Friday, 26 April 2013


This is why I studied literature in college. This is why I became a teacher: to share in grand conversations about books, to spread the joy, to initiate and welcome students into the fraternity, into ..."the club of clubs," to travel with them into wondrously familiar or incredibly strange imaginative worlds.
Jeffrey D. Wilhelm

The Victorian Age was called the "age of fiction"  because of the immense popularity the genre gained in the period. Many outstanding writers turned to novel writing and the number of novels published yearly increased enormously. Novels were also serialised in magazines. The first part of the Victorian Age was characterised by the triumph  of the realistic novel. Both characters and events were interpreted and judged by an omniscient  narrator who expressed the dominant moral view of the time. The story generally ended in a happy way or at least with good triumphing over evil.  In the second part of the Victorian Age an anti-Victorian trend developed in the criticism of the hypocrisy and bigotry of the middle  classes. The  general anti-Victorian trend culminated towards the end of the century with the Aesthetic Movement which rejected the Victorian moral view of literature.
Here  you can download a handout about the Victorian novel.

Thursday, 25 April 2013


Here you can download a mind map of  Medieval literature. 
You will certainly enjoy this video of Geoffrey Chaucer, "the Father of English literature", widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Happy 449th Birthday, Master Shakespeare!

Today is the 449th birthday of not only the greatest playwright who ever lived, but also the greatest poet. William Shakespeare is the most accomplished English writer of all time, by far the world’s most produced dramatist, and the finest wordsmith to ever pen a word in the English language.
He invented more words than most people even know. There are at least 1,500 different words and phrases that don't appear anywhere prior to the Bard of Avon putting them on paper. When he got stuck trying to think up a word, the man just made his own!

The following words and phrases  were first coined by William Shakespeare:


A dish fit for the gods (Julius Caesar)
All our yesterdays (Macbeth)
All's well that ends well (title)
As merry as the day is long (Much Ado About Nothing)
In a better world than this (As You Like It)
Break the ice (The Taming of the Shrew)
Brevity is the soul of wit (Hamlet)
For goodness' sake (Henry VIII)
Jealousy is the green-eyed monster (Othello)
It was Greek to me (Julius Caesar)
Make a virtue of necessity (The Two Gentlemen of Verona)
Much Ado About Nothing (title)
Neither rhyme nor reason (As You Like It)
A sorry sight (Macbeth)
Stony hearted (I Henry IV)
Spotless reputation (Richard II)
The world's my oyster (Merry Wives of Windsor)

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Happy 87th Birthday, Queen Elizabeth!

On    21st  April  1926, Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born at her paternal grandfather's home on 17 Bruton Street in London's Mayfair neighborhood.  When her uncle, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936, Princess Elizabeth became heir to the British throne.
87 years after her birth, Queen Elizabeth II follows Queen Victoria as the longest-reigning sovereign in British history. Should she remain on the throne through September 9th, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II will surpass her great-great grandmother reign.
Her Majesty chose to celebrate her birthday "in private" at Windsor Castle today.

Thursday, 18 April 2013


This ballad,  from the 17th  century,  was not in the earliest of Robin Hood ballads. It explains how Marian joined the band and  it shows that having Marian  as a fighter on par with Robin Hood  is not a recent  development. It  is also one of the few ballads to make Robin Hood an earl.

A bonny fine maid of a noble degree,
Maid Marian calld by name,
Did live in the North, of excellent worth,
For she was a gallant dame.

For favour and face, and beauty most rare,
Queen Hellen shee did excell;
For Marian then was praisd of all men
That did in the country dwell.

'Twas neither Rosamond nor Jane Shore,
Whose beauty was clear and bright,
That could surpass this country lass,
Beloved of lord and knight.

The Earl of Huntington, nobly born,
That came of noble blood,
To Marian went, with a good intent,
By the name of Robin Hood.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


Robin Hood  is a  heroic outlaw in English folklore, a highly skilled archer and swordsman. He has become known for "robbing from the rich and giving to the poor",  assisted by a group of fellow outlaws known as his "Merry Men".  The origin of the legend is claimed by some to have stemmed from actual outlaws, or from ballads or tales of outlaws. Robin Hood became a popular folk figure in the Middle Ages  continuing through to modern literature, films and television. In the earliest sources, Robin Hood was a yeoman,  possessing a small landed estate, but later he was portrayed as an aristocrat wrongfully dispossessed of his lands and made into an outlaw by the unscrupulous Sheriff of Nottingham.

Thursday, 11 April 2013


The Ballad of Reading Gaol (English word for jail) is not the work that Oscar Wilde wrote while imprisoned for moral (in his case, homosexual) offences in 1895; that work was De Profundis, published five years after his death, in 1905. Read here a very interesting review.
The Ballad of Reading Gaol was written after his release and in France, in 1897;  it was first published in 1898, simply under his prisoner identification number, C.3-3.          
The poem was written in memory of Royal House Guards trooper Charles Thomas Wooldridge who died in Reading prison in July 1896 and it traces the feelings of an imprisoned man towards a fellow inmate who is to be hanged .  They are "like two doomed ships that pass in storm", and Oscar Wilde creates a solemn tone in his rhyme made sad and familiar by certain repeated phrases "each man kills the thing he loves", "the little tent of blue/ Which prisoners call the sky.”  The narrator’s emotions are filtered through an uncertainty about the law that has condemned them, although he is certain that they are joined together in sin.  
While Oscar Wilde is focusing on the story of the execution of  the soldier for the brutal murder of his lover, he is also meditating on injustice, betrayal, and the need for prison reform  –  the  ballad is  a condemnation of  the death penalty and the whole penal system in Victorian England,  but it is much more than a protest poem. It is a powerful accusation of social hypocrisy which condemns some individuals,  but does not deal with the violence and despair that underlie many people’s  lives   -  only the weak are punished for their crimes.
To denounce the indifference of the law to man's anguish, the poet  chooses as his subject the outcast among the outcasts, the prisoner who has inexplicably  killed "the thing he loved"  - this human being is the symbol of  the universality of  guilt and moral weakness as well as of the criminal, the outcast, the artist.

Here  you can read the whole poem.

Now you can download a detailed analysis  of the ballad and a worksheet  about the first part of the poem.

Sunday, 7 April 2013


Related image

Here you can download a Powerpoint Presentation and a mind map of the Aesthetic Movement. 
I hope you will find them both helpful!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


Was William Shakespeare a moneylender and a tax debtor? It's not how we generally think of the Bard of Avon!
According to a group of academics, he was a pitiless businessman who grew rich dealing in grain during a time of famine.
Researchers from Aberystwyth University in Wales argue that we can't completely understand Shakespeare unless we study his often-overlooked business talent.

Here  you can read the article about their academic study  -  they have looked into Shakespeare's "other life" as one of Warwickshire's biggest landowners and have uncovered the less than savoury side to Britain's greatest playwright.

Monday, 1 April 2013


As the world celebrates the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice, Sarah Gordon goes in search of Jane Austen - and the dashing Mr Darcy - in the county that inspired the literary heroine's works.
Here  you can read her engaging  newspaper article.