Saturday, March 27, 2010

22 Novels Set in Boarding Schools

Prompted by reading Paul Murray's new novel Skippy Dies, we looked around the shelves of our Library and compiled a list of (mostly recent) novels set in boarding schools.

  1. Lord Dismiss Us, by Michael Campbell (1967): supposedly set in an English public school, it is in fact a portrait of St Columba's many years before we became co-educational. Sharply written, it explores the nature of love in a single-sex school.
  2. The Catcher in the Rye, by the late J.D. Salinger (1951), and studied in TY here. The first seven chapters are set in Pencey Prep: 'The more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has - I'm not kidding.'
  3. Fools of Fortune, by (Old Columban) William Trevor (1983). It's a stretch to say that the novel is set in a boarding school, but Chapter 5 definitely is, and it's definitely St Columba's...
  4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005). Gradually it becomes clear that the teenagers at 'Hailsham' are a distinctly unusual lot...
  5. The Harry Potter series ... well, we had to mention it. And many visitors think our Dining Hall is Potteresque.
  6. A Good School, by Richard Yates (1978). Set in 'Dorset Academy' in Connecticut just before WWII; listen to a podcast about this and other Yates works recorded a year ago here.
  7. Friendly Fire, by Patrick Gale (2005). Entertaining novel by a very enjoyable contemporary novelist, set in 'Tatham's' (Winchester College) in the late 1970s.
  8. The Night Music, by Christopher Campbell-Howes (2006). Mostly set in an English prep school in the early 1950s. Our review here - 'beautifully written and constantly absorbing.'
  9. Skippy Dies, by Paul Murray (2010). Just out, set in a thinly-disguised Blackrock College - a big, ambitious and very funny novel. See our review here.
  10. Spud by Howard de Ruit (2005), as well as its sequels The Madness Continues (2007) and Learning to Fly (2009). These novels are very popular in our Library. The first book is set in 1990 in South Africa as Nelson Mandela is about to be released.
  11. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (2005). Coming-of-age story set in Ault School in Massachusetts (we reviewed her later American Wife here).
  12. And also popular in our Library, A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (2005), the first in the Gemma Doyle trilogy, set in Spence Academy in England in the late 1800s.
  13. Cracks by Sheila Kohler (2000), and set in a South African boarding school, partly filmed at St Columba's...
  14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce (1916). Joyce's great early work sees Stephen Dedalus at Joyce's own school, Clongowes Wood College near Naas. Joseph Strick's 1979 film adaptation saw St Columba's posing as Clongowes...
  15. Kate O'Brien's The Land of Spices (1941) is set in a convent school - a portrayal of a nun, a young pupil, and a family secret in mid-century Ireland.
  16. Old School by Tobias Wolff (2003): set in New England in the early 1960s, and dealing with the vital nature of literature for the boys (some of us weren't convinced by this one).
  17. Testimony, by Anita Shreve (2008): this time it's 'Avery Academy' in New England (what is it with that part of the world? and we haven't even mentioned Dead Poets Society - whoops there it goes). Shreve's skilful multi-perspective story follows the aftermath of a scandal.
  18. Decline and Fall, by Evelyn Waugh (1928): brilliantly sharp comedy set in ghastly 'Llanabba Castle'. The 'notice of vacancy' states that the status of the school Paul Pennyfeather is going to is 'School'. Mr Levy of Scholastic Agents comments that "we class schools, you see, into four grades: Leading School, First-rate school, Good School, and School. Frankly, school is pretty bad."
  19. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë (1847). Lowood School, a charity establishment, makes some of the ones above look positively luxurious.
  20. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier (1974). Boys, bullying and brutality in Trinity High School.
  21. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles (1959). Yet another New England prep school here, called 'Devon'. Set during the Second World War, at its centre is that very boarding school feature, intense friendship. (thanks to @).
  22. The Headmaster's Papers by Richard A. Hawley (1983) is an epistolary novel set in The Wells School (yes, New England again). The letter form skilfully unpeels the pressures on the headmaster, John Greeve.
[updated 27.09.10]

Selected SCC English Tweets

The last round-up of our Easter term:

  1. The Gender Analyzer: can it tell if your blog was written by a man or a woman?
  2. CREEP 4: turn of the Irish Times - apparently the RTECO has an ethical co-ordinator...
  3. Excellent: an authentic, inquiry-centred, synergistic educational jargon generator: #language #jargon.
  4. Campaign for the Removal of English Errors in Public no.3 in the 'Independent' :
  5. Diagram winner of weirdest book title of 2009: "Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes" by Dr Daina Taimina:
  6. W.G.Sebald's 'The Emigrants' - original review by Gabriel Josipovici on the excellent Vertigo blog -
  7. "Using #Wordle in the English classroom":
  8. CREEP: Campaign for the Removal of English Errors in Public:
  9. New edition of 'The Submarine' library magazine on @issuu:
  10. No 2 in a series: iPhone/iPod Touch apps for English literature/language teaching/learning: #Shakespeare #iphone #apps


And there we were yesterday, smugly noting the decline in literacy standards in Britain, when this popped up on the breakfast table from The Irish Times. Presumably David Brophy is the co-ordinator of ethical standards in the Concert Orchestra?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Poetry Prizes

A reminder to pupils going on holiday today that you can e-mail us your entries for the Senior and Junior Poetry Prizes during the holidays - to this blog if you can't find the original details. Happy versifying.


...comes fast on the heels of the previous post. Above, spotted in today's London Independent newspaper (back of the Arts and Books section), an ad for Cracks, the boarding school film shot partly in the College 18 months ago. Even on the original it's extremely difficult to read the attribution, but on minute inspection it turns out to be Dave Aldridge of BBC Radio 5 Live. So he can hardly be blamed, having spoken rather than written the words.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

'The Submarine' March 2010

We're delighted to publish online another edition of the excellent Library magazine The Submarine. The pupil editor this time was Fiona Boyd, whose fine short story 'Cultivation' can be read on pages 6 and 7, and which was first published here a few days ago.

Read the magazine above via Issuu. Click on the pages for a larger view, scroll through by using the arrows, and click again for a close-up.

There's lots of other good reading: Librarian Tom McConville explains on the first page why teenage readers need to get stuck into good fiction ('excessive limbic stimulation' is the danger...). There are articles by Lydia Johnson, Ross Canning, Sadhbh Sheeran, Oyinda Onabanjo, Sally Kemp, Dr Bannister (recommending A Woman in Berlin), Mr Jameson (ditto, Brooklyn), as well as the regular 'New Books' and 'What's Reading Me' sections. A good way to kick off your reading for the Easter holidays...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Thanks to our Mod Lang colleague Fraser for spotting the latest CREEP violation (Campaign for the Removal of English Errors in Public), at our senior side,s rugby Shield final at DLSP this afternoon. Could be a matter of life and death.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shakespeare App

No 2 in a series of reviews of iPhone/iPod Touch apps useful for English literature and language learning and teaching.'s Shakespeare App is a great addition to your device if you're studying the plays, or are an English teacher. It comes in a free version, but it's well worth spending a modest €2.39 on the Pro version for some very useful features. The app includes the entire corpus with a variety of useful tools. Pupils/students usually study a single play, but the purchase is still definitely justified: the Pro version includes line numbers, bookmarks to return to key quotations, and, impressively the most powerful new feature of Shakespeare Pro is a searchable glossary based on the bestselling lexicon by David & Ben Crystal, Shakespeare's Words. You can also activate the inline glossary to see all the glossary entries while reading the text. Simply tap on a word to see its meaning.

The search function (like our favourite Shakespeare Clusty site) is also very useful; if you're studying Macbeth, look up all the instances of 'blood' or 'sleep'. There are also features on portraits, facts, and scansion (nice but nothing you can't find quickly on the web).

Leaving Certificate candidates preparing for King Lear this June would certainly find it handy. You need to keep looking at the play, keeping it fresh, checking on individual lines and characters. So here's a way of using that downtime in the shop queue, the dentist's waiting room, waiting for that favourite soap opera to start...

Buy it here on the iTunes store; the free version is here (lacking some key features, but still has the entire text).

Monday, March 22, 2010

2010 Poetry Prizes

Calling all poets... entries for the Senior and Junior Poetry Prizes are due in later this week, by the end of term, to Mr Canning and Ms Smith respectively. We're looking for a big entry...

See this previous post for all the details.

Selected SCC English Tweets

Our regular update of selected recent tweets:

  1. 'Skippy Dies' by Paul Murray: a new blog post review - Check out also review by @David_Heb at
  2. Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text.
  3. A great Irish cultural achievement: 40 years of the Gallery Press (fine display in window of Hodges Figgis):
  4. Superb LC pupil's short story: "The light of the dawn broke over his shoulders as he moved across the crumbling earth."
  5. Tremendous (free) download: The Amazing Web 2.0 Projects Book -
  6. RT @ecning: EC Ning turns 13,000! Welcome to all new members and thanks to all on Ning for making it the place to be for English teachers.
  7. "Cultivation": Outstanding short story by Leaving Cert pupil (shades of McGahern and Trevor): #LCEnglish
  8. Heard on Newstalk this morning: Irish banks won't launch new products because right now they don't have enough "management bandwidth".
  9. Interesting article in Irish Times on newspaper 'apps'. [Guardian's one particularly good value]: #iphone #apps
  10. A compelling, unputdownable, unflinching article: Book Review Bingo:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Skippy Dies: a review

Paul Murray's 661-page second novel Skippy Dies (one version of which is nattily packaged in a three-volume case set) is an ambitious, pacey and enormously funny novel. It's set in 'Seabrook', easily identifiable as Blackrock College on Dublin's southside (which seems to have created a mini-genre of its own in current Irish fiction, following the excellent Bad Day at Blackrock by Kevin Power, and the Ross O'Carroll Kelly series).

The novel opens with the event of the title, and what follows then is a story which ramifies across a huge cast of characters, from 14 year-old boys in the school to their equivalents in the nearby girls' school, to teachers, parents and the workers in the local doughnut shop. For the most part these are convincing, as Murray ranges far and wide in his perspectives and personae. He's particularly good at boys' conversations, simultaneously 'smart' and vulnerable (it's definitely a boys' world, rather than a school in which boys and girls are used to each other). The adults are more grotesque, particularly the Acting Principal, 'The Automator'; a key character, an attractive substitute female teacher called Miss McIntyre, is sketchily drawn. The boys drive the novel however, including the bewildered and pained Skippy, soi-disant super-stud Mario, and the extraordinary geek Ruprecht.

However, the novel is likely to sweep any minor doubts aside, as it moves through a series of brilliant set-pieces. Its serious heart is a scene which has extremely current relevance in Ireland and elsewhere, when a cabal of priests, teachers and a lawyer conspire to cover up sexual abuse for the sake of the school's reputation ('At the risk of sounding cynical, I think we have to ask ourselves now how it would serve any of us, and I include in that the boy's family, to bring the police into this'). Murray could hardly have foreseen that his book would be published in the wake of the Ryan and Murphy reports.

At the end of the novel Ruprecht van Doren (Murray has Dickensian fun with names - Zora Carpathian, Hector O'Looney, Odysseas Antopopopoulos...) explains that 'apparently there are these really small strings that everything is made of. Once the strings were part of a much bigger universe, where everything was all joined together. But then it broke in two.' Murray's novel is a big universe itself, with many many strings.

More reviews and material here:
  • Patrick Ness in the Guardian calls it 'one of the most enjoy­able, funny and moving reads of this young new year.'
  • Adam Lively in the Times says it is 'brimful of wit, narrative energy and a real poetry and vision' while being unoriginal in parts, and praises its 'unflagging entertainment of its intelligence, its psychological insight and its range of reference'.
  • Blogger David Hebblethwaite calls it 'a rich, immersive read that you shouldn’t miss.'
  • Jonathan Gibbs in the London Independent says it is 'intricate of structure, charming of surface, adept at winding science and history into its design, (though) it can't in the end decide how serious or funny it wants to be.'
  • In the Observer, Tom Webber calls it 'an extraordinarily well-observed portrait of early teenage life, which wonders aloud how it is possible to negotiate such a seemingly callous society, and what that means for the adult environment these people will compose.'
  • Paul Murray is interviewed on the Penguin site here.
  • And there's a particularly detailed and interesting review in the Irish Times by Kevin Power, author of Bad Day at Blackrock, who says that it's 'a blast of a book. It’s big, generous, heartfelt, funny and sad. If it sometimes seems in danger of tipping into cartoonish sentimentality, then it just as often redeems itself.'
  • For another position, read Michael Sopp's hatchet-job in The Literateur: 'Ultimately, Skippy Dies is overwritten, overlong, and under thought-out.' It 'is lazily written, very loosely plotted and just plain too long, gestures towards ‘tragicomedy’ (to quote the blurb) but ends up being neither serious nor funny.'

(coming next week: a post on boarding school fiction)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

'Cultivation': a short story

Shortly the latest edition of the Library's 'Submarine' mag will be published, and we'll post it online here. Meanwhile, a preview: an outstanding short story by pupil editor Fiona Boyd written as practice for her Leaving Certificate. Called 'Cultivation', it evokes shades of John McGahern or William Trevor in its confident delineation of the thoughts and feelings of an elderly farmer:-

'Cultivation' by Fiona Boyd

The light of the dawn broke over his shoulders as he moved across the crumbling earth. He was walking, as he walked every morning, around the land he had bought almost fifty years ago. The soil from the path clung to the sole of his boot and moved with him to the further field, where the sheep grazed under the awakening sky.

Pausing there, he breathed deeply, pulling the birdsong, the smell of the animals and hundreds of colours into his body. He bent, suddenly, and using his thumb and forefinger picked a single buttercup from the grass. He held it safely, in his warm and weathered palm.

He called the collie to his heel and turned to head back up to the hill where the buildings were coming back to life. The men were moving about now; they would milk the cows before eating. And one would come to him and tell him how things were going, but that would be much later. The hill grew steeper each time as he forced his stiff body up the grassy slope (his stick lay forgotten beside the stove). Again he drew in the morning air heavily, hoping to find strength from the energy of the new day to push himself the last few steps.

... continued here...


Inspired by one of the history's truly great acronyms, Richard Nixon's Committee to REElect the President, today we start a new occasional series in defence of the English language, our Campaign for the Removal of English Errors in Public, with two notices spotted over the weekend - above, a Quickpark bus at Dublin Airport, and below, one on the side of the Bank of Ireland in the airport itself.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

'Haiku' for the Exodus

We're off today after exams end at lunchtime - both school and posting here resume on Thursday 18th, straight after the St Patrick's Day Exodus. So here's a way to sign off that's both colourful and pithy - another poem from the Images in Poetry series, this time the shortest we've posted, a haiku from Jack Cherry inspired by a painting by Jackson Pollock.

Haiku, by Jack Cherry

Dancing in the paint
Lives a man with a rich sense
Of satisfaction.

Selected SCC English Tweets

The weekly selection. We're on an Exodus break from this afternoon until next Thursday morning, March 18th, so posting will resume then as we head into the last 9 days of term.

  1. Irish Blog Awards: few education blogs, but have a look at lit blogs from @eoinpurcell, @jenblogsbooks, @davidmaybury
  2. 2010 Irish Blog Awards 'short'list:
  3. Handling all that reading: "my evolution into schizophrenic multimedia literature butterfly " in the Guardian:
  4. Dominic Dromgoole of @The_Globe interviewed in Irish Times on new production of Friel's 'Philadelphia, Here I Come!'
  5. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray: review - "this gigantic, marvellous, witty, heartbreaking novel".
  6. National Tree Week in Ireland- Poem of the Week - 'Binsey Poplars' by Gerard Manley Hopkins-
  7. Well worth reading from today's Guardian, by Phil Beadle: the benefits of Twitter for teachers:
  8. 'Echo and Narcissus'- another poem in our Images in Poetry series:-
  9. First of a series reviewing #iPhone #apps of use in school/English teaching and learning. Starting with the obvious:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

iPhone/iPod Touch Apps

We're going to start reviewing and recommending apps for use on the iPhone/iPodTouch platform (henceforth, just 'iPhone', for neatness), in tandem with our science friends over on the Frog Blog. Obviously, we may overlap at times, especially about general educational utilities: read their post today on 'My Homework' - "This excellent, easy to use, iPhone application is useful for everyone, pupils and teachers alike and at all levels, from primary to third level." (We may have to have a high-level secret summit meeting to discuss pooling recommendations in one place. Coffee later, lads?)

But mainly we'll be looking for apps of particular use in English learning and teaching.

First up, and of course of general educational use, is the distinctly obvious, but no less useful, Google Mobile App (free), which gives you easy access to many Google services. This school, like many others, now uses Google Apps on its own domain, and here's a simple way to get to your online Gmail, Reader, Tasks and so on. In school, perhaps the greatest use is Google Docs - access those essays, notes, revision material...

Download it (free) from iTunes here.

Irish Blog Awards 2010

We're delighted to be in the mix after the first round of judging in the 2010 Irish Blog Awards, which has produced a short (actually, medium) list; there's another round now to select the finalists. We're in the Best Group category.

There's lots of good reading in the overall list. There aren't many education blogs, but still, vaguely in our area, have a look at Eoin Purcell (publishing), David Maybury (writing and children's books), The Lady Loves Books (er, books).

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

National Tree Week poem

This is National Tree Week, and Mr Swift's IIIb CSPE set have planted a mountain ash as their Action Project; see a report on the College site here. So it's appropriate to have as our 61st Poem of the Week one of the great poems about trees, Gerard Manley Hopkins's 'Binsey Poplars'.

As in his poem 'God's Grandeur' (on the Leaving Cert course), Hopkins was well ahead of his time in his concern for our environment (for him, of course, a manifestation of God's presence). He wrote this poem after seeing that trees near Oxford had disappeared. In the words of the biographer Robert Bernard Martin, 'the destruction seemed an emblem of the loss that man inflicts on the planet.'

Poster (above) by Lily Guinness.

'Binsey Poplars', by Gerard Manley Hopkins
felled 1879

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;

Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one

That dandled a sandalled

Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew—
Hack and rack the growing green!

Since country is so tender

To touch, her being so slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball

But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean

To mend her we end her,

When we hew or delve:

After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc unselve

The sweet especial scene,

Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.

Monday, March 08, 2010

'Echo and Narcissus' - a poem

The latest poem in our Transition Year Images in Poetry series is by Max Kavanagh, and is based on the painting 'Echo and Narcissus' by John William Waterhouse (1903).

Echo and Narcissus, by Max Kavanagh

They stand and stare. At me, of course.
Gazing upon my gorgeous likeness.
I don’t care.
My thoughts are far away thinking of her; the lady
Far more beautiful than I could ever be: the lady of the pool.
Why do you ignore me, oh lady?
Why do you rebuke me, oh lady?
Oh lady, I’ll stay here beside thee.

Reduced to a shadow, licking the tips of reality,
This is all I am now, forced to sit and watch.
I hope, I pray: Oh Narcissus please see me.
Why do you ignore me, oh Narcissus?
Why do you rebuke me, oh Narcissus?
Oh Narcissus I’ll stay here beside thee.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Selected SCC English Tweets

A selection of our tweets from the last week:

  1. Interesting article on future of books at
  2. Hamlet at the Helix Theatre: reviews -
  3. Nice clean easy web-app - @teuxdeux - now a mobile app that would sync would be really good...
  4. 'Medusa' - new poem by TY pupil based on Caravaggio's painting:
  5. Funny review by Julian Clary of Sharon Osbourne's first novel:
  6. List of SCC English book recommendations:
  7. Terrific example of combative commentary by @andrewrawnsley in the Observer:
  8. Dublin-based software co. developing multimedia versions of Shakespeare, starting w Romeo & Juliet:
  9. Have a look at @poetrychannel - lots of good video resources and interesting 'watching':
  10. 'Christ Deliver Us!' @abbeytheatre- well worth seeing; big ambitious production, terrific main perfs, esp Aoife Duffin.
  11. Hamlet: the earliest copies online:
  12. Jimmy Fay, director of forthcoming 'Macbeth' @abbeytheatre, on the production (we'll see it next term).
  13. Well worth reading for all teachers/administrators- RT @englishcomp: When saying "No" means saying "Yes": Latest blog.
  14. Literary masterpieces: the LRB personal ads -
  15. Great photos to prompt creative writing: Sony World Photography Awards 2010:
  16. Recommending Conor Galvin's thoughtful webinar: Digital Elephants and Flying Penguins; technology-mediated T & L':

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Ghostly Encounter 3

The third and final 'Ghostly Encounter' from Mr Jameson's I form set is by Antonia Esses:-

The wind was howling and the rain slashed against our faces as we left the college. There was a blanket of fog engulfing the city. 'I am so annoyed that Mr Barnes kept us late,' said Mandy.

'Now we've missed the bus!'

'It'll take us at least an hour to walk home!' I said.

'I know,' said Mandy. 'Let's take a short-cut through the woods...'

Read Antonia's full piece here.

Friday, March 05, 2010

'Hamlet' by Second Age

Last week all our V form went to the Helix Theatre to see Hamlet (their single text choice for the Leaving Cert in 2011) in a Second Age production. This was one of the most effective schools' productions we've seen from Second Age, being pacy right from the start, and with mostly strong central performances. The considerable rake emphasised an intimacy with the characters, and Marty Rea delivered the famous soliloquies with intelligence. Stephen Brennan as Polonius, Garret Keogh as Claudius, and Barbara Brennan as Gertrude also delivered.

Read here Emer O'Kelly's review in the Irish Independent, and Peter Crawley's in the Irish Times here: both are positive about the production.

'Medusa' - a poem

The latest poem in our 'Images in Poetry' series is 'Medusa' by Oyinda Onabanjo. This is based on Caravaggio's famous painting of the same name from 1598. You can read a Guardian article about it here.

'Medusa' by Oyinda Onabanjo

I walk into the gallery
Immediately feeling a chill, despite
The mass of people.
I see it and Stop. Still.
Petrified by this sinister, severed head.

I look into her eyes, imagining
The fear of her victims pulsating through
Their veins.
Then I am gone,
Sucked into the vortex
That is the ancient world.
The gorgon herself, there she is, with Perseus.
Her body writhing on the floor
As he takes her head from her,
Holding it up like a trophy.
I hear sweet whisperings of approval,
See a spirit hand caress him.
Perseus then flies off on the horse Pegasus;
Beautiful just as it is, born out of hideousness.

A drop of Medusa’s blood falls:
Creating a snake.
It slithers, and bites me, and I’m thrown
Back into the room, staring at my mother,
Who, uncannily, resembles Medusa.

Transition Year Academic Prize

Last night there was the annual TY Academic Prize evening in the BSR, this time judged by scientist and TY presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff. The standard was surely the highest yet, and the winner was deservedly Lingfan Gao for his most impressive presentation on The Organ.

From an English Literature perspective here, however, congratulations to Emma Moore, who was awarded second place (the first time this has been given) for her fine presentation on the London of Charles Dickens. She gave a vivid portrait of the city in Dickens's time, explaining clearly its influence on his writing, particularly in David Copperfield, and was complimented by the judge on the clarity of her delivery.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

World Book Day 2010

Since Mock exams are on, and other forms are about to start their College exams, World Book Day here today will be marked fairly quietly. However, we'll still be giving out WBD book-tokens, and the annual Library survey on the College's favourite book, results of which we'll post here in due course.

Meanwhile, take some time out of the busy day to read...

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Shakespeare in Bits (Romeo and Juliet)

A Dublin-based company, Mindconnex Learning Limited, has set up a software project, 'Shakespeare in Bits', the first fruit of their work being a multi-media version of Romeo and Juliet. We've had a look at this, and it's well-worth considering for both individual study and classroom work.

A particularly welcome feature of the text is that it includes the full text, which synchronises with an excellent audio version of the play from Naxos featuring Kate Beckinsale and Michael Sheen. The actors' words are picked out in highlighted colour as they scroll through the text. On the left, there is a simple animation of the story. There are also annotations on themes and language, character analyses and a map of the relationships between characters.

Our own Transition Year pupils thought that it would be a good way to introduce yourself to the play, as well as a refresher during revision for pupils at Junior Cert/GCSE level. Also, it could be particularly helpful for anyone with learning difficulties, or who appreciates more visual and aural stimulus. Helpfully, there's a trial version which uses the opening scene, so you can easily assess it before buying.

On the Shakespeare in Bits website, you can read more details. Macbeth is next in the pipeline. Meanwhile, good luck to Michael Cordner and the team on their venture.

Second Bell A-Ringin'

Mr Jameson calls on new and previous contributors to gather tomorrow at 11.10am in Kennedy to plan another Second Bell magazine...

The Poetry Channel

Worth checking out by teachers, as well as general readers: The Poetry Channel is a new "freely accessible web-based video channel and portal for poetry" from the excellent English and Media Centre. You can search by poet, title and topic (such as Love, Grief, Fathers...). And there's a Poem for Today. Have a look here at Greg Wise reading Marvell's 'To His Coy Mistress' (most of the site features contemporary poets). We've only just started to look at it, but it's certainly a good way to start a lesson.

The aims are to
  • exploit the potential of the web to create a rich multi-sensory experience of poetry which includes music, film, and animation, as well as readings by actors and authors.
  • bring together diverse and eclectic poetry worlds – from the unpublished world of slams, live events and song writing, to the published, literary and classic traditions of poetry.
  • appeal to a really wide audience, from committed poetry readers to those who have felt excluded or haven’t thought poetry is for them.

Happy 500th Birthday to the Frog Blog

Congrats to our amphibian science friends over at the Frog Blog, who today mark their 500th posting (and thanks for the nods over here too).

As HJ points out today, it's grown and grown, and, similar to SCC English, has friends and visitors all over the world now. And we scientifically-ignorant long-haired arty poetry types have learnt lots of fascinating science from it, too. So we encourage our own regular visitors to hop on over there and see how good it is.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Ghostly Encounter 2

The second 'Ghostly Encounter' from Mr Jameson's I form set is by Peter Quigley:-

It was a dark night. The wind howled and the rain battered the ground. I shivered in my bed as I lay there pulling the duvet over me. The wind whistled through the fire escape. Flashes of light occasionally flickered through the room and lit up the place.

My eyes grew accustomed to the dark and I began to be able to spot things in the dark like shoes on the floor.
Shivers came over me and the curtains began to move as if a demon possessed them. I could hear the floorboards creak and my heart began to pound but I quickly realised it was just one of the monitors coming back in. I tried to close my eyes and count sheep to get to sleep but it wasn't working.

Suddenly, things began to shake and stuff started to fall off lockers. There was a howling noise louder than the wind and the sound of feet dragging across the floor. I curled up into a ball. I was so scared. The sounds were getting closer and closer and I was getting more and more frightened.

A white glow appeared on the wall but this presence was still hidden. Fingers - all white as snow - started appearing through the wall. I shouted, 'This isn't real!' I thought my eyes were tricking me.

But still more body features appeared, all as white as snow. Then its head appeared. It stuck in my mind forever. How weird it was! It was my own face!

It came towards me - I was horrified. It leaned over me and looked into my eyes. Closer and closer its hands came until they were inches away from my face and then...

'Hamlet' Quartos site

There's fascinating material on the Shakespeare Quartos site. To quote the site:-

The Shakespeare Quartos Archive is a digital collection of pre-1642 editions of William Shakespeare's plays. A cross-Atlantic collaboration has also produced an interactive interface for the detailed study of these geographically distant quartos, with full functionality for all thirty-two quarto copies of Hamlet held by participating institutions.

Here you can view full cover-to-cover digital reproductions and transcriptions of thirty-two copies of the five earliest editions of the play Hamlet. You can view quartos separately, or alongside any number of copies. You can search, annotate, make public or private sets of annotations, create exhibits or character cue line lists, and download and print text and images.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Under Umbrellas

Last year we posted some poems that originated in Ms Smith's Transition Year module on Images in Poetry, which she wrote about here. The module continues this year, and we'll be posting more poems prompted by paintings and photographs. First, here is Patrick Tice's poem based on Bruno Barbey's photo 'Umbrellas', about which Ms Smith writes:-

When one closely inspects this image, snow-covered umbrellas and huddled figures reveal themselves. Barbey took this photograph in Poland in 1982 when the country was under strict Communist rule. This gathering took place, despite the weather, to commemorate the Stations of the Cross; religious pilgrimages were the only events the Government could not stop.

'Under Umbrellas' by Patrick Tice

The pull factor:
The push factor:
Gathering together-
Passive rebellion.
Brothers in suffering
Sisters in action
Standing in the snow,
White belief.

Violence, no.
Statement, yes.
A common cause,
Camaraderie on show.