Friday, February 29, 2008


Today all exams finish, and we have a weekend break until Tuesday morning. There is then a brief but intense period until the end of term on March 14th (early due to St Patrick's Day and the early Easter).

When we come back exams (including Mock Leaving and Junior Cert papers) are handed back to pupils; the Actiontrack team is back for three days of drama workshops with our II form; the Senior Poetry and Junior Poetry Prizes are completed; the House Debating final takes place; we have an expedition to the Smock Alley production of Macbeth; and we celebrate World Book Day with readings from poet Louise Callaghan and by distributing special bookmarks (design above by James Glenn-Craigie, below the reverse side - more designs next week), and with various other Library activities.

King Lear discussion

This week Melvyn Bragg's BBC Radio 4 discussion programme 'In Our Time' was about King Lear (sometimes on our Leaving Certificate course). Jonathan Bate, Katherine Duncan-Jones and Catherine Belsey were on the panel; the programme was a particularly good introduction for those who don't know the play well. It is available as a podcast here.

This link should get you to the archive of the current series.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Anne Frank's boyfriend

Anne Frank's Diary continues to be enormously popular among our junior pupils, and often features in Junior Certificate book reports. In Sunday's Observer, Simon Garfield told the story of the discovery of a photograph of Peter Schiff, the boy she fell in love with, and who occupied many of her thoughts as she wrote the diary.

The picture, and more, can be seen on the fine Anne Frank House website here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Graphic Macbeth

A book which will shortly be on our Library shelves is the Classical Comics Jon Haward full-text graphic version of Macbeth. On Monday John Mullan reviewed this in the Guardian :-

There is certainly sensationalism in his version, but there is also something more interesting than just another attempt to make the Bard look flashy and relevant. The graphic novel helps the unschooled reader see that Macbeth - extraordinary as its language might be - is not just words. Every frame has people acting and reacting, pressed by events. Pupils reading the play often have difficulties simply understanding what is happening. Here, the illustrations will let them see, and leave them (you hope) free to absorb the words.

Judge for yourself by scrolling through the first few pages here in Amazon.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Larkin recordings

This is exam week, as all forms sit their Easter exams, including mocks, ending on Friday with a weekend Exodus.

Yesterday the Sunday Times reported on the collection of recordings by the poet Philip Larkin (currently on the Leaving Cert course) which has been found in Hornsea, near Hull. The BBC programme The Archive Hour will be broadcasting these in its programme on Saturday (Radio 4, 8pm) :

Paul Farley tells the extraordinary story of two tapes by poet Philip Larkin, recorded by BBC sound engineer John Weeks, which remained hidden on a cluttered shelf in a garage for 25 years. Hailed as one of the most significant literary finds in recent years, the tapes include readings of 26 of Larkin's chosen poems. Contributors include Larkin's biographer Andrew Motion, writer John Banville, friend Jean Hartley and actress Jill Balcon.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Department Vacancy

The College is about to advertise in the national press, and the Times Educational Supplement, for a full-time teacher of English in our Department, from September 2008. Applications to the Warden are now being invited. For a full description of the job, and the Department, please click here. The official advertisement is here.

(added on April 12th : please note that this vacancy has now been filled).

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cadogan Opening Concert

Sunday is a very exciting day for our Music Department colleagues, as the new Cadogan Centre is launched with a concert featuring several choirs in the College (including English Department teachers), and guest artists Anna Brady (soprano) and Old Columbans James Danaswamy (bass) and Benjamin Russell (bass-baritone). The superbly refurbished old Victorian boarding house also includes now a much-needed costume and storage room for drama, since the Cadogan links into the Big Schoolroom and the Drama Room, and this will help greatly our many productions.

The poster above is by V former Celeste Guinness (also the cover to the programme, below on Issuu - click on the pages for a large view).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Merchant's Guide to Venice

Ever wanted to visit Venice of the early 1600s? Miriam Poulton of Mr Jameson's III form Junior Certificate class has compiled The Merchant's Guide to Venice, 'your ultimate guide' to the famous city, including some of its key features - the Ghetto, the Grand Canal, and of course romantic Belmont, 'the perfect place to catch your favourite stars.' And pick up a distinctly unusual souvenir along the way ...

Read it below via Issuu (scroll through the pages using the arrows, click on a page to access it in large size) :-

'Spring', by Gerard Manley Hopkins

To coincide with our emergence from winter up here on the edge of the Dublin mountains, our 22nd Poem of the Week is Gerard Manley Hopkins's joyous celebratory sonnet 'Spring' :-

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring —
When weeds in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. — Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Hopkins is on the Leaving Certificate Higher Level rota (not at the moment, though). He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin (see an earlier post here). The annual Hopkins Summer School is on this year from July 19th to 25th in Monasterevin. Full details of the programme here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Teaching English, Spring 2008

The latest edition of the excellent Teaching English magazine edited by Kevin McDermott (we featured this time last year) from the SLSS English Support Service is just out, and is dedicated to the memory of the late John Devitt, Head of English at the Mater Dei Institute of Education. It includes a tribute by Larry Cotter (a former student of John), an article on him by Breda O'Brien, a poem by his friend Seamus Heaney ('Quitting Time', from District and Circle), an interview with and article by Jude Collins, and another interview with teacher Frances Rock from Dundalk. The cover features Pieter Brueghel the Elder's Netherlandish Proverbs (1559, above).

Below, the magazine displayed by Issuu. Scroll through the pages, click on a page for larger view, and you can click again for fullscreen reading.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mock Exams

The second half of term starts today, with the Mock English Literature paper for our Leaving Certificate pupils this morning. Junior Certificate Mocks start on Saturday. While the concentration is on exams for the next two weeks, there will still be a good amount of blog activity here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Barack Obama, poet

For students of language, American Presidential elections (and primaries) are always fascinating events, fertile ground for examining the effects of speeches, debates and slogans. Right now, the main angle of attack on Barack Obama by Hillary Clinton (and now John McCain) seems to be on his rhetorical skills, and the suggestion that such linguistic facility is suspicious.

Ben McIntyre of the London Times recently examined Barack Obama's 'creditable' early poetry, and commented that it revealed

a lyrical sensibility and a refreshing awareness of the power of words. No less a critic than Professor Harold Bloom of Yale, America's doyen of English literature, has said of Obama's poetry that 'it shows a kind of humane and sad wit. There is a mind there.'

McIntyre points out that there is a 'long, if patchy, tradition of presidential poetry' in America, and says that if Abraham Lincoln was the best poet in the White House, then Jimmy Carter was undoubtedly the worst, 'though he deserves some sort of prize for the least enticing poem title in literature: "Why We Get Cheaper Tires from Liberia".'

Mr Obama has been hailed as the new JFK; and as the most poetic presidential candidate for a generation inches closer to the White House, it is worth recalling the closing lines of the poem Dedication by Robert Frost, which Kennedy commissioned for his own inauguration in 1961: “A golden age of poetry and power/ Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.”

Meanwhile, points out that 'it's hard to imagine that Obama would be as much of a phenomenon if his name were, say, Tom Smith.' You can access Slate's Encyclopedia Baracktannia here. There's Obamania, Obamage, Barackroach, Obamatic Pilot, Obamamatopoeia ... and more are being added all the time. At the moment, of course, he's got Obamamentum.

More seriously, it has a detailed analysis of Obama's rhetoric in an article by Jack Shafer here.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Today we break up for half-term, and so posting will resume on Monday 18th. That's also the day our VI form start their Mock Leaving Cert exams, with English Literature. There's plenty coming up in the short period between then and the end of term.

Greetings to visitors from the CESI conference, taking place this weekend in Coláiste de h-Íde in Tallaght, Dublin. We'll be giving a presentation this afternoon on SCC English. Here is the link for notes on the presentation.

Acting Awards

Congratulations to Sandy Cole, who last night was runner-up as best actor for his performance as The Man in The Apollo of Bellac (pictured, with flower sprouting out of his head, and strange skirt). Also to Rosy Temple, who won an adjudicator's award for her performance as Agnes (pictured looking dowdy and glum, and being pointed at).

Thursday, February 07, 2008


We posted a link to the Library magazine The Submarine a couple of days ago. Here's that fine publication seen via a fabulous new free service we've just come across, Issuu, which converts PDFs to magazine ('flippable') form. You can flip through the pages in the box, or click on the mag itself to open it in a full window, zoom in, share it, click a button for full screen and so on ...

Junior Play review

The most successful and powerful Junior Play production of Antigone by Sophocles last weekend is reviewed for us by Kathryn Crossey from Transition Year.

She writes about the 'brilliance' of Robin Fitzpatrick as Creon, and the 'conviction' of Anna Traill in the title role as well as other aspects of the production here.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

One-Act Festival

Well done to the cast (above, with director Evan Jameson) of The Apollo of Bellac, our entry to the one-act festival at St Andrew's College. Last night their acting, presentation and ensemble skills were praised by the judges (the awards are on Thursday evening). Their dress rehearsal was in front of 50 pupils in the BSR on Monday. We hope it might be possible to put it on again here after the Mock exams.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Submarine

The latest edition of the excellent Library magazine, The Submarine, is out shortly, and can now be seen online here (wait a few moments while it loads) [added 07-Feb-08 - see instead the Issuu version on the post for this date here] . Featured are :-
  • Sophie Haslett's interview with author Jennifer Johnston, first seen here,
  • a list of the impressive array of new books in the Library in January, including Mohsin Hamed's The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Literature winner in Sunday's South Bank Awards), and Jonathan Coe's underrated novel, The Rain before it Falls,
  • Mr Matt Walker's review of Tibor Fischer's Under the Frog, about the 1956 Hungarian revolt,
  • Lewis Mathews's review of The Riddle of the Sands, by Erskine Childers (his great-great-grandfather), 'a superbly compelling read'
  • Mr Noel Coldrick's report on his tremendous MP3 project, reported on here in November,
  • Mr Ronan Swift's song 'My Bookcase', sung in Chapel in November after a talk about his reading,
  • The regular 'What's Reading Me' feature of book recommendations, all the way from Patrick Suskind's Perfume to Paul Howard's Ross O'Carroll Kelly - The Teenage Dirtbag Years,
  • Aoife Kenny's review of Atonement (film and book),
  • another cartoon in Irish from Poppy Vernon,
  • Dr Garry Bannister's piece under the 'Shoot the Messenger' heading, about global warming
  • and, finally, Rebecca Feeney-Barry's entertaining take on the complications of having a baby while at boarding school: 'Just think of what you'd do if someone in your dorm had a baby. Just imagine it ...'

Rara Avis

A rare and ancient bird has been spotted moving swiftly through cyberspace : welcome to the SCC Classics and Latin Departments in their new venture, the 'Rara Avis' website, with a link to their 'Clog' (Classics Blog). In the words of Juvenal, RARA AVIS IN TERRIS NIGROQUE SIMILLIMA CYCNO. In our words, SALVETE.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Apollo of Bellac

Tonight The Apollo of Bellac is being shown in the BSR at 8.15 (about 40 minutes) before its performance tomorrow evening at the St Andrew's One-Act Drama Festival.

On Friday and Saturday evenings, the Junior Play production of Antigone was a triumph - an impressive hour's powerful story-telling. We'll have a review by a pupil here in a couple of days.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Iraq: The War Card

The American 'Center for Public Integrity' has just launched its remarkable and very detailed database called The War Card, the first analysis of what they call "935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses." The database is fully searchable. There's also a multi-media archive.

Whatever your politics, this is a fascinating resource for English teachers, particularly when teaching the language of persuasion or argument for the Leaving Certificate. See also Steven Poole's Unspeak blog (linked in our sidebar), an extension of his book of the same name (subtitled 'Words are Weapons'), analysing "state-of-the-art rhetorical weaponry, from community through sound science and ethnic cleansing to the war on terror." There's an extract from the book on the blog analysing the phrase 'intelligent design' here.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Antigone, Junior Play

Tonight and tomorrow night in the BSR we have our Junior Play 2008, Antigone by Sophocles (cast here, and pictured above) directed by Mr Peter McCarthy. It should an impressive experience, since they're a talented group of actors.

Both performances start at 7, and will end by 8.15. For background, plot and more, see the Wikipedia entry here (the Anouilh version here).

Pictured also, the cast warm up for the dress rehearsal last night with a few rounds of 'Zip-Zap-Boing' (left), and (right) Creon (Robin Fitzpatrick) confronts Antigone (Anna Traill), watched by one of the Chorus members (Gina Mirow).

Rumours are circulating that our Ancient Greek and Roman colleagues may be about to take flight in cyberspace. Watch out for further news.