Use several individual poems by Burns, Blake, Betjeman and possibly, Kipling and Tennyson with a view to addressing the question “How can a Marxist reading shed new light on the poem ….?
Critical Anthology key points:
Pg 6: 1: Focus on difference between overt and covert in texts with a view to unearthing clear Marxist themes. “To a mouse” and “Red, red rose” might prove interesting here.
2: relevance of status of author to be considered, particularly with Kipling and Tennyson. “Light Brigade should be considered in the light of the status of Tennyson. “Slough” might also be read with the same slant.
3: Relevance of Ian Watt’s idea that the Ballad “speaks” for the rural and semi-urban working class. Quoted in section 3 from The Rise of the Novel. This is interesting in that the poems by Burns, Blake and Kipling will tend to adopt this simple form. Given this, one might wish to compare the approach seen in “A’ that” and “If-” with close regard not only to the message, but also to the background of the poets (point 2).
4: Choice of poetic medium in terms of idea that the sonnet and Iambic Pentameter might be said to represent social stability, decorum and order… this can be linked with ideas relating to Stalinist formalism in which work was not valued if the form made it difficult for the masses to understand. This can link to point 3 and also in the case of Burns to the fact that as a composer poet, writing in the vernacular he is making his work accessible for the masses, many of whom would be illiterate.
5: Marxism is closely related to the Romantic ideals and the rise of the individual as a valid voice, challenging the status quo. Burns and Blake need to be seen in this light and the links between the French Revolution and the revolution in Russia sought by followers of Marx are obvious.
Poems one could use are
For A’ that :
To a mouse:
Red, red rose:
Alfred Lord Tennyson:
Charge of the Light Brigade:
These poems can be used individually or as pairs, the better to provide clear debate within the essay.
The essay for this section is suggested to be around 1200-1500 words and need not be based on more than a single poem. The question agreed between the student and teacher should focus on the application and interpretation of the critical anthology and the text chosen for study. In this case, the anthology must be used a s a”text” for the purposes of the essay and must feature throughout in the debate.
Suggested titles are:
1. Having read the critical material on whether it is possible to define the aesthetic nature of literature, explore and evaluate the aesthetic qualities of a poem of your choice.
2. Based on your reading of the critical material, write an argument for the inclusion (or exclusion) of an author of your choice into the A Level Literature canon of texts.
3 To what extent is feminist/marxist criticism helpful in opening up potential meanings in text x?
4. What potential significances can be found when studying the use of metaphors in text y?