Monday, November 29, 2010

Who was to blame for the Cold War?

If you type: 'Who was to blame for the Cold War' into google, what you mainly turn up is dozens of online essays of dubious quality, many of which simply rehash what you have already learned from my website! My strong advice is to avoid them like the plague, and make up your own mind.

By far the best link on this topic (and the liveliest) , if you haven't already found it, is the BBC audio-byte, which takes the form of a debate (you can read a transcript of the debate here). There is also a pretty shoddy list of points-for and points-against on the projectgcse website, which you may find of help if you have been asked to write the essay (which will have to take the form of 'on-the-one-hand ... on-the-other ... conclusion).

In the end, this is a subject where you will also have to show that you are aware of the historiography - what past historians have written on the subject. There is a simple summary of this on the BBC Bitesize site, and my more detailed account here.

So - what do YOU think!! As the BBC audio-byte demonstrates, this is a contentious and controversial subject, so you ought to be able to have some fun debating it here...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Versailles Verdicts

  • Adolf Hitler hated it. The British diplomat Harold Nicolson called it 'neither just nor wise'.
  • The British economist John Maynard Keynes prophesied it would ruin the world economy.
  • Lenin declared of it: 'This is no peace, but terms dictated to a defenceless victim by armed robbers.'

Where contemporaries led, historians have followed. 'The unwise thing about Versailles was that it annoyed the Germans yet did not render them too weak to retaliate,' declared the British historian Norman Lowe. Pupils in Michigan, USA, are taught that the Treaty was: 'flawed to the extent that instead of preventing future wars it made a future war inevitable'.

Yet is any of this FAIR?

The peacemakers faced a Europe which had fallen apart - there was no question of just calling it a day and going home. THREE empires, comprising most of central and eastern Europe, had collapsed in revolution and bankruptcy. The peacemakers formed nation-states and drew boundaries which, more-or-less, have survived until today. If their attempts to establish peace and disarmaments only lasted 20 years, they DID invent the principle of 'collective security' to which still, in the United Nations, we look to prevent war between the nations. And the diplomats of Versailles constructed this peace, without chance to rehearse, assailed by a maelstrom of lobbyists and pressures, amidst revolutions, famine and Spanish flu, whilst at home, war-weary publics were demanding revenge.
  • Margaret Macmillan, great-granddaughter of the great David Lloyd George, says: 'It is my own view - and a number of historians who have been working in this area for some years - that the treaty was not all that bad.'
  • British politician and historian Neil Stonehouse believes that 'in a devastated and newly complex continent no better attempt could have been made'.
  • Historian and schoolteacher Richard Jones-Nerzic argues that the peacemakers 'did a remarkably good job'.

What is your opinion of the Treaty of Versailles? What do you think -- for example - about these questions

  1. Was it fair or unfair?
  2. Was it successful or a failure?
  3. Was it a crafted peace, or a botched compromise?
  4. Did it help to lay the foundations of the future, or leave behind a legacy of hate?

Use the following webpages

and have your say!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How to blag a poem in the exam

Dear Alan,

Many pupils go into the Literature exam with heavy hearts because they don’t know all the poems, and they’re worried that they will get caught out by the questions – and they despair in the exam when they are!

Don’t worry. Anybody with half a brain can blag a poem in the exam, even if they haven’t seen it before. You just have to know the rules, and there is plenty of time to make a decent stab at it in the exam, without any preparation!


Comparing two poems
If I were comparing two pupils, I might say: ‘Well, Peter has black hair; by contrast Alicia has fair hair. Peter is intelligent, and similarly Alicia does well in her studies.’

I have chosen two categories of comparison (hair-colour and brain-power), and systematically compared them. You will notice the key comparison-terms ‘by contrast’, and ‘similarly’.

This is all you need to compare two poems, except that your comparison categories are:
• Content
• Feelings
• Structure
• Language

You will simply write your answer in four sections:
• Poem 1 is about … by contrast/similarly … poem 2 is about …
• In poem 1 the poet feels … by contrast/similarly … in poem 2 the poet feels …
• The structure of poem 1 uses … by contrast/similarly … poem 2 has the structure …
• The language of poem 1 includes … by contrast/similarly … poem 2 uses …


What can you write?
OF COURSE you are going to miss some of the more sophisticated points if you have not studied/revised the poem beforehand! But if you simply keep your head and look for the basics, you will be easily able to make a number of sensible, simple points.


Content
Easy! Read the poem. Unless you are totally thick, surely you can say what it is saying.
Start with a sentence saying what the poem is about in general terms (‘war’, ‘an argument’ etc). Put a suitable comparison term (by contrast/similarly) and say what your second poem is about. Thus will be particularly easy, because the exam question has almost certainly told you what topic you had to choose a poem about.

Then, simply go through the poem, briefly summarising what it says (‘It starts in stanza 1 by talking about …, then next it reminds…’ etc.) Don’t take too long, but make sure you address the whole poem. Then put a suitable comparison term (by contrast/similarly) and summarise your second poem.


Feelings
Easy! Read between the lines and infer what the poet feels about the poem. What words and phrases show you that they feel this way? Write about the poet’s feelings, quoting (and explaining) the words and phrases which show this. Then put a suitable comparison term (by contrast/similarly) and do the same for your second poem.


Structure
This, also, is a lot easier than you might think if you just keep your nerve.
Remember also that, as well as recognising a feature, you need to explain the intended effect – why did the poet use this feature and what effect did they want to have on the reader?

Here are some of the things to look for:

Stanzas
How many, of how many lines? Are they regular (the same number of lines) or different?
Poets often use different stanzas for different aspects of the poem – stanza 1 is about…, whereas stanza 2 talks about...’ etc. Explain how the poet has used the structure of the poem to display its content.

Line length
Short and powerful, or long and reflective? Regular or different?

Rhyme
Describe the rhyme (if there is one) using the normal notation (aa-bb etc.).

Rhythm
It should be obvious if the words have no rhythm. As for the others, try to remember iambic (di-dum) and trochaic (dum-di) – they are the basic (some say the ONLY) two patterns. If you see a rhythm, see if the poet has used it for a reason – a poet will often mirror the thing he is describing in the rhythm of the words he is using (for example, by using a diddly-dum rhythm to describe a train).
Even if you get it wrong, it is worth having a guess at this – the sentence-scaffold is: ‘the poet uses the ??? rhythm to suggest…’.

Enjambment
This is another feature which is really easy to see. Just pointing it out and giving examples will earn you brownie points, but it is worth also trying to suggest why the poet has done so.
The effect of enjambment is to create a pause after the word of the line before, and to emphasise the first words on the next line.
So can you think of any reason the poet would want to pause there, or a reason why he would want to emphasise that word? Again, even if you get it wrong, it is worth having a guess at this – the sentence-scaffold is: ‘the poet uses the break to…’.

Irregular features are used in modern poems, to give the idea of a ‘stream of consciousness’ – a poet just musing down a line of thought he is sharing with the reader. Older poems are regular more often, and the author uses the form to make it more formal, and to create a certain effect (just say what the feeling of the poem is – sad, military etc.).


Language
This, also, is a lot easier than you might think if you just keep your nerve.
Remember also that, as well as recognising a feature, you need to explain the intended effect of the poet – why did the poet use this feature and what effect did they want to have on the reader?

Here are some of the things to look for:

Images and metaphors
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the difference – the words are almost interchangeable.
Can you see anything in the poem which creates a strong visual impact in your mind’s eye? Write about what the phrase makes you ‘see’, and have a stab at explaining why the poet used this image. It is ALWAYS to make his point more powerful/ more impactful.

Similes
Again, easy! Look through the poem and see if you can find the words ‘like’ or ‘as’. Say you have found it, and try to explain why the poet used this image; again, it is ALWAYS to make his point more powerful/ more graphic.

Alliteration
Again, easy! Look through the poem and see if you can find two words beginning with the same letter. Say you have found it, and try to explain why the poet used this; again, it is ALWAYS to make his point more powerful/ more graphic.
Some of the more common ones are:
• Explosive sounds (p, b, m) give the idea of surprise, impact, shock.
• Warm sounds (w, s, h, l, r) give the idea of gentleness and calm.
• Nasty sounds (k, g, t) give the idea of cruelty and violence.
But really, you can work backwards by thinking what effect the poet wanted to create and simply saying that that is the effect!

Repetition
Are any words or phrases repeated? This is just to emphasise the point.

Onomatopoeia
(Where a word sounds like it is – ‘woof’.) These are really hard to see, but if you find one, mention it, and say that it is to emphasise the feeling of the line.

Words
And finally, just look through the poem and choose some powerful words. Any words that ‘leap out’ to you will do!
Again, poets use words in different ways:
• Specialist words give a poem authority, and make it feel ‘real’/ 'there'.
• Simple words can make it sound childlike or ‘normal’.
• Nasty words can convey hatred or violence.
• Gentle words convey calm or pleasant.
But you need not worry too much about ‘getting it right’. Simply mention the word and explain how it makes YOU feel – the sentence-scaffold is: ‘when I read this word it makes me think of… and it makes me feel…’.

There are other language devices that poets use – personification to ‘bring something to life’, clich├ęs to make them seem humdrum – but the above are the main ones and the easiest to find.



Writing the answer
So, if you find yourself in the position of being asked about a poem you have not studied, do not panic. Simply spend a short time reading it and look for:

• Content – what is it about/ summarise it.
• Feelings – how does the poet feel about this (prove with quotes and explain).
• Structure – look for stanza, line length, rhyme, rhythm and enjambment (illustrate with quotes and suggest the poet’s intentions).
• Language – look for images, similes, alliteration, repetition, onomatopoeia and specific words (and illustrate with quotes and suggest the poet’s intentions).

This is SO much easier than you think, and you might want to choose short poems from the Anthology and have a few practices.


Friday, February 26, 2010

A Crib on Rhythm, Metre and Rhyme - II

An EASY way to click a few marks to be able to talk about the poem’s Rhythm, Metre and Rhyme.
You will need to be able to say what the Rhythm, Metre and Rhyme are.
And you will need to say what the effect is on the poem’s register (how it sounds).
DO NOT EVEN TRY to remember the effects of the different approaches on the register of the poem – it is too difficult, and it changes from poem to poem anyway.
All you need to do is to think what the register of the poem is (steady, worried, military, plodding, thoughtful etc.) … and then you say that the poet has selected the rhythm, metre and rhyme to achieve that effect (you can be sure they have).


METRE
Here you need to count the ‘feet’ – the number of times the rhythm comes round in a line:

This children’s assembly hymn is trochaic, but can you see that it has THREE ‘feet’?
Have you / heard the / rain-drops?

And this children’s assembly hymn is trochaic again, but can you see that it has FOUR feet?
Aut-umn / days when / grass is / jew-ell’d

The two you need to know are:
Tetrameter = FOUR FEET and Pentameter = FIVE FEET

Which of these is an iambic pentameter, and which is the trochaic tetrameter?
If music be the food of love, play on!
(by William Shakespeare)
There he sang of Hiawatha
(by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Mary had a little lamb
(Nursery rhyme)
And treat those two imposters just the same
(Rudyard Kipling)


RHYME

Some poems do not rhyme – where they do, you can express the rhyme by using a letter of the alphabet to indicate where the different rhymes occur.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall (a)
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall (a)
All the king’s horse and all the king’s men (b)
Couldn’t put Humpty together again (b)


Is an aabb rhyme.

Can you identify the rhyming pattern of these famous poems:

Bid me to weep, and I will weep
While I have eyes to see;
And having none, and yet I will keep
A heart to weep for thee.

Mary had a little lamb
its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went,
the lamb was sure to go.

Doctor Foster
went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain.
He stepped in a puddle
right up to his middle
And never went there again!

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

There was a young man from Darjeeling
Who boarded a bus bound for Ealing
It said on the door
Please don’t spit on the floor
So he stood up and spat on the ceiling.

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these,
Because my love is come to me.

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Some poems rhyme
But this one doesn’t

(Answers: abab, abcb, aabccb, ababcb, aabba, aabb, abcbdefe, unrhymed)

A Crib on Rhythm, Metre and Rhyme - I

An EASY way to click a few marks to be able to talk about the poem’s Rhythm, Metre and Rhyme.
You will need to be able to say what the Rhythm, Metre and Rhyme are.
And you will need to say what the effect is on the poem’s register (how it sounds).
DO NOT EVEN TRY to remember the effects of the different approaches on the register of the poem – it is too difficult, and it changes from poem to poem anyway.
All you need to do is to think what the register of the poem is (steady, worried, military, plodding, thoughtful etc.) … and then you say that the poet has selected the rhythm, metre and rhyme to achieve that effect (you can be sure they have).


RHYTHM
There are four main rhythms you can learn to recognise:

Iambic
The most well-known rhythm is iambic.
This goes ‘di-dum’ (or ‘i-am’) where the second syllable is stressed:
e.g. The boy / stood on / the burn- / ing deck
e.g. I wish / I were / a fur- / ry worm
Here the poets have selected the iambic rhythm to make the poems sound jolly and funny.

Or here, in Seamus Heaney’s Follower:
e.g. An ex- / pert. He / would set / the wing
where Heaney has used the iambic rhythm to make the poem plod along like a ploughman.

Trochaic
The opposite of iambic is trochaic.
This goes ‘dum-di’ (or ‘troch-ee’) where the first syllable is stressed:
e.g. If I / were a / but-ter / fly, I…
e.g. All things / bright and / beau-ti- / ful, all / crea-tures / great and / small

(One poem by the famous poet Samuel Coleridge Taylor runs:
Trochee trips from long to short…
Iambics march from short to long. )


Dactyl
Another famous rhythm is dactylic.
This goes ‘dum-di-di’, where the first syllable of the three is stressed.
e.g. oom pah pah / oom pah pah / that's how it / goes
and the most famous example of all, The Charge of the Light Brigade:
"For-ward, the / Light Brig-ade!"
Was there a / man dis-may'd?
Not tho' the / sold-ier knew
Some-one had / blun-der'd:


Anapest
The opposite of the dactylic the anapest
This goes ‘di-di-dum’ (or ‘a-na-pest’).
e.g. ‘Twas the night / before Christ- / mas and all / round the house
e.g. 'Tis the voice / of the lob- / ster I heard / him de-clare

e.g. Like the leaves / of the for- / est when sum- / mer is green