to our graphic novel shelf?