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Teaching English Magazine Poetry Winners


Brief Guide to Texts


The Heros Journey Reflections on Teaching English


Macbeth Workshop Diary Abbey Theatre Workshop for Teachers

Cover image: Gabriel Metsu, Woman Reading a Letter c. 1662-1665, National Gallery of Ireland.

The Teaching English magazine is published by the Professional Development Service for Teachers. Co-ordinator of the Language Group of Subjects: Dr Kevin Mc Dermott Navan Education Centre, Athlumney, Navan, Co. Meath. Phone: 046 907 8382 Mobile: 087 293 7302 Fax: 046 907 8385 Email: Administrators: Esther Herlihy/Joan Shankey

Design by Artmark.

The Professional Development Service for Teachers is funded by the Irish Government under the National Development Plan, 2007-2013


Teaching English Magazine POETRY WINNERS SENIOR WINNERS 1st Place Onion Flaky skin, wrinkled with age, a solid centre surrounded by layers of memory, sight and sound and smell. Fresh-tasting at first, in the spring of his life, shoots of green. The years in the fields have made him bitter, a reluctance to share secrets readily means digging down deep to find them. The gnarled hair and pockmarked skin hide well a man too sharp to flavour alone. Still, when combined with others he becomes a perfect compliment; anecdotes and tales bringing out flavours in others they didnt know they had themselves, though all along he maintains a supporting role, just an occasional prompt, to let you know he is still there, and very much a part of things. Disregard the outward signs that this is an allium best left alone. Patrick Hull Loreto Community School Milford Co Donegal

2nd Place One Eight I approach cautiously, entirely unsure. I am numb to the past  it is lost  Sensitive to the future  it will find me. Hiding is pointless. In awe of the prospect is the obligatory feeling. I would rather be back there Astray among the playing cards and games and chases, And trees and e´clairs and loving embraces.

Sarah Browne Jesus and Mary College Our Ladys Grove Goatstown Road Dublin 14






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Joint 3rd Place Joint 3rd Place Judith and Holofernes Evolution Draping curtains as red as blood The maid will encourage Judith As she enters the realm of reality.

He picks for berries. Simple, content He leaves some for the next to come.

Holoferness hand clenching The blood-stained sheets Upon which his body lies.

Neanderthal he says, but hardly man at all, His accent, up his upper class ass. He directs us now to diagrams. Pre-historic man, he pauses for effect, His sickly grin, so gaunt, so gruesome, But weve evolved he proclaims.

His shoulder arching forward, His muscles pulsing. Outside the frame his legs are thrashing, As he tries to fight his fate, Screaming to his saviour in the heavens.

We know better than to pick berries. We know better, we know better! We know Science and Fact. We know war and tact. Philosophy, Psychology, Astrology and Theology.

Olivia Plunket St Columbas College Whitechurch Dublin 16

Weve evolved. Now we know just what we want. We know better than to pick berries.

Cillian Fahy, Gort Community School Ennis Road, Gort, Co Galway






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Highly Commended

Blank Canvas

Mad Man

Autumn in Dublin with my Father, the only time nature visits the city. Paper dry leaves envelop the harsh pavements, crunching like stale cornflakes under each passing foot. Ambers, ochres and burnt-out browns merge into each other, painting the dreary landscape.

He sat on his porch With a beer in his hand. A cigar in his mouth, A scowl on his face. He was a bitter man. He was a mad man. Someone told him death was bittersweetHe knew it was not. Death was death and he was mad at the world. Now it seemed to have no respect, no love, no life. It was an on-going war, With death the only outcome. So, he sat on his porch With a beer in his hand, A cigar in his mouth, A scowl on his face.

Curious feet would stomp over and back the North Circular, ears tuned in to the orchestra of crackles beneath.

Ruby Malone Loreto Community School Milford Co Donegal

Neasa ODonovan Holy Family Secondary School Newbridge Co Kildare

Joint 4th Place Valentines Day Dido sits on her pyre, Glancing furtively at the sea. Cleopatra gasps for Antony, Poison coursing through her blood. Othello places trembling hands, Around Desdemonas throat. Juliet thrusts a rusty blade, Into her pulsating chest. Young couples kiss on street corners, But black clouds are overhead, Eternally.

Niall Guinan Athlone Community College Athlone Co Westmeath






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¨ WRITE A POEM ¨ WRITE A POEM ¨ WRITE A POEM ¨ Highly Commended This is Going on the Internet Done-to-death sentiments, jilted expression, The rife melodrama and rampant pretension, Meter like logs being eaten by woodworm A message too diffuse to try to discern. Lower case is amidst low-flying ravens, square ended Brackets and twelve-winged angels. Meaning obscured by a blood-dripping hand; No one cares? At the least, no one else understands. The follies are many and hard to forget. Ellipses make clear that youre not finished yet… Forsaking the rhythm for tenuous rhythms, Like this  all the time. A wide range of techniques I put to good use: Be circumloquacious: verbosely profuse; Wordsmashedtogether, CAPITALS for stress. If this line grows too long, then I will press right on to the next stanza. Crouched by my desk, I aim to write poetry, not to express. Youll suffer for my art: the star of my life. I use sixes of words, whereas none would suffice.

Highly Commended

Lacklustre beginnings and empty conclusions, Events in an order, plot-structure delusions, People defined by the length of their hair; And, doubtless, the author is somewhere in there.

I Am I am from the vapour of the shirt I am from the puff puff puff like a calabash I am from the very thin, burning rim I am from under the cold tap I am from the pain that wouldnt go away.

Look down from my plinth, comment on the below, Tedious dialogue. Tell, dont show. Omniscient narrators cover mistakes, Like a train of thought that always arrives late.

From the door with no knob From the unused tree house From tiny cushions home to severe amounts of moss, damp and spiders From the trampoline covered in the faded petals of a blossom tree.

Feedbacks a dog always chasing its tail, Fed by critiques that smileys alone can convey. Bring the cynics, sharp-eyed, looking for a wise man, So as not to end up right back where we began. Write in the present tense, say it adds emphasis. Uneven diction in disjointed sentences, Monotone battles and ill-described rage. Put that colon around your neck onto the page.

From the traditional Lamb From the no lamb on Sunday From the lying toad From the escape of a mental home From my Dads office From the standing hare that looked like a dog.

No depth to be found thats beyond the plot-holes A wit only matched by belligerent trolls. The pyres ablaze; stoke the fan-fiction first. Prose, I commend they remains to the earth. Each mistake is an invitation to shine. Mire-pearls, but, for that, so much more fine. The pure are the norm only after the cull, Or a single red rose growing out of a skull

From the union of blood, success and tragedy All these things I loved dearly, So odd and on their own. Home is where the heart is; but first you have to find home.

Daron Anderson Belvedere College 6 Denmark Street Dublin 1

Michael Kemp St Columbas College Whitechurch Dublin 16






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¨ WRITE A POEM ¨ WRITE A POEM ¨ WRITE A POEM ¨ Blue Shimmering, reflecting, blue, Water and ultra marine skies. Hot light reflecting, waters retracting, Sun and heat, life and energy. Robin blue of the laundry, Making its way into every village. Krishna and his follies. The blue of animism and of cosmos, Deep blue of night sky, Clothes drying. Symbol of life.

JUNIOR WINNERS 1st Place The Colours of Southern India Red Sunsets and sunrises like The tikka dots on womens foreheads. Red paste and flowers In the market. Religion and life Together joined. Passion and fruit, Weddings and the henna designs On the palms of girls about to be married.

Multicolours Crowds milling, chanting, laughing, Life, life vibrating, in the multitude of souls, Hot clothes and steaming bodies, Heat and exuberance. Vitality, joy. The plenitude of human experience. Bodies packed together tightly. Elephants, music and festivals, Celebrating the joy of being alive.

The start and end to a perfect day! Yellow Warm three-dimensional light Of the early post-dawn and Pre-dusk hours. Flowers and grains, Saffron and turmeric for decoration. Adornment for the Lord Buddhass feet. Lemons for use in pujas for fertility.

Earth Mother earth  the soul of the land Mother India Brown, Inundated with water, The tidal wealth of the subcontinent, Rich and pulsing with life. Clay-coloured temple carvingsMagnificent symbols of a past era. A time when artists were revered And the art of India a living, Vibrant form of expression. Brown and turgid at times, Life blood of this world.

Hope and devotion. Black Night. Evil spirits and thoughts rise To the fore. Meditation And passive contemplation An end to the day-a small death. Granite temple carvings, Small windows in the dark, And fire giving the soul Hope for tomorrow. White Saris of Christian women, Saris of widowed Hindu women, Pure, chaste and fervent. Strings of jasmine, Rich maharajas palaces, Lilies in ponds, Jain temples and carvings, Markings in ash paste on a Vaishnavite Sadhus forehead.

Akshaya Sivakumar Cola´iste Pobail Setanta Phibblerestown Clonee Dublin 15

Green Rice paddies rolling like lifeEnchanching waves across the plains. Colour of the freshness that follows The annual monsoon Life-giving waters to nurture The crops. Symbol of good In dance, token of fertility Otherwise. Hope springs Through its verdant shades.






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Joint 3rd Place

Though There Are Exams Though there are exams, There are summer holidays. Though, somewhere in the world, Women are grieving husbands lost at war, There are thousands of hot air balloons Floating through a blue, cloudless sky. Though there are police chases in America, There are tea parties in England. Though there are homeless people Wandering the streets In the lashing rain, There are African tribes, Pounding beats on drums and Jumping and dancing in glorious sunshine.

The Painting You dip the tip Of the stiff bristles Into a watery Orange, As strong as a lion, Brandishing your brush But as you go on The look of determination Softens. The paint guides your hand As graceful as A lithe ballet dancer. The light sky You composed yesterday Is now changing, Evolving. You add reds, Pinks, And yellows, Creating a symphony For the eye As genius As Mozart To the ear. The sunrise is taking A peek, A squint of light And you step away. You leave it to dry, To become Crisp and clean. It lays there But then you Add more light, And it is aglow. The sun now Beams and brightens. Once again you Let it dry, Only this time

Though trees are being knocked down In the Amazon And ice caps are melting In Antarctica, There are wild mustangs Galloping across open fields and Young dolphins swimming through Crystal clear oceans. Though there are exams, There are summer holidays.

Jennifer Kelly Ardscoil Mhuire Mackey Ballinasloe Co. Galway






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¨ WRITE A POEM ¨ WRITE A POEM ¨ WRITE A POEM ¨ It takes longer, Twelve hours or so, And you wait impatiently Pace, pace, pace. Your arms flail in anger Splat! Black coffee Smears across This masterpiece And everything Goes dark. You sit On the precarious wooden stool, Pensive as ever. I cant work with this Over and Over Until! You root around in some Old boxes, You knew it!

Something. But the accident is there For all to see, And to ever be remembered, But was and is fixable, Hopefully. Asha Bourne Maryfield College Glandore Road Drumcondra Dublin 9

A small package Stuffed to the brim With glitter, Sprinkling each silver speck So blithely, Yet so perfectly, So peacefully, A hushed and Enchanted midnight. This painting Now centres your life. Day and night You work with persistence. Its beautiful, Incomparable. You leave its side Only once And arrive to An unrecognisable canvas, Smudged and preposterous. Sorry, I tripped You are outraged. And with two angered hands You raise it and BANG! It smashes Against the stool you sat upon Painting this for days. An earthquake erupts this Scene of bliss What once was so sublime Is now nothing but pieces, Nothing but fragments, That are meaningless, Worthless.

Joint 3rd Place Watermelon Refrigerator This is a poem. It has to be ten lines long. I dont know what to write but that doesnt matter Because it can be about anything. Kiwi racecar. Watermelon refrigerator. Is it ten lines long yet? No? Ill continue then with this nothingness That is like a plain dark room. You dont know what Is in the room until you turn on a light so you can Only imagine nothingness. Sticky polka dot Flamingo.

Ruth Gallagher Jesus and Mary College Our Ladys Grove Dublin 14

A finger out of line And everything is wrong Or is it what was planned? And you are so careful Lest you hurt someone,






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¨ WRITE A POEM ¨ WRITE A POEM ¨ WRITE A POEM ¨ 4th Place The End Decaying walls draw close, Figures haunt the long dank halls Old faces striking friendly poses, Unknown strangers behind cheap stalls, Water drips slowly down The concrete blocks which surround, All that is left to call your own That and the slowly fading sound. Hands now shake, ears fail, Friends lie rotting in the ground, Eyes strain to no avail, Strength leaches, heart pounds. Cage doors thrown open, Light envelops all, The heart stops beating: Life has ceased to call. Chris Tuohy Mount St. Michael Secondary School Rosscarbery Co. Cork Highly Commended

Highly Commended

The Silent Night


Fighting aircraft above my head For now this trench must be my bed, Im so tired of the hunger, the misery, the war I dont want to be here anymore.

I am not sorry for my soul That it must go unsatisfied For it can live a thousand times, Eternity is deep and wide

I finally sleep, but Im awakened by the silence For now there is no more killing or violence, I peek over the top, and across no-mans land I see Bright lights shining on a Christmas Tree!

I am not sorry for my soul But ah! my body that must go Back to a little drift of dust Without the joy it longed to know

The night becomes clear as the moon shines bright A single German voice sings Silent Night, My comrades reply with The First Noel For one night only we werent in hell

God I am with you, you men and women of a generation, of ever so many generations. Hence, just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt.

Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, All is bright

Love Love adorns itself It seeks to prove inward joy by outward beauty. Love does not claim possession But gives freedom.

Daniel ONeill Belvedere College, Great Denmark Street, Dublin 1

Ciara´n Healy St. Kevins Community College Dunlavin Co. Wicklow






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Highly Commended


The Beach


Babies shriek, adults speak, Seagulls squawk, lovers walk, Grannies pout, kids shout, Jellyfish wiggle, little girls giggle, Buckets of sand, spade in hand, Ice-cream drips down childrens lips, Dogs by the docks, sandals and socks, Bread and nutella, towels and umbrellas, Lots of sun-cream, hats that are green, That was my day at the beach.

Feels like rubber an emerald feather The crinkling of a crisp packet II A golden crown a pencil a hand with veins cracking popcorn seaweed

Ellen Clohessy, Cola´iste an Phiarsaigh Gleann Maghair, Co. Cork

III When I was younger I would kick the leaves until they fluttered through the air The wind would wrestle them scatter them before me.

Highly Commended Granny I went to see Granny today, It always seems to be the way, Toothy grins and pinched cheeks, The smell of dentures when she speaks, A cup of tea thats way too milky, Couches that do not feel too silky, Withered skin that falls right down, Shoes that never change from brown, Aint you big? and Youre so cute! Have you been practicing your flute?

IV Seasons change, snow swirls sun down, moon lit sky. Golden leaves like candles fall The tree holds up its arms to welcome me. Laura Peoples, Loreto Community School Milford, Co. Donegal

A sweater that she went and knitted, Even though its never fitted, Some Brussels sprouts to give me hairs, Because she really truly cares, But Mommy says to smile and nod, Even if my food smells odd, Shes your granny, you be good, Act the way a grandchild should, Take the biscuit when its presented, Do not tell here you resented, The latest Christmas robot toy, Because she thought you were a boy, So Ill sit and smile and say Yes please When she offers frozen peas, She acts so blind, deaf and old, Until she hears Ive been bold, She aint so frail with her cane, Honestly, she cant be sane, And when we leave, relieved farewells, The last of her perfume smells, Drive away, I look once more, She stands waving from the door, And is that a grin upon her lips, One hooked claw on her hips?

Highly Commended Blue Army Every morning, enduring daggers of rain Attack like tiny needles. Ferocious winds chap lips, tangle hair. We gather, dressed in blue And descend on the red-brick HQ. Let battle commence. A piercing siren signals the daily drill. First, Maths: divide and conquer. Then Geography: logistics, plotting terrain. PE is a physical assault. Retreat heralds a welcome break. Troops devour their meagre provisions. Then congregate into separate divisions. Alors, a French invasion. Hannah Foley, St. Vincents School Dundalk, Co. Louth


Dara Griffin, Dominican College, Taylors Hill, Co. Galway





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BRIEF REVIEW OF TEXTS PRESCRIBED FOR EXAMINATION IN 2012 AUSTEN, Jane Emma There is only one Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich. She is also bored, gossipy, generous, meddling, presumptuous; class conscious, charming, blind, beautiful, intelligent, indulged, cruel, infuriating, mortified, apologetic and, finally, happy. And there is only one man for her, Mr Knightley  wise, gallant, good, and sincere though very dull! Austens comic novel on the dangers of meddling, the folly of youth, the presumptions of the idle wealthy and the ennui of life for a spirited young woman with no real purpose in life.

Hugo and Francie Montmorency, and the English army officer, Gerald Colthurst. Amongst the party in the house, love and desire cause tension and confusion, while outside the political situation grows less certain and the threat of the IRA hangs over the soirees and tennis parties of the Big House. A coming-of-age novel; a comedy of manners; a description of personal tragedy set against the political upheaval of the War of Independence and the decline of a whole class, Bowens novel brilliantly conveys a moment both private and public that is poised between tradition and change, and the old and the new.

Ballard, J. G. Empire of the Sun Based on his experience, this is Ballards brilliant, clear-eyed, account of an English schoolboy lost in Shanghai after the Japanese invasion, during World War II. This is a novel of displacement, of death marches and internment, and the compromises made in order to survive. There is a great cast of characters from Jim, the enterprising young hero, the dignified and kind Dr Ransome, and the immoral Basie. Ballard succeeds in conveying both the squalor and the bravery of war, its brutality and its hallucinatory beauty. The writing has a cinematic flavour and there are numerous memorable scenes.

BRANAGH, Kenneth Dir. As You Like It Film This fast-moving version of Shakespeares play is an intricate tale of love a merry war and betrayal, jealousy and reconciliation. Under the comic surface lies an exploration of chastity and marriage. Shot on location in Tuscany, the film is beautiful to look at and the comedy is diverting, though whether the casting is wholly successful is a moot point. Experienced Shakespearean actors and American film stars play alongside each other. And there is the age old question of the degree of misogyny in the text.

BINCHY, Maeve Circle of Friends Although this is a long novel, it is not a daunting read. Set in Ireland in the late 50s, the novel tells the story of Eve and Benny two friends from the small town of Knockglen, who go to Dublin to attend university. Their encounters with Jack Foley and Nam Mahon teach them about true friendship. Binchys warm, conversational style, as she charts the up and downs of the two friends in life and love, engages the reader and makes us empathise with her heroines . BOWEN, Elizabeth The Last September Set in Cork during 1920, Bowens novel charts the last days of the Anglo-Irish gentry in Ireland. As the country undergoes the war of Independence, Sir Richard and Lady Myra Taylor carry on as before. They entertain their guests, including their niece, Lois Farquar; the English visitors

BRONTE¨, Emily Wuthering Heights Classic romantic novel of consuming passions, played out against the wild Yorkshire moors. Cathy and Heathcliff are the unhinged, tempestuous lovers, who wreak havoc all round them. A dense, overwritten, overwrought tale of passion, jealousy and revenge. A demanding read but who can resist its peculiar madness: I am Heathcliff! Hes always, always in my mind; not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. CHEVALIER, Tracy Girl with a Pearl Earring The novel is set in Delft. Griet is a sixteen-yearold girl who becomes a maid in the house of the painter, Vermeer. Calm and mature beyond her years, Griet has a special eye for colour and


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composition. Gradually master and servant develop an understanding. In the hostile environment of the household they share a secret world that is not openly acknowledged until Griet poses for the painting Girl with a Pearl Earring. Lyrical and descriptive, Chevalier never loses sight of the social reality of Griets situation and the choices she is forced to make to support her poverty-stricken family. CURTIZ, Michael Dir. Casablanca Film Set in Morocco, during World War II, Ricks nightclub is a haven for refugees hoping to obtain transit documents that will eventually allow them to reach the USA. Ricks apparent neutrality and his willingness to entertain both Vichy and Gestapo forces is called into question when Ilsa, the great love of his life, and her husband, Victor Laszlo, a famous Czech nationalist and Resistance leader, show up in his bar. For many, Casablanca is the greatest example of the classic Hollywood film. It was shot entirely in a Hollywood studio, using studio actors, writers and directors. Bogarts worldweary Rick Blaine is one of the most iconoclastic figures in cinema history and the famous ending will generate plenty of debate and discussion in class. A genuine classic movie.

FITZGERALD, F. Scott The Great Gatsby NEW TEXT

Fitzgeralds novel on the search for love and meaning; the lure of money and power; the difference between the wealthy and the social elite; and the moral and social fog that surrounds the restless Jay Gatsby. The novel is a satire on the lives of the idle nouveau riche. And yet, Fitzgerald seems to be as seduced by Gatsby as he is appalled by the emptiness of his life. And Gatsbys life represents the triumph of style over substance. Its a novel that a new generation of readers, accustomed to celebrity culture will understand immediately. And they will also appreciate the way in which Fitzgerald uses the automobile to highlight the emptiness of The American Dream, where wealth is pursued as an end in itself and the pursuit proves futile. Of course this did not prevent Fitzgerald from aping the lifestyle of Gatsby in his private life ‌ First published in 1925, the novel still retains its freshness and energy. FRIEL, Brian Dancing at Lughnasa Friels heart-warming and heart-breaking play on the lives of the Mundy Sisters in Ballybeg who, like the tramps in Becketts Godot, always seem to be waiting for things to happen. A powerful evocation of Ireland in the 1930s, this is a play of private grief and vanishing dreams with that memorable scene of uninhibited energy, as the sisters dance with Pagan abandon to the music from their new wireless. Dancing at Lughnasa explores some of Friels recurring concerns: memory; change; loss; and the identity that lies beneath the restrictions of social and religious convention. FULLER, Alexandra Dont Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight NEW TEXT This is an award-winning memoir by the English-born writer, Alexandra Fuller, whose family moved to Rhodesia Zimbabwe when she was little. This is a dazzling piece of writing and captures the many faces of the Africa she knew as a child: beautiful, hair-raising; frightening, wild, startling. The memoir is set during the Rhodesian Civil War. Fuller writes from the perspective of a white child in a colonial family. They are part of the system built upon race, even as they are victims of that system. The memoir opens with a picture of the seven-year-old Fuller putting bullets into a gun, and this


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ultimately, manipulative. It is mannered. The narrators name, for example, Changez is almost silly and the girl with whom he falls in love is Erica Am-Erica. For all that, a provocative and engaging read.

establishes the bizarre circumstances of her life, where a trip to town for groceries involves a mine-proofed Land Rover and an armed escort. The memoir charts a bleak family history three siblings die in infancy, and their deaths destroy her mother but it is lightened by humour and the perspective of the child narrator. This is a fierce book, full of love for a country that is far away and lost forever.

HARDY, Thomas Tess of the DUrbervilles NEW TEXT

GAGE, Eleni North of Ithaka North of Ithaca is New York journalist Eleni Cages account of the rebuilding of her ancestral home in a Greek village, where her grandmother had been executed during the Greek Civil War in 1948. Her grandmothers story is related in Eleni written by the writers father. Her decision to restore the old house in the village of Lia, close to the Albanian border, causes tension in the family and raises the spectre of old hurts and division. The story of an American making a connection with her Greek roots is comic and tragic with the predictable clash between urban cosmopolitanism and rural traditionalism and told with energy and affection. A story on the need to belong, as well as an interesting insight into modern Greek history and society. HAMID, Moshin The Reluctant Fundamentalist NEW TEXT Written in the wake of the attacks on September 11 2001, on the World Trade Centre in New York, Hamids novel is an intelligent and thoughtprovoking read. Changez, the narrator, speaks to a stranger in a cafe´ in the Pakistani city of Lahore. Bearded and dressed in traditional clothes, he speaks perfect English. He has been educated at Princeton. As he tells his story, one of growing disenchantment with all things American and Western, the real reason for the encounter in the cafe´ becomes apparent. Clever, poised, with the feel of a thriller, this is an interesting novel on identity and transformation, and the misunderstandings and prejudices that exist between East and West. In a clever twist, the fundamentalist of the title applies as much to the American company Underwoord Samson, for whom Changez worked, whose motto is: focus on the fundamentals. Some readers consider the novel to be too clever, too knowing and,

Tess of the dUrbervilles is one as Hardys finest novel. It is a dark tale of love, betrayal and murder. Hardy is not the easiest writer to read. Sometimes the language is clunky and the plotting is laboured. However, he is also capable of brilliant lyrical description and his stories are compelling, none more so that Tess. The novel tells the story of Tess Durbeyfield, a beautiful young woman from a poor family. When her parents learn that they are related to the wealthy Durbervilles, Tess is sent to solicit help from their relations at the family seat at Tantridge. Here the young woman is pursued and violated by Alex DUrberville and becomes pregnant. Her child dies. Wracked by guilt and feelings of worthlessness, Tess goes to work on a dairy farm where she meets and falls in love with Angel Claire. The two marry. On her wedding night, Tess confesses her secret and is rejected by her husband. After a chance meeting with Alex, Tess succumbs to her fate and becomes his mistress. When Angel comes back into her life, Tess seeks a desperate remedy‌ Melodramatic, farfetched, but also ignited by Hardys passionate anger at the injustices facing his young heroine, this is a memorable read. Interestingly, some of the reviews of the novel were so negative and personal that Hardy vowed never again to write fiction.


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HARRIS, Robert Pompeii On the morning of August 24 A.D. 79, Mount Vesusius erupted and destroyed the city of Pompeii, killing thousands of people. Thomas Harris brings this story to life in a novel that has a contemporary feel. The last hundred pages, describing the destruction of the city, are terrific and, though we know the end of the story, Harris creates real suspense and drama. The Sherlock Holmes at the centre of the novel is Marius Attilius, a young engineer from Rome. As he sets out to discover the cause of a water shortage in the area of Naples, he finds himself in the new town of Pompeii on the slope s of Vesuvius. What follows is a detective story of new money, local corruption, dodgy developers, love and heroism, with more than a passing similarity between the Roman Empire and contemporary America or Ireland, for that matter to amuse or irritate. A readable, stylish thriller and historical novel. HOSSEINI, Khaled The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseinis debut, The Kite Runner, was one of the first novels to present Afghan culture to Western readers. It is a gripping story of friendship, betrayal, cowardice, exile and, ultimately, redemption set against the political upheavals of Afghanistan. The story has a Shakespearean sweep. Amir is the privileged son of a wealthy Pashtun, living in Kabul. Hassan, a member of Hazara tribe, is his devoted servant and friend. There is a shocking scene at the centre of the novel which shatters both boys lives and leads to the severing of their relationship. As Afghanistan falls apart, Amir and his father escape to America, but Amir returns to expiate the guilt of childhood and right a wrong committed against Hassan. Among other things, The Kite Runner is an interesting exploration of the lengths to which we are prepared to go to secure peace and peace of mind. 334 pages IBSEN, Henrik A Dolls House Ibsens play on the need for freedom and the oppressive affects of middle-class values in a patriarchal society, written in 1879, still packs a punch. There are enough symbols and symbolic motifs to engage most students, while Noras decision to leave the insufferable Torvald is sure to generate heated classroom debate on the


responsibility of the individual to herself versus her responsibility to her family. There are many echoes of Ibsens work in Friels Dancing at Lughnasa. ISHIGURO, Kazuo Never Let Me Go Ishiguros dystopian novel explores the dangers of scientific advances in contemporary society. Hailsham is a seemingly idyllic boarding school in the heart of the English countryside, dedicated to the welfare of the children who reside there. However, through the narrative of Kathy H, a carer at the school, the dark secret of the institution is revealed. The school is a sham a place as twisted as Miss Havishams eerie residence in Great Expectations. The children at Hailsham are donors, cloned to provide healthy organs so that other normal people might live. So slyly does the truth of the society creep up on you in the reading of the novel that the impact is unforgettable. Margaret Atwood described the novel as like a cross between Enid Blyton and Blade Runner and this catches something of the strangeness of the work. Written in his customary spare, flat style, this is a novel of real power and purpose, in the tradition of Orwell. It brilliantly mimics societys ability to cover morally dubious practices under euphemism and scientific language and make the monstrous seem normal. 263 Pages JOHNSTON, Jennifer How Many Miles to Babylon? Two boys, separated by class and religion, grow up as friends on a large country estate. Their relationship is frowned upon and they are forced apart. When WW1 begins, both young men leave to fight. We follow their careers separately until they meet again near the dramatic and moving end of the novel. Brilliantly written, with a number of superb set pieces, Johnsons novel is a meditation on class, war, loneliness and loss. A great favourite among students. KEANE, John B Sive First produced in Listowel in 1959, the play tells the story of Sive, a young orphan, who lives with her grandmother, her uncle and his bitter wife, Mena. Mena conspires with the local matchmaker to sell Sive in marriage to Sea´n Do´ta, a worn, exhausted little lorgadawn of a man, Despite the protests of Sive and her grandmother, the arrangement proceeds until the evening before the wedding when Sive takes her fate into her own hands with tragic consequences. A strong tale of innocence, lechery and betrayal. Contemporary young readers will question Sives willingness to proceed as far as she does with the arrangements made for her.

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McEWAN, Ian Atonement It is 1935. 13-year-old Briony Tallis reads a sexually explicit message sent by Robbie, her sisters beau, and then witnesses a passionate encounter between her sister, Cecilia, and Robbie which she does not understand. Disturbed and unsettled Briony accuses Robbie of a crime he did not commit. Years later during World War II, Briony, now estranged from Cecilia and Robbie, tries to atone for her action by working as a nurse for the wounded from Dunkirk. Working out from the two minor incidents  the reading of her sisters note and the witnessing of the sexual encounter between her sister and Robbie  McEwan creates a work that explores innocence, guilt, fate, love, the disturbing power of sex, bitterness, the social upheaval of war and the search for forgiveness. Interestingly, Atonement echoes the work of E.M. Forster, but has darker strands running through it. The novel works brilliantly in placing private guilt and upset against the grief and upheaval of public affairs and in depicting the psychological aftershock of singular incidents. 371 pages

MacLAVERTY, Bernard Lamb First published in 1980, the novel tells the story of Michael Lamb, a young religious brother who, shocked by the harsh regime in the Boys Home run by his order, flees taking twelve-year-old Owen Kane with him. Posing as father and son, the two enjoy a brief interlude of happiness until, running out of time, money and a place to hide, Michael settles on a desperate and tragic course of action. Short, simple, unsettling with a shattering ending that will divide readers Lamb is a powerful exploration of innocence and goodness in a brutal world. MARTEL, Yann Life of Pi Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize Life of Pi is part tall-tale, part fable, part philosophical treatise on faith and scepticism, a literary yarn with its tongue firmly in its cheek. It tells the fantastic story of 16-year old Pi Patel, an Indian boy cast overboard from a sinking ship carrying a cargo of zoo animals, who finds himself sharing a life raft with a hyena, a zebra, an orang-utan and a Bengal tiger hiding under the tarpaulin. The majority of the book is taken up with the seven months Pi spends at sea alone on the raft with the tiger, Richard Parker, who soon sees off the other animals. Martel is playful and inventive and there are many edge-of-the seat moments, and the book is full of useful hints for surviving on a raft with a tiger! However, not all readers will find that the charm and wit of the book will sustain them through its 300+ pages.

MEIRELLES, Fernando Dir. The Constant Gardener Film Part thriller, part love story, Meirelles film explores the cynicism of the international pharmaceutical industry and the unholy alliance of Western Governments and Global pharmaceutical companies. Ralph Fiennes plays Quayle, a quiet, unobtrusive British diplomat and the constant gardener of the title. He is stationed in Nairobi in the British Embassy. Following a whirlwind romance Quayle marries the radical, impetuous Tessa and takes his new wife to Kenya with him. There, activist that she is, Tessa works with the poor and investigates the activities of pharmaceutical companies in drug testing. When she is killed in suspicious circumstances, Qualyle sets out to find out the truth behind her death and the unsavoury rumours that surround it. In undertaking his personal odyssey, Quayle learns that his wife was murdered and is forced to confront the moral corruption of his government and its collusion with an unscrupulous industry. Quayles real quest is, however, personal - what he finds out about himself in his search for the truth. And this focus on character prevents the film from becoming

McDONAGH, Martin The Lonesome West McDonagh is an exciting voice in Irish theatre. In The Lonesome West Quentin Tarantino meets J.M. Synge or J.B. Keane meets Father Ted in this black comedy set in Leenane, the murder capital of the west. Featuring fratricide, sibling rivalry, a doubting-priest and a tough-talking teenager girl, the play reveals McDonaghs gift for language and exuberant comedy. Funny, dark, surreal, McDonagh will appeal to many Leaving Certificate students and provoke interesting debate on the way Irishness is represented. Is the play a satire? Is it a parody? McDonaghs work will be known to many students through his debut feature film, In Bruges.


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hectoring or issue-driven. Great acting, beautiful cinematography and well-judged direction bring this story vividly to life on the screen. MURPHY, Tom A Whistle in the Dark First produced in 1961, a Whistle in the Dark is a tragic exploration of the Carney family imploding at a family re-union in Coventry. Michael is the young Irishman living in Coventry with his young English wife, Betty. Harry is his thuggish brother who has never forgiven Michael for perceived slights and insults and who, with his brothers Iggy and Hugo, treats Betty with disdain. Dada is the fierce patriarch, a domestic King Lear, foolish and aggressive in equal measure, who goads his sons on. A fierce study of masculinity and inter and intra-family rivalry that hurtles to its tragic conclusion, Murphys play, described by one reviewer as a clenched fist, is as raw and powerful today as it was in 1961. NGOZI ADICHIE, Chimamanda Purple Hibiscus This debut novel by the young Nigerian writer has been widely praised. The story is narrated by the 15year old Kambili. She describes a life of apparent privilege. However, her wealthy father is a fanatic and his strict adherence to Catholicism makes life a misery for his wife and family. A kindly aunt alerts Kambili to the possibility of a different kind of life, free of fear and free of domestic tyranny. The novel is grounded in the domestic world but explores themes and issues which move beyond the boundaries of the personal and the familial. Through the eyes of the young narrator, we witness the conflict between Catholicism and the tribal tradition of animism and ancestral worship. We also witness the pernicious effect of religion in a society that is crumbling and struggling with the aftershocks of colonization. Kambilis voice is sad, poignant and hopeful. ODONNELL, Damien Dir. Inside Im Dancing Film Two young men in wheelchairs determined to live life to the full and escape from the institution where they are treated as children. Life in the world beyond the institution proves more difficult than either of them had anticipated. For many this is a really vibrant film on rebellion and the search for


love, freedom, friendship and a place to call home with a good script and excellent performances. For others, it is cliche´d in its depiction of disabled people as emotionally immature and nai¨ve. A film that will get students talking. PETTERSON, Per Out Stealing Horses Trond, a man in his 60s, buries himself in the far north of Norway and takes to living in a subsistence manner, recreating the conditions of an idyllic summer he spent with his father. A chance encounter with a character from that faroff time causes him to search the past for answers to the questions which have dominated his life. Moving between descriptions of everyday life in a cold climate and memories which seek to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the father he idolised, we piece together the story of Trond and his family. The story covers a span of fifty years and includes the Nazi occupation of Norway; his fathers role as a courier for the Resistance movement; the dangerous work of felling trees and sending the logs down river to the mills; love; betrayal and abandonment. The telling of the story, the moving back and forth between present and past is done with breathtaking assurance, control and tightness in a narrative voice that is as low-key as the events it describes are momentous. The moral viewpoint is scrupulously ambiguous as is the novels balancing of the freedom of frontier lifestyle and the obligations of marriage and family. A contemporary literary masterpiece. 263 pages PICOULT, Jodi My Sisters Keeper A popular best-seller which, like Ishiguros Never Let me Go, explores the ethics of modern medicine. The central character is Anna, a bright 13-year-old, who has acted as a donor for her older sister, who suffers from leukaemia. When her sister needs a kidney, Anna takes legal action for the right to decide the medical procedures to which she will or will not be subjected. Told from a variety of perspectives, the novel nimbly moves through the emotional, legal and familial repercussions of Annas decision. Not all of the novel works, but it does race along at a break-neck speed and ends with a real surprise, though the final twist of the plot may tie things up far too neatly for some readers. Picoults

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the elements of the novel for young adult readers  Daisys love for her cousin is not chaste; she is prone to anorexia ‌ And then theres the lack of punctuation and the mixing of tenses  but most will fall in love with the narrator and with Rosoffs memorable and lyrical novel. Winner of the Guardian Childrens Fiction prize and a host of other prizes. pages 208

books are a publishing sensation, devoured by many youthful readers. Read My Sisters Keeper to find out why. 422 pages QUINN, Marian Dir. 32A Film NEW TEXT I remember that summer in Dublin. The old Bagatelle song might serve as the anthem for 32A, which tells the story of Maeve Brennan during the summer of 1979. Maeve is growing up, just entering her teenage years, about to get her first bra. She yearns to be older than she is; she yearns to be in love; she yearns to have more freedom than she has. Freedom is symbolised by the park and the local disco, The Grove. Home is where you try to hide as much about your life as you can and parents are obstacles you have to circumvent. Escape is Dollymount Strand. The film is set in the Dublin suburb of Raheny, and the world of the girls is far away from the wider context of Ireland, in the late 1970s. The relationship between Maeve and her three friends is the focus of the film. The girls are all different and the difference makes for much of the humour in the film. 32A, the feature debut of director Marian Quinn, is one of those rare things, a coming-ofage film told from the perspective of a young girl. The themes of friendship, loyalty and growing up are handled with skill. The film features terrific performances from the young cast and creates a world that every teenage girl will recognise.

SAVATORES, Gabriele Dir. Im Not Scared Io Non Ho Paura Film NEW TEXT

Set in the southern most tip of Italy over a long, hot summer, Im Not Scared is a coming-of-age film that bristles with suspense and menace. The films narrative focuses on ten-year-old Michele. He hangs out with a gang of friends; adores his frequently-absent father; and fights with his beautiful and troubled mother. By accident, he stumbles across a boy held captive in a pit. Curious and fascinated, he treats the discovery as a guilty secret and begins to visit the boy on a regular basis. To his dismay he finds out that his father is one of the gang who have kidnapped the boy and who are demanding a ransom from his wealthy father. His mother dreams of the lovely things the money will allow her family to do. Michele thinks of the young boy in the pit. What makes the film so successful is the way in which the moral conundrum is played out, allied to the brilliant visual style of the filmmaking, where so many memorable images speak to the themes of the film. In a word: terrific.

ROSOFF, Meg How I Live Now Rosoffs work is marketed as Young Adult fiction, but she is one of those writers whose work is so sophisticated that it can be read by young and not so young adults alike. The central character is Daisy, a fifteen-year-old New Yorker who comes to stay with her bohemian English cousins in an English country manor. The family is happily dysfunctional, unconventional and close to nature. Daisy falls in love with Edmond and they develop an almost telepathic understanding. When war breaks out, the novel is set in an alternative present the cousins are left to fend for themselves. The question then becomes, how will these child-adults live in the absence of adults? The answer is more hopeful than that provided by Lord of the Flies. Daisy is a terrific narrator, breezy, intelligent, infuriating. Some readers may question the suitability of some of

SHAKESPEARE, William Hamlet The Prince Philosopher; The Carefree Student; The Sensitive Soul; The Callous Lover, The Avenging Son; the Oedipal Son; The Playwright; The Swordsman; The Man of Action; the Man of Inaction; The Savage in a savage time; The Seeker of Truth; Sweet-natured; Ill-tempered. To be or not to be. What a piece of work man is. What a writer Shakespeare is!


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SHAKESPEARE, William A Winters Tale NEW TEXT One of Shakespeares later plays that shows a serenity of mood and a confidence in the writing. The famous restoration scene in the final act, in which the repentant Leontes and the innocent Hermione are reconciled, is unique in Shakespeare in making the older generation the foundation of the new order. As in Othello the play concerns the misplaced jealousy of a husband who accuses his virtuous spouse of adultery. In this instance, the consequences are not calamitous, and the kings repentance is rewarded. The subplot of Perdita, the daughter of Leontes and Hermione, who is abandoned on the coast of Bohemia modern Puglia, in Southern Italy, because her jealous father believes she is illegitimate, is a delight. The play contains one of the most famous stage directions in Shakespeare: Exit, pursued by a bear.

SHIELDS, Carol Unless Reta Winter is a translator, a successful author, the wife of the local doctor in a small Canadian town and the mother of three teenage girls. Her life is perfect until her daughter, Norah, suddenly abandons her studies and becomes a vagrant, sitting all day on a street corner in Toronto with a begging bowl and a sign with the word goodness printed on it. Unless charts Retas struggle to make sense of her daughters action while, at the same time, attending to the everyday concerns of her life and her family. It captures the tragedy and the absurdity of the situation as Reta muddles along as best she can in spite of the rage she feels on her daughters behalf for the way women are excluded from life and lifes greatness. Carol Shields was suffering from the cancer which claimed her life in 2003 during the writing of Unless and it is hard not to read the novel as autobiographical with Shields reflecting on the choices she made and the situation of women and women writers in


contemporary culture. Written in Shields light, fluent prose, with many interesting and amusing digressions, Unless is a novel about being a woman, being a mother and being a writer. It is funny, touching, satiric and forceful, all in one, and packs more into its 200 pages than many novels twice its length. SOPHOCLES Oedipus the King Written almost 2,500 years ago, Sophocles masterpiece relates the tragedy of Oedipus who, in attempting to escape the prophecy of the Delphic Oracle that he will kill his father and marry his mother, leaves Corinth and the court of King Polybus, whom he believes to be his father, and heads to Thebes. There, without knowing it, he fulfils the prophecy by slaying Laius and marrying Queen Jocasta. Oedipus the King opens with Oedipus as King of Thebes, unaware that the prophecy has been fulfilled. The play charts the inevitable tragedy as the true facts of his life and actions emerge. In the themes of self-knowledge, suffering, sight and blindness, Oedipus the King explores many of the same themes that appear in Shakespeares King Lear. TREVOR, William The Story of Lucy Gault In 1921 in the wake of the War of Independence, and unrest throughout the country, Captain Everard Gault and his family prepare to leave their modest county Cork estate of Lahadane. Having accidentally shot a local youth, Gault fears reprisals and decides to go to England. Trying to protect 9-year old Lucy, her parents dont tell her the full story behind their departure. Unable to understand what she sees as her parents cruelty, Lucy runs away. When she doesnt return, her heart-broken parents fear she has drowned and leave, moving from one place to another in Europe and severing all contact with Ireland. Only Lucy hasnt drowned and the novel then becomes a story of regret and guilt. Lucys life in Lahadane, where she is taken care of by the former servants, is that of a sleeping beauty, marking time in the enchanted house she didnt want to leave. In a short review it is hard to do justice to the beauty and simplicity of Trevors writing and it is the quality of the writing that makes us accept some of the unrealistic or fairytale elements of the story. Covering some of the same territory as Bowens The Last of September, The Story of Lucy Gault is a very readable novel.

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narrator is Death himself. The narrative voice is interesting though whether it is wholly successful is a moot point. The fact that Death addresses the reader in the voice of a contemporary teenager might be too much for some. Be that as it may, there are lots of delightful and grimly humorous elements to the story, not least the beautiful short story that Max writes to Liesel, the nine-year-old adopted daughter of his protectors and the book thief of the title, on white-washed pages torn from a copy of Hitlers Mein Kampf! Zusak, the Australian-born author of the novel, says that the inspiration to write The Book Thief came from stories related to him by his German parents concerning the war and the bombing of Munich. One concerned a teenage boy offering bread to a starving Jewish prisoner who was being marched through the streets. Both the boy and the prisoner were whipped for this act of generosity. The scene finds its way into the novel. The Book Thief has been hugely successful. Much of its success is due

WOLFF, Tobias This Boys Life NEW TEXT

Wolffs autobiographical novel on growing up in the 1950s, set, for the most part, in rural Washington, about a troubled youth, Jack a name he borrowed from Jack London, and his love for his divorced mother, Rosemary. The young mans life changes for the worst when his mother marries a single father, and the stepfather intimidates and humiliates him. Although the subject matter is sometimes grim, this is really a novel about a young mans inventiveness and determination to succeed. With strong themes of identity, the desire to escape and the need to belong, the meaning of family and fatherhood, the novel is a compelling read, written in crystal-clear prose.

ZUSAK, Markus The Book Thief NEW TEXT The first thing to be said about The Book Thief is that it is a remarkably easy novel to read and enjoy. The second thing to say is that is that it has received mixed reviews. The novel tells the story of a decent German who give shelter to a Jewish man, Max, during World War II. We learn about the German, and his family and his neighbours. Just as we come to know and empathize with the characters, the Allies bomb Munich where they live. One of the conceits of the novel is that the

to the simplicity of the writing and the quality of the story-telling, with many readers describing it as impossible to put down. The key debate for teachers and students is whether the idiom robs the subject of the seriousness it deserves?


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SOME NOTES FOR TEACHERS Teachers and students should make sure that the texts they are studying come from the prescribed list for the year of the examination. Candidates who are repeating the Leaving Certificate course should note that texts prescribed for one year may not necessarily be prescribed for subsequent years. For students taking the Higher Level Papers, the study of a Shakespearean play is compulsory as either a single text or as part of a comparative study. The study of a film adaptation of a Shakespearean play does not fulfil this requirement as the director of the film is considered the author of the film text.

may be studied as one of the three texts in a comparative study. 3. The Comparative Modes for Examination in 2012 are: Higher Level i Theme or Issue ii The General Vision and Viewpoint iii Literary Genre Ordinary Level i Relationships ii Theme iii Hero, Heroine, Villain

It is also worth noting that three texts are prescribed for study in a comparative manner at both Higher and Ordinary level. As the syllabus indicates, students are required to study from this list: As the syllabus indicates, students are required to study from this list: 1. One text on its own from the following texts: Austen, Jane Ballard, Emily Binchy, Maeve Friel, Brian Ibsen, Henrik Johnston, Jennifer

Emma H/O Empire of the Sun H/O Circle of Friends O Dancing at Lughnasa H/O Dolls House H/O How Many Miles to Babylon? O McDonagh, Martin The Lonesome West O Shakespeare, William Hamlet H/O Trevor, William The Story of Lucy Gault O · One of the texts marked with H/O may be studied on its own at Higher Level and at Ordinary Level. · One of the texts marked with O may be studied on its own at Ordinary Level. 2. Three other texts in a comparative manner, according to the comparative modes prescribed for this course. · Any texts from the list of texts prescribed for comparative study, other than the one already chosen for study on its own, may be selected for the comparative study. Texts chosen must be from the prescribed list for the current year.

4. Shakespearean Drama At Higher Level a play by Shakespeare must be one of the texts chosen. This can be studied on its own or as an element in a comparative study.

¡ At Higher Level and at Ordinary Level, a film

At Ordinary Level the study of a play by Shakespeare is optional.


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THE HEROS JOURNEY: REFLECTIONS ON TEACHING ENGLISH This is an edited version of the text of the address given by Kevin McDermott, National Coordinator Language Group of Subjects, Second Level Support Service, at the INOTE conference in Kilkenny in May 2010. In 2002, when the English Support Service was designing a number of new courses, we engaged in an exercise of playful dialogue, where every time it seemed that we had reached a conclusion, we kept the conversation going by asking a series of supplementary questions, in the spirit of the Brendan Kennelly poem: Though we live in a world that dreams of ending That always seems about to give in Something that will not acknowledge conclusion Insists that we forever begin. The intention was that each new question would generate further discussion and force us to find new ways of looking at old certainties. In one of these sessions we decided that we would create a narrative of teaching English and try to capture teachers stories as we facilitated a course on the teaching of narrative.

The Disguise of Myth In asking you to don the mantle of the hero, in your own cycle of adventure, Im inviting you to dress in the disguise of myth. Through assuming different identities, through taking on different roles and trying out different versions of ourselves, we effect a potentiating transformation, that contributes to the ongoing project of scripting the narrative of our teaching life.

One measure of the success of that conversation is that, eight years later, Im still as excited now as I was then by the narrative of teaching English, which, at this gathering of teachers of English, I want to characterise as the heros journey. The Heros Journey and Education The phrase and the concept, the heros journey, come from the writings of Joseph Campbell on comparative mythology. I think there is a correspondence between the life of an English teacher and the archetypal hero of Campbells myth. Both are concerned with self-discovery; both involve a relationship between the individual and the community; in both the heros journey and the teachers life, the protagonist undertakes a series of individual journeys, which combine to form a cycle of adventure. If each academic year, from September to June, is characterised as a single heroic journey, think of how many such journeys we each undertake in the course of a teaching life. And the aggregate of those journeys forms the adventure that is, for us, teaching English.

So for the next few minutes, I want you to imagine yourself as the hero of your own journey of self discovery, venturing forth from the world of common experience into the strange and vast world of literature from which you bring back reports, and then lead a group of followers across its threshold in search of hidden treasure. For the students who join you on the journey, who embark on their own parallel voyage of discovery, you are both mentor and threshold guardian; hero and guide. The Refusal of the Call to Adventure In Campbells version of the heros journey, the hero is often loath to answer the call to adventure. I doubt if any of us feels very heroic in mid August, when were sitting in the South of France,


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surrounded by those whom we love, feeling the Mediterranean heat upon us, reading our favourite authors, and trying desperately to suppress the knowledge that our timetable, our call to adventure, awaits. But, ultimately, we do answer the call and we do so out of contractual obligation but also in a spirit of service because, at heart, we know that we wont let down our students, those who depend upon us.

to reflect. And I thought about the things I value most as an educator, and I thought about the educational legacy I inherited from my parents. As educators, my parents gave me an example of encouragement and nurture, and a way of being present to myself and my siblings. Their example anchors my identity as a teacher and helps me to negotiate between the Scylla of managerial control and the Charybdis of a consumerist model of education. I am sure that every one of you has

A number of years ago, the Second Level Support Service invited the teachers in a large postprimary school to create a collective image of themselves. According to this assemblage of individual statements, a teacher is someone who is strongly committed to the students; who enjoys seeing the students progress and develop; who loves his/her subject; who strives to involve all students in learning; who possesses a range of personal attributes; and who is open to learning. What struck me then, and continues to strike me now, is that this collective image is expressive, personal, and associates teaching with relationships, with optimism, and with possibility. And it is this sense of the possible that, I believe, brings us back, year after year, and makes us teacher folk longen to goon on pilgrimages, and seek out strange lands. The Gifts for the Journey In the Campbell myth, the hero is supported to commence the journey by a guide, a supporter, who helps the protagonist overcome fear and leads him or her to the threshold of the new world. Sometimes the guide does no more than help the hero recognise his or her own inner strength. I have rarely met a teacher of English who did not profess deeply held beliefs about the nature and the importance of teaching. In a piece of research on teacher motivation, a respondent said: I come from a disadvantaged school and am passionate about promoting the lot of the kids and thats fundamental to what I do, and it carries through into all aspects of my work. Passion, and the courage it engenders, underpins our teaching identity, and it is one of the personal resources we carry on our journey. And this guide often gives the hero a gift, a gift which has protective properties. It could be a special shield or a cloak that confers invisibility. I am at an age when neither of my parents survives. And when my mother died, that face-to-face encounter with mortality caused me, as it causes everyone faced with similar life and death events,


similar personal, biographical moorings which anchor you as you manage the tension between your sense of personal integrity and the various external pressures that bear upon you. And I think it is the values that we inherit from those whom we love and who loved us, that provide a protective cloak as we set out on our annual journey. The Heros Ordeal The journey itself is marked by many tests of character and endurance and seeming failures. And there are moments when our followers doubt whether we can find the treasure and return home safely. I have a vivid memory of a student throwing down his pen in disgust and proclaiming loudly for all his classmates to hear; Sir, I understood that, before you explained it. These are times when the journey is lonely and we doubt ourselves when, for example, in the dark days of Winter, the Mock exam results are disappointing and theres a murmur from the followers that the teacher in the neighbouring school, or the Grind School, or the

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Into her womb convey sterility! Dry up in her the organs of increase; And from her derogate body never spring A babe to honour her! If she must teem, Create her child of spleen; that it may live, And be a thwart disnatured torment to her!

local convent, has a much better way of teaching the Comparative Study than you have. On those occasions the hero is like one of the Men of Erin who, huddled around the camp fire, hears dispiriting reports of the deeds of Cuchulainn. Who could possibly match him? And is his heart not badly shaken? The Ordeal Sometimes, we face more daunting challenges that really shake our confidence and self belief to the core, when, as a teacher, we almost die. There can be a subject inspection when who we are and what we represent gets lost in translation; there are times when we dive deep below the surface of a Sylvia Plath poem and cannot find our way back, when we want to say: I am incapable of more knowledge. What is this, this face So murderous in its strangle of branches? Its snaky acids hiss. It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow faults That kill, that kill, that kill. And not even Niall McMonagles eloquent commentary can help because you have reached the bottom and theres no diving bell. Or, you are overcome by the nihilism in King Lear:

How bleak and cruel and merciless is that? You want to close the text and protect your fragile self. But you cannot because the followers are waiting for you to guide them and dont understand that youre lost. Thats when your classroom becomes a really lonely place, an isolating place, when you are a king of banks and stones and every blooming thing. And theres no point in confiding in your colleagues: youre the Senior English Teacher, for goodness sake, youre the hero. And just as you think, well, no worst, there is none, you hear that the new English teacher is not only handing out typed notes on Plath and Lear but he/she has created a website where the students can download the notes, or an MP3 file, if they prefer, so that they can listen to the notes on their iPods. And like any hero faced with despair, you pray. You invoke the ancestors. Recently I completed a series of workshops with colleagues on encouraging students to be more confident in their abilities to write short stories. A remarkable feature of those workshops was the number of teachers who could


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Of course I know that, Louisa. I do not see the application of the remark. To do him justice he did not, at all.

remember an instance from their own schooldays when an English teacher responded appreciatively to a piece of written work in a way that was a defining moment for the teachers younger self. In work with pre-service teachers, around the creation of a teaching identity, most young English teachers say they want to model themselves on the person who taught them English. When you hit rock bottom, you think of the people who inspired you; you don your protective cloak; you draw on your reserves of courage and passion; you go into class next day and you begin again, afresh.

Thomas Gradgrind: philosopher and school-owner, the man who carries a rule, a pair of scales and a multiplication table so that, at any given moment, he can weigh and measure any parcel of human nature and tell you what it comes to. I wonder what Gradgrind would have made of this young Leaving Certificate students account of her life, as recounted to a teacher-researcher. This is what the researcher Mary Fagan, reports:

The Reward And because you stick your courage to the sticking place you are rewarded. Of course, there is the reward of the examination results that your students achieve. And their achievement would not be possible without your guidance. However, Leaving Certificate results are increasingly used to measure teacher performance, as if they were the only measure that matters. One has only to think of the public spectacle that is the publication of the league table of schools. But you know and I know that results and league tables are simply information; they do not tell the narrative of human experience that lies behind the statistics. They are like the smoke from the chimneys in Coketown. You remember the scene in Hard Times, Gradgrind and Louisa speaking of the offer of marriage that Bounderby has made:

As A tells her story it is clear that the formation of the self has taken place in circumstances of family disintegration, domestic violence and dislocation. Prematurely, A assumed familial responsibilities. By the age of seven, she remarks, I could make a Christmas dinner. As a child, she stayed at home from school to mind the kids, and to observe the chaotic drama of her parents life: And watch me da get stabbed, or, you know, me ma end up in hospital. There was always just violence  violence, drink, drugs, whatever ‌ What A values most is her collection of photographs. However, A has no images from the period of her life between the age of two and the age of nine. This sense of loss and the feelings of suffocation she experienced, expressed in a remarkable series of vivid images, make her appreciate her present circumstances: ‌at that time it just felt like there was‌you were in this room and you couldnt get out of it, and there was no air. And it felt youd never, ever get out of it. And I used to always imagine myself crawling up the wall, getting to the top and that the ceiling was going to open and it eventually did so ‌ thats the way ‌ thats my other side, like ‌ thats the way I look at it. I got out of that bad side, thats the dark side. Now Im in the light side. From the present perspective, A looks back with wonder at her younger self and what she went through and the responsibilities she assumed. Her early experiences give her a belief in herself, or a belief in the necessity to believe in your self, in your own agency:

Removing her eyes from her father, Louisa sat so long looking silently towards the town, that he said, at length: Are you consulting the chimneys of the Coketown works, Louisa? There seems to be nothing there but languid and monotonous smoke. Yet when the night comes, Fire bursts out, father! she answered, turning quickly.

You have to just try everything you can to get where you want to be. ‌ Its all to do with you. You have to be strong; you have to


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want to do it ‌ thats what Im trying to prove to people ‌ You dont have to, you dont have to be on the dole; you dont have to do this; you can further yourself. You can better yourself.

comes at the subject in an interesting way. The composition is an imaginative and intelligent interpretation of the title. Now, just imagine you are that young woman. Just imagine, you have put your heart and soul into writing a story and you receive this response from your English teacher. Just imagine how you would walk home from school on that day. You would permit yourself the privilege of walking on air, if I can borrow from Seamus Heaneys Nobel acceptance speech. And, in all likelihood, that would be the day when youd begin to think of yourself as a young writer, not simply as a student. And there is no way of knowing when the seed planted on that day would blossom.

I think the reward in teaching, especially in teaching English, is related to the gift we have at our disposal to bestow on students, like the student whose voice we have just heard. This is the gift of helping them believe in themselves, believe in their ability to enter language in ways that are meaningful, and lyrical and beautiful, as that young womans voice is. At the series of workshops on writing short stories, teachers were invited to respond to a number of stories written by Leaving Certificate students. One of the pieces was written in response to a question from the 2007 Leaving Certificate examination:

And there is an equal uncertainty in reckoning the impact of the heros journey on our followers, because the significance of the journey extends way beyond the present into the future. And if our heroic journey has been successful then the students who have followed us will be hospitable to the insights that are still to come in the future. I love George Steiners remark that the things which we know by heart, and take to heart, will ripen and deploy within us. And the ripening of the things taken to heart is the reward we receive for having the courage to go on our heros journey.

I tune in to conversations around me. TEXT 2 Write a short story suggested by the above sentence. The workshop participants were invited to identify everything that was commendable, from a writing perspective, in the piece. This is a summary of what the teachers said about this young womans story: This is an ambitious piece of writing. It is aesthetic, imaginative and empathetic. It immediately catches the interest of the reader and sets the scene. It deals with an important issue in a mature way. Real emotion and a depth of feeling are described without excess or sentimentality. A clear voice  personal, sensitive and sincere  emerges from the writing. There is interesting use of popular culture as well as literary and legendary allusions to provide context, develop the theme and frame the story. The register moves successfully between the colloquial and the literary. The description of the landscape evokes a mood and an atmosphere. There are easy transitions between internal monologue and description. The changes of mood in the text are mirrored in changes in form and style. There is an interesting use of tense, linked to themes of time and memory. Good use is made of the car journey to structure the piece and symbolise the personal journey of the narrator. The use of place names locates the journey in the real world. The variety in sentence structure creates the rhythm and mood of the piece. The narrow time frame and the tight setting allows for rich description. There is a clear placement of characters in their situation. The young writer

Why the Heros Journey I have had the great good fortune for the last twelve years to work with English teachers up and down the length and breadth of the country. English is an extraordinarily important subject. It is an arts subject, the gateway through which the majority of our students access literature, drama, writing and film. English teachers are the guides, and the mentors, and the threshold guardians, and the keepers of the flame  the ones who know where the Golden Bough is to be found. At a time when public and policy discourse is increasingly influenced by an economic-led view of education, I wanted to tap into a richer, more mythic version of teaching, one that associates the enterprise with that of Odysseus or Aeneas. So I salute you, teachers of English, you heroic adventurers, and I applaud the journeys you undertake each year. And the end of the journey? Well, there is no end. Theres only a rest period before the next call to adventure. As Eliot says in Little Gidding: We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.


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EXPLORING MACBETH Abbey Theatre Workshop for Teachers Friday 26th February 2010 Theres something invigorating for a teacher to be meeting at the stage door of the Abbey, the national theatre, for a workshop on Macbeth. The fellow participants arrive from places as far flung as Limerick and Waterford, all filled with a similar feeling of expectation. After the gathering, our group of ten head over to the rehearsal space in Marlborough Lane to begin our session with Andrea Ainsworth, the voice director with the Abbey.

If it were done when tis done, then twere well It were done quickly: if the assassination Could trammel up the consequence, and catch With his surcease success; that but this blow Might be the be-all and the end-all here, But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, Wed jump the life to come. But in these cases We still have judgment here, that we but teach Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return To plague the inventor. This even-handed justice Commends the ingredients of our poisond chalice To our own lips. Hes here in double trust; First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been So clear in his great office, that his virtues Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against The deep damnation of his taking-off; And pity, like a naked new-born babe, Striding the blast, or heavens cherubim, horsed Upon the sightless couriers of the air, Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which oerleaps itself And falls on the other "

Andrea gives a brief introduction and sets the scene for the next few days. The ambition will be to encourage each of us to speak the words of the play and to catch hold of Shakespeares language and rhythm. The workshop will invite us to consider the meaning of the words and explore the intentions or desires which the words serve. Through getting hold of the words we will get hold of the play. Over the weekend were going to unpick, animate and put back together a few key moments from the play. We begin with some breathing exercises followed by vocal exercise and then we put sounds to gestures. Its an energetic and playful beginning. We make meaning through gesture and non-verbal sounds. And then we move on to words. We look at Macbeths soliloquy from Act I, Scene VII:


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The soliloquy has twenty eight lines. We begin without much ado, standing in a circle, reading in the round, each participant reading to the next pause, as signalled by the punctuation. Were all concentrating, making sure we get our cues and hand the speech on to the next person. And because we are concentrating so intently on each word, I begin to hear words that had never struck me before, like here or this. And I notice that reading these small units of speech removes the fear that often attends reading Shakespeare. And when we have read the speech a few times, with different people leading, we pause and review how far we have travelled. Sitting on the floor, we talk about words and phrases that have entered our consciousness; how, for example, the word assassination removes the dirty deed in your own backyard quality from the prospective killing. Having spoken the words and felt the rhythm of the speech we are more conscious of how the language is heightened and the imagery becomes more elaborate as Macbeth seeks to persuade himself from the proposed action; how he builds himself up to proceed no further.

captured the drama of self-talk, how a soliloquy is a dialogue of self-persuasion. We are pleased with yourselves. But in this workshop, there is no resting on your laurels. The final exercise of the evening session follows after a discussion of the soliloquy is terms of what Macbeth wants: the kingship; what he must do to have it; and the consequences that will follow from acting to acquire it. Then we discuss the reasons which dissuade Macbeth from pursuing his desire.

Then we are on our feet again and Andrea directs us in an exercise that translates the movement of thought, and the pauses between each thought, into physical movement. We stand still to speak and when we reach a pause, we gauge how long it is and walk what we think is a commensurate distance. It is a simple exercise yet it is extraordinarily effective in capturing the way the movement of thought moves forward in fits and starts, or hesitates and falls back. After an hour or so, the thought occurs to me that we are not at all concerned with whether the play is readable a perennial preoccupation for us teachers but are deep into exploring how these lines might be played.

We are in the realm of abstract concepts and ideas: desires; actions; consequences. Andrea asks us to consider how to make these abstractions more real, more tangible, more playable. So we search for physical objects to represent a particular concept, drawing on the imagery of the speech to guide us but also selecting, in an arbitrary way, from the bits and pieces to hand: a chair represents the kingship Macbeth desires; a plastic bottle represents the consequences, the poisond chalice he will have to drink; a notebook stands for Duncans virtues. Each participant assembles his or her own set of physical properties to represent the key moral ideas. And then each of us, on our own, experiments with focussing on the appropriate object - holding it, sitting on it, looking at it - as we speak the words of the soliloquy, and we succeed in giving physical expression to ideas, desires and qualities. And as I play with the words

In quick succession, we do two further exercises. It the first, we work in pairs. We read the soliloquy, passing the speech back and forth to each other as the punctuation dictates, incorporating the different kinds of pauses we have now explored. We stand close and speak quietly, concentrating on catching the meaning of each word and speaking each section so that our partner can pick up the meaning and continue. We do the exercise a number of times alternating who begins the speech. More than any commentary or explication could convey, we understand how the soliloquy is a dramatic dialogue in which Macbeth debates with himself. In five minutes we have


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prophecy of the kingship to come. We consider the circumstances of that meeting - the general coming victorious from the bloody field, the feeling of luck and blessedness that goes with surviving a battle. When the witches speak to Macbeth, they speak to that feeling of luck. Is it this state of being, this state of luck and blessedness, that opens Macbeths mind to consider the possibility of something he would never have thought possible before? More generally, what circumstances stimulate states or feelings that make a character believe that the impossible is possible?

and the objects, I realise how much the chair, the kingship, holds my attention and exerts an almost magnetic influence. What strikes me in this, and in the other exercises, is the way in which the workshop has us concentrating, focussing and playing with the words. We havent covered a great deal of the text of the play, but we have uncovered many things. Thats something worth bringing from the rehearsal room to the classroom. Saturday 27th February, 2010 Morning We assemble on Saturday morning bright and early and review the workshop from the night before. Everyone is eager to contribute. We all have become more aware of how the soliloquy follows its own internal momentum. Andrea asks us to consider the points or points where the energy in the speech changes or renews itself and why this might be. This leads to a lengthy discussion that draws on the insights from the evening before. In particular we pick up on the idea of the soliloquy as an act of self persuasion. What has Macbeth to persuade himself from doing? Why does he need to do this, in the first place? For the first time, we bring in the backstory, the meeting with the witches, the

Its an interesting discussion that looks to find a key that will help an actor play the part. Its also the kind of discussion that would help a student make sense of the tensions and inner conflicts that beset Macbeth. We have begun exploring the play at a point of energy and have now backtracked to help us explain the nature of that energy. It makes sense and it works to begin in this way, not at the beginning of the play, but at a key moment that is easily got at. Having considered the question of why Macbeth is contemplating murdering Duncan, we go back to the movement and momentum of the soliloquy. We discuss how Macbeth has to make


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Enter LADY MACBETH How now! what news? LADY MACBETH He has almost suppd: why have you left the chamber? MACBETH Hath he askd for me? LADY MACBETH Know you not he has? MACBETH We will proceed no further in this business: He hath honourd me of late; and I have bought Golden opinions from all sorts of people, Which would be worn now in their newest gloss, Not cast aside so soon.

Duncan unkillable; how he has to persuade himself that the deed is undoable and how this is reflected in the language, imagery and rhythm of the speech. And we reflect on how the see-saw moments in the speech, the pauses for thought, the gathering of energy, and the decisive leap forward, are guided by the punctuation. I dont think I have ever paid more attention to punctuation marks in my life. I dont think I have ever worked harder at trying to describe the effect of a mark: the comma which slows down without stopping the momentum; the semicolon which looks back to what precedes it as much as looks forward to what is to come; and the colon which is really a gathering of energy before leaping forward. Wow! And its only 11 oclock on Saturday morning.

LADY MACBETH Was the hope drunk Wherein you dressd yourself? hath it slept since? And wakes it now, to look so green and pale At what it did so freely? From this time Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard To be the same in thine own act and valour As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that Which thou esteemst the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem, Letting I dare not wait upon I would, Like the poor cat i the adage? MACBETH Prithee, peace: I dare do all that may become a man; Who dares do more is none.

After our coffee break, we read the soliloquy again, standing in a tight circle and we concentrate on committing ourselves to each word, not pulling back, and each person works to land his or her phrase so that the next person can take pick up it up, carry on and do the same for the next person. We do this a few times, and both the pace and the energy of our reading increase and there is a real sense of playing off each other, and for each other, and speaking as one. And the speech comes alive. And I think each of us has a better appreciation of this key speech than at any time before and we are more attuned to the nuance of each word. This has been achieved without any single person having the responsibility or the burden of reading the twenty eight lines through on his or her own. Theres a lesson in that for the classroom.

LADY MACBETH What beast wast, then, That made you break this enterprise to me? When you durst do it, then you were a man; And, to be more than what you were, you would Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place Did then adhere, and yet you would make both: They have made themselves, and that their fitness now Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know How tender tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have pluckd my nipple from his boneless gums, And dashd the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done to this.

And so we move on to the next part of the Act I, Scene VII where Lady Macbeth seeks her husband out.


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MACBETH If we should fail?

As we shall make our griefs and clamour roar Upon his death?

LADY MACBETH We fail! But screw your courage to the sticking-place, And well not fail. When Duncan is asleep Whereto the rather shall his days hard journey Soundly invite himhis two chamberlains Will I with wine and wassail so convince That memory, the warder of the brain, Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason A limbeck only: when in swinish sleep Their drenched natures lie as in a death, What cannot you and I perform upon The unguarded Duncan? what not put upon His spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt Of our great quell?

MACBETH I am settled, and bend up Each corporal agent to this terrible feat. Away, and mock the time with fairest show: False face must hide what the false heart doth know. We bring chairs and sit in a wide circle and the conversation fills the circle. We begin by setting the scene, making it clear whats going on. Duncan has come to stay with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. They are hosting a banquet for the king. Macbeth has left the table, thereby abandoning his guest of honour. Lady Macbeth comes to find him to bring him back. We read through the scene quickly and discuss some of the things which jump out at us. For example, there is a comment on the false note that Macbeth strikes when Lady Macbeth enters, How now! what news! Hes covering his tracks, diverting her but she will not be put off and asks directly, Why have you left the chamber? He ignores the question and then announces his decision, in the way that a Managing Director might make an announcement on company policy, We will proceed no further in this business. Comment is made on the use of the word bought by Macbeth in reference to good opinion and honour. Surely these are earned, not bought? We note the way the drunk/hangover imagery is used by Lady Macbeth and the shifting of the ground from the impersonal use of this business by Macbeth to her Such I account thy love.

MACBETH Bring forth men-children only; For thy undaunted mettle should compose Nothing but males. Will it not be received, When we have markd with blood those sleepy two Of his own chamber and used their very daggers, That they have donet? LADY MACBETH Who dares receive it other,

Andrea asks us to remember what is happening off stage. Theres a banquet going on. The host and hostess cant be away for too long. They dont have much time for this discussion, so theres a sense of urgency about it. Moreover, if they are to kill Duncan, proceed with the business, it will have to be done that night, so theres an urgency about this that is reflected in words like time, now and do. We reflect on the force of Lady Macbeths words, their effect and their implication: If I had made the promise, this is what I would have done to fulfil it. Thats how much I am committed to you and to this joint enterprise. So, how much are you committed to me? At what point in the scene do we become aware that the energy and power has shifted from one to the other? At what point do we realise that Macbeth will surrender to her will? We look back to the soliloquy which precedes this scene. Now it is clear that the imagery Macbeth


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meets an obstacle; when an intended act is blocked or meets resistance or refusal. Andrea observes how playing an action is more effective on stage than playing a state; how language serves the action which in turn creates the state. This leads to a thoughtful silence as we, nonactors, think this through. So, Andrea sets up a scenario where we can experience for ourselves what she is talking about. In pairs we are going to play with the idea of action and reaction. We have two words to play with, Yes and No and two actions: attraction and repulsion. What follows is an interesting game of cat-andmouse, a pas de deux. My partner and I experiment taking turns to begin the chain of action and reaction. By inflexion, facial expression and movement, we give meaning to each No or Yes, each trying to react to what has gone before and influence what will come next in the game; to cajole, block, dissuade or persuade. Its an intriguing and dramatic game of chess, of movement and counter-movement. Both of us agree that the exercise brings home the way in which characters play off each other, and how the successful blocking of one avenue of advance leads to a new approach, a different action.

created to convince himself, the elaborate, ornamental imagery of angels and cherubim, was artificial and the thing he desires is still alive and is re-fuelled by Lady Macbeth. We take a short break and when we come back together, we dispense with the chairs and stand in a circle, but its a looser circle to the one we formed when we read the scene earlier in the day. By now Ive become accustomed to the way we change positions  standing, sitting, loose circle, tight circle, going off to a corner of the room to work on ones own, finding a space to work with a partner  and the relationship between our configuration and the nature of the work in which we are engaged. For example, the loose circle suits the speculative, free-ranging discussion of interpretation while the tighter circle suits the focused reading of a scene. Every configuration brings its own kind of energy and carries an invitation to participate in the workshop activity in a different way. How might this be replicated in the classroom?

When everyone has completed the exercise and given some informal feedback, we break for lunch. We reconvene and bring our chairs into a circle. We discuss the actions both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth wish to complete in this scene, the various objectives they wish to accomplish. From the exercise before lunch we are aware that every objective or action is likely to produce a reaction or encounter resistance. In response to the questions, What does he want in this scene? and What does she want in this scene? we throw out loads of suggestions: He wants to call a halt. He wants to take charge. He wants to divert her, stall her, ignore her demands. She wants to challenge him, rebuke him, accuse him, undermine him. He wants to stick to his guns. She wants to confront him. She wants to make him feel guilty.

Andrea leads the discussion inviting us to name what it is that Lady Macbeth wants. The suggestions come thick and fast: She wants Macbeth back out at the banquet; she wants to know whats going on; she wants him to come back to the plan‌ From here we discuss the kinds of actions she takes to get what she wants: she questions; she undermines; she infantilizes; she mocks; she goads. There is discussion on the way something new is tried when an action

After a lively exchange of views, were on our feet again and form into pairs. Andrea asks us to play the opening of the scene but instead of


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reciting the lines, we communicate what we want in a non-verbal way. We can make sounds but we cannot use words. The emphasis now falls on gesture and stance and movement. Again it is a pas de deux, with one partner turning this way and that and the other following. It becomes a drama of flight and pursuit, of confrontation and evasion. Everyone is working with a different partner to the one from the earlier exercises, so there is a new dynamic at play in the room. We swap roles and discover numerous possibilities of playing the lines without speaking the words:

Enter LADY MACBETH How now! what news? LADY MACBETH He has almost suppd: why have you left the chamber? MACBETH Hath he askd for me? LADY MACBETH Know you not he has? MACBETH We will proceed no further in this business: We come back to the larger group and compare notes. And now we run right through the full scene, translating the entire text into a series of first-person-pronoun verb second-personpronoun statements, of the kind I interrogate you, I challenge you. As in other brainstorming sessions, the emphasis is on moving things along, not encouraging people to second guess themselves. The result is a compendium of suggestions and some inventive word play and neologisms. My favourites are:

in a close circle and read it in the round, twice in succession, moving from speaker to speaker as the punctuation dictates, working from one punctuation mark to the next. Then we read it twice more, though this time each speaker is free to read beyond the punctuation mark and pass on to the next person when he or she deems it appropriate. You can hear and see how the work weve done on the scene has given each individual the confidence to deliver the words.

I high-horse you. I full-stop you. I guilt-trip you. Other phrases which stay in my mind are: I licence you; I embolden you; I bolster you. I notice the alliterative patterns in some of the streams of statements or the onomatopoeic quality that creeps in as the litany gathers force and energy. If the soliloquies were exercises in self-persuasion, this scene plays as an episode in mutual delusion. Having explored the scene in this way, we stand

We go back to pair work and do two exercises in quick succession. The first centres on the following exchange: MACBETH We will proceed no further in this business: He hath honourd me of late; and I have bought Golden opinions from all sorts of people,


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Which would be worn now in their newest gloss, Not cast aside so soon.

Then, in pairs, we play the whole scene, putting movement and gesture to the words, and there are five games of pursuit and fight in the room.

LADY MACBETH Was the hope drunk Wherein you dressd yourself? hath it slept since? And wakes it now, to look so green and pale At what it did so freely? From this time Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard To be the same in thine own act and valour As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that Which thou esteemst the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem, Letting I dare not wait upon I would, Like the poor cat i the adage?

Now full of energy, we from a tight circle and read in the round, reading from pause to pause, bringing every shred of understanding to each word. Its an electrifying reading and a fitting end to the days work. Sunday 28th February, 2010 Its tea and coffee to begin and we chat about what weve experienced so far and how different this way of exploring the play is to the way most of us have taught it in the classroom. Theres general agreement that we want to bring more of this kind of exploration into our classroom. Today the focus has shifted. We have moved on to Act III, Scene I, and Macbeths soliloquy, To be thus is nothing‌

Its a brilliant exercise. One person plays Macbeth, the other Lady Macbeth. As Macbeth says his lines, Lady Macbeth picks up on individual phrases and repeats them back, undermining all that is being said. The person reading Macbeth can repeat the phrase, reassert its power, before moving on. When Lady Macbeth delivers her lines, a similar process is repeated. Once we have run through the exercise a few times and develop our own way of playing it, we understand how it reinforces the push and pull in the scene, the play of power between them.

MACBETH To be thus is nothing, But to be safely thus. Our fears in Banquo Stick deep; and in his royalty of nature Reigns that which would be feard. Tis much he dares; And, to that dauntless temper of his mind, He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour To act in safety. There is none but he Whose being I do fear: and, under him, My Genius is rebuked; as, it is said, Mark Antonys was by Caesar. He chid the sisters When first they put the name of king upon me, And bade them speak to him; then prophet-like They haild him father to a line of kings: Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown, And put a barren sceptre in my gripe, Thence to be wrenchd with an unlineal hand, No son of mine succeeding. If t be so, For Banquos issue have I filed my mind; For them the gracious Duncan have I murderd; Put rancours in the vessel of my peace Only for them; and mine eternal jewel Given to the common enemy of man, To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings! Rather than so, come fate into the list, And champion me to the utterance! Whos there?

And then we move on Lady Macbeths What beast wast then‌ We give each, single word its moment, its weight and balance. We read in pairs, alternating every word so that each gets its due. In Andreas phrase, we unfix the speech, word by word, and discover the power of even the smallest word. The personal pronouns, the I-You relationship, really jump off the page. I am struck by the force of make and unmake; the various forms of the verb do and the noun time. By really slowing down the reading, by making your way one word at a time, the scene reveals itself. I think of the many students who have been struck dumb with terror at the prospect of reading a large chunk of Shakespeares language; how they stumble over simple words as they skim forward trying to anticipate the words that might trip them up. Reading, as we have done, one word at a time, takes away that fear. At this stage, having played with the separate parts of the scene its time to put the whole thing back together. We again read in the round. This time we read each speech in its entirety and get a feel for the movement of the whole scene.

We stand in a circle and do a choral reading of the twenty five lines of the soliloquy. Theres safety in numbers and the voices rise and fall more or less in unison, like the prayers at Benediction. We


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give a quick response. A number of words are commented on, words which have some meat on their bones, like stick in line three. This leads to a discussion of the way in which Macbeth tortures himself in the soliloquy and fills his mind with a host of characters whose presence drives him to distraction: Banquo; Banquos issue; Duncan. The soliloquy is like a scene played between Macbeth and a number of characters. Taking up the idea of the people who populate the speech, Andrea suggests that we find objects to represent the most important characters conjured in the speech. For the second time over the weekend, each of us assembles a set of properties from the odds and end around the room and in our pockets and rucksacks. The idea is that we will do the speech and speak or address the important characters through the objects which represent them. When Macbeth refers to himself, we touch our heart or make a similar gesture. Each person works on his or her own. At first I find it hard to project anything onto the odds and ends before me. However, as I read the speech over, one thing becomes clearer and clearer to me: the real anger and frustration in the soliloquy is directed at Banquos issue, the seed of Banquo. I experiment with reciting the lines, with finding the point where the energy quickens and intensifies. I use the punctuation and the pauses to guide me. In one reading, I kick out at the object representing Banquos issue and repeat the action at the next four mentions of them. The effect is staggering. I feel I have uncovered the Macbeth whose murderers kill Macduffs son. We pause to compare notes and soon everyone is using a physical gesture to match the fury of Macbeth. Before we know it, shoes and runners are kicked around the room. When we stop there is agreement that the exercise has helped us to embody the anger and darkness at the heart of the play. Its one thing to talk about darkness and cruelty in a discursive way; its quite another to find yourself lashing out in anger at the object of your hatred.

the reaction of the group, like the reaction of a crowd at a sporting event, spurs each person to deliver each word as powerfully and tellingly as possible. Standing in the middle, meeting the eyes of those in the circle, you want to persuade them, to convince them of the truth of what you are saying. Its not all shouting, though there is some. There is also low intensity, quiet fury and murderous intent. In playing the soliloquy in this way we see that Macbeth is his own rabble; I rabble myself might be his dictum. When we finish there is a terrific feeling of shared accomplishment, of having made something interesting and revelatory happen. I suppose its the feeling that animates a company when the playing comes together to produce something that could not be produced by one person alone. I hope its the feeling that you find in classrooms when the class group generate insights and understanding from class discussion or interaction.

We leave our individual work and reform as a group. This time we set up a wider circle. We are going to read the soliloquy in the round, going from pause to pause but there are some additional elements to the way we will read it. For starters, each person will step into the centre of the circle to deliver his or her portion of the speech. Secondly, the rest of the group will make some verbal response to whats been said. In other words we create a chorus or a rabble and

The workshop has almost come to an end. Before we conclude, Andrea goes back to the different sections that make up a speech: the units of punctuation, the sentences and the verse lines. We discuss how the punctuation - the commas, semi-colons, colons and full stops  influence and control the movement of thought. Andrea talks


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my class room, I ask myself. You can guess the answer. Yet, anyone speaking Shakespeares language cannot be unaware of the underlying verse structure. I am interested to see how an actor or a voice director approaches Shakespearean verse. Andrea suggests that the verse line is a way of organising thought within a soundscape of five beats and five off-beats. Not every line conforms to the iambic pattern. Some lines may begin with a stressed beat followed by an unstressed, a trochee as opposed to an iambus, or the five stressed syllables may not be evenly stressed. In some places there are more than beats in the line and the line seems to push against its own structure. However, for all those variations, the underlying pattern is clear and the trace of the iambic pentameter underscores the language of the play.

about punctuation in a way which I suspect will be rehearsed in all our classrooms. She raises a number of questions; offers some definitions. What is a comma? Its not a stop. Its more like a speed bump on the road which slows you down but which you cross over. In terms of the movement of thought, it slows it down without really altering the course. The semicolon is a pivotal point, like the one on a see-saw which rocks one way then the other. A semi-colon contains within it the notion of equivalence: what goes before it is as important as what comes after. A semicolon gives pause for thought. The colon has the effect of pushing both the speaker and the thought forward into the list or the definition which follows it. The colon creates a jump forward. The full stop brings you to a halt. Its not a temporary pause; its not a seesaw moment; its not a leap forward: its a full stop. Each of us takes the soliloquy To be thus is nothing‌ and experiments with different ways of marking the pauses. We are all on out feet and try to mirror in a physical way the effect of the punctuation marks. For example, a comma is marked by a small change in the rate of walking; a semi-colon is signalled by a re-tracing on your steps before moving forward; a colon brings a leap forward; the full stop brings you to a standstill. The exercise is fun to do, inventive and instructive. Each person works out their own way of marking the pauses. However, what is abundantly clear is that everyone is interpreting the movement of Macbeths thoughts through the punctuation. The punctuation is key to our interpretation. Would my classroom was as creative a space as the rehearsal room!

To experience this, we read some lines and clap the stressed beats. Andrea directs us to use a spring movement of the hand rather than a clapping one to catch the lift and thrum of the beat. For those using their foot to tap out the beat, they are instructed to mark it with the foot coming up off the floor rather than treading down. The effect is to energise the line rather than beat it into submission. We follow this exercise with a reading of the soliloquy To be thus‌ where we take a breath at the end of every line of verse. In a way I had not anticipated, this way of reading observes sense even as it goes against common sense. Of course the effect of trumpeting the verse structure over the grammatical sense is to create an artificial way of speaking the language. However, Andrea argues that it is possible to play the sense and honour the verse line even as you push against it. The experiment of pausing at the end of every line leads to a discussion of the caesura. There is general agreement that this pause can mark the acceleration of thought as much as its slowing down. However, before we accelerate into further discussion, the workshop comes to an end. The clock has beaten us. As we gather our belongings we all determined to bring as much of the spirit of the workshop into our classrooms: the spirit of fun and inventiveness; the spirit of interrogation; the spirit of communal learning and discovery. And as I make my way home, I wonder if it is too late to change careers? Kevin Mc Dermott

The final part of the workshop is giving over to some consideration of the verse line and the necessary tension that exists between the language as structured by the logic of the punctuation and the language as structured by the blank verse. How often has this featured in


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Teaching English magazine, Autumn 2010  

The termly magazine of the English Support Service

Teaching English magazine, Autumn 2010  

The termly magazine of the English Support Service