Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Macbeth 15: Act 3 scene 4 - 'Strange Things'

This is the fifteenth in a series of analyses of key moments in Macbeth using the iPad app ShowMe.

Macbeth decides to seek out the 'weird sisters' and to learn more, as well as to do more.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Shapes of Stories

Here's a handy infographic based on Kurt Vonnegut's talk on 'The Shapes of Stories' which you can watch here at the bottom of our post on Story Cubes (click for a close-up):

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Macbeth 14: Act 3 scene 4 - 'Blood hath been shed'

This is the fourteenth in a series of analyses of key moments in Macbeth using the iPad app ShowMe. 

Here, Macbeth expresses his horror at how the dead are returning from the grave, and nothing is at 'an end' any more.

Monday, January 21, 2013

English Prizes 2012

Congratulations to the winners of the 2012-13 English Prizes - Catie McGonagle (Senior) and Harvey McCone (Junior).  Thanks to all other candidates who put themselves forwards for the prizes, too.

There are three more prizes to be awarded by the English Department - the Senior and Junior Poetry Prizes (more details here shortly) and the Willis Memorial Prize for the Knowledge of Shakespeare (next term).

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Faber Voices

The distinguished publishing house Faber and Faber has recently launched an attractive range of poetry e-books for Apple's iBooks, which are also handy for teachers who can project their iOS device onto a screen, with audio. The series is called Faber Voices, and they are modestly priced at €2.99. The poets in the first batch are Seamus Heaney, Philip Larkin, Wendy Cope and Ted Hughes.

What is particularly attractive here is the pure look of the poems on the 'page', with the poet's own voice reading the lines (the 'live' one is subtly highlighted), and a 'fixed-format'. See the screenshot above.

This is also surely the future of many e-books, with the author him/herself reading the lines, and thus the text available in three ways - as text, as text/audio and as an audiobook if the reader/listener prefers.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Extended Essay: O'Donoghue, Haddon, Hosseini

In her excellent Transition Year Extended Essay, which was awarded a Distinction, Ally Boyd Crotty compared Emma Donoghue's Room, Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, and Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

She writes:-

My choices of books were mainly based on childhood. I chose this theme because I am interested in books about childhood and I thought I would find it rewarding to study these books in more depth than I have before.This theme made all three of my books interlinked in a great deal of ways even though they all had their own unique stories. The contrast but similarities of the books made it a very broad topic. I never really felt stuck or had any reason to ponder on what I needed to write.

Read Ally's full essay here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Book Report: Downham and Rosoff

In her Junior Certificate book report for last term's exam, Darcy Maule compared two novels with not-dissimilar titles, Before I Die by Jenny Downham and How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff.  

Darcy writes:

The book I preferred is most definitely Before I Die because I related to the book more than How I Live Now. I chose these books because they seemed to have good storylines that appealed to me. How I Live Now is about a girl called Elizabeth who calls herself Daisy who moves to England from New York City to live with her dead mother’s sister and cousins. A war breaks out in England while the aunt is stuck in Oslo and the children are separated by gender. Daisy then escapes with her younger cousin Piper to find the other family members including her cousin Edmund who she has fallen in love with.

Before I Die is about a girl who is 16 called Tessa who suffers with leukaemia. The doctors said to Tessa “I’d encourage you to do the things you want to do.” Tessa takes that quite literally and makes up a bucket list of things she wants to do before she dies with help from her best friend Zoey. Tessa’s parents are divorced so she lives with her loving Dad and her honest little brother Cal. Tessa’s dad is stuck in denial about her illness and just wants to spend time with her while her mother is very supportive about her list. Tessa’s main point on her list is to fall in love which happens when she encounters her neighbour Adam.

Read the complete book report here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fantasy in Fiction

In her Transition Year Extended Essay, Sofia McConnell wrote on Wicked by Gregory Maguire, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Michael Scott's The Magician

She comments:-

"Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Wicked are both well written, more so than The Magician which is a much more modern story and has a more modern style of writing. Wicked probably has the most complicated plot of all the stories, to be able to understand it you have to follow very closely, unlike Alice in Wonderland which was written for a much younger audience than Wicked. Unlike the story it was derived from (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), Wicked is written more for adults than for children, parts of it tend to get quite crude and vivid, it contains a lot of adult language and content, there is violence and a few sexual situations. 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written for young children and older adults; it is very easy to follow if you are open-minded and don’t question all the incredibly curious things that happen in the book. The Magician is neither as complicated as Wicked nor as simple as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the book makes you concentrate more on the story rather than on the writing. It was written for teenagers and older children who wouldn’t really think about the writing anyhow. Alice in Wonderland and Wicked are timeless: both could be enjoyed now and also a hundred years ago, although possibly Wicked would have been strongly frowned upon. The Magician however is much more contemporary novel, it most likely would have been considered drivel that long ago, most likely wouldn’t even be published. 

All three are written in the third person and the present. Each writer went with the times, as can be expected: that is easy to see in these three books. Judging from these three books you would imagine writing is getting worse with time. The oldest book seems to be the best written."

Read Sofia's full essay here.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

'The Dead'

For all pupils who are going to the Abbey Theatre production of The Dead on Tuesday, here is the full text of the original short story by James Joyce. It is a PDF file which can be downloaded to your own device.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Teju Cole's Small Fates

Back in February last year we reviewed the Nigerian-American novelist Teju Cole's acclaimed first novel, Open City. An interesting project that Cole has recently taken on is his Small Fates series on Twitter

These lapidary stories tell us about the lives of Nigerians, sometimes the victims of 'capricious fate'. A few days ago he explained (via tweeting) his process of composition, and @writerswriting has 'Storified' these. 

Have a look at this below, including the screenshot of the evolving tweets on Edith Ndu, and listen also to the interview on NPR.  This is excellent material for teaching pupils how to write succinctly, and how Twitter can be used in innovative ways.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Asperger's Syndrome in Fiction

In her fine Transition Year Extended Essay last term, which gained a Distinction, Eliza Hancock dealt with a subject that has not previously appeared in the 18 years of these projects: the portrayal of Asperger's Syndrome in modern fiction.

As she writes in her introduction,

I came across the theme of my extended essay completely by chance. Originally, I wanted to do childhood in general, my reason being that childhood is something that everyone goes through, that everyone can relate to, and therefore would be quite easy to write on. However, I then came across ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’, and realized that I didn’t want to write on children who had normal, every-day childhoods, I wanted to read and write about children like Christopher Boone, children with Asperger’s Syndrome. 

I began searching for books that fit my theme, and came across five: ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’ by Mark Haddon, which obviously I had already read as it was the book which gave me the whole idea for my essay, ‘Mockingbird’, by Kathryn Erskine, ‘The London Eye Mystery’, by Siobhán Dowd, ‘Spinner’ by Anthony Masters and ‘House Rules’, by Jodi Picoult. I read them all, and after a lot of deliberation, indecisiveness and chopping and changing, I finally decided on ‘The Curious Incident’, ‘Mockingbird’ and ‘House Rules’.

Read the full essay by Eliza here.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Transition Year Work Portfolio

Today IV form start on the annual Work Portfolio, writing short creative pieces, which will be redrafted after marking and handed in again at the end of the course for the final assessment. Several of these will eventually find their way onto this blog, especially in next term.

Here is this year's list. It can always be accessed via Department Documents on the right under 'Our Sites and Info'.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

New Term

Classes start today for the Hilary Term - an unusually short one due to an early Easter, but with lots to do. And there will be lots on this blog too, starting shortly with the best Extended Essays written by our Transition Year pupils last term, the conclusion of the Macbeth ShowMe series of analyses, and much more.

Monday, January 07, 2013

The Poetry Project

The Poetry Project is a six-month scheme to mark Ireland's Presidency of the EU; every Monday morning you can get an email with a poem by an Irish author accompanied by a sound and video work. Here, for instance, is today's - Sinead Morrissey's poem 'Driving Along on a Snowy Evening', accompanied by John Halpin's video. An interesting resource for class, too.

Sign up at http://thepoetryproject.ie/

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Books of the Year 2012

Here we go again - our Books of the Year round-ups of lists from the media in 2011 and 2010 were very popular, and this is our (frequently updated) one for 2012.

You can also join in by nominating your own book of the year - we're blogging these. Take five minutes to fill in this form.

  1. The Observer's first choice, by John Banville, was a very popular title this year in many publications - Robert Macfarlane's The Old Ways: a journey on foot. Other choices include Sally Gardner's Maggot Moon (from Adam Mars-Jones) and Canada by Richard Ford (Sally Vickers).
  2. The excellent Gutter Bookshop in Dublin has a Christmas selection, including John Banville's new novel Ancient Light, and Laurent Binet's well-received HHhH, about the Nazi Reinhard Heydrich.
  3. The Irish Times Top Titles of 2012 sees John Connolly also pick out Laurent Binet's HHhH, and Catriona Crowe choose Harry Clifton's latest poetry collection, The Winter Sleep of Captain Lemass.
  4. The Guardian's list, chosen by authors such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Richard Ford,  includes the latest volume of Robert Caro's astonishing biography of Lyndon Johnson, The Passage of Power (chosen by Robert Harris), which covers the assassination of JKF and Johnson's assumption of the Presidency. Best History Books chosen by David Horspool include The Victorian City by Judith Flanders, a recreation of everyday life in Dickens's London. The best children's books for 8-12 year-olds starts with Jon Klassen's sequel to his successful I Want My Hat Back, This is Not My Hat. Best Crime includes Gillian Flynn's often-mentioned Gone Girl. Also, their annual feature The Publishing Year looks at books publishers 'loved and lost' - Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt writes that "Without doubt the book that had the biggest impact on Salt was Alison Moore's Man Booker-shortlisted The Lighthouse, a novel that transcends genre while playing with genre motifs, providing dark humour as well as a deliciously transgressive view of fate and the horrors of recursive human experience."
  5. The Daily Telegraph: the Christmas selection by authors includes Zadie Smith's novel NW (chosen by Philip Hensher), and Hilary Mantel's Booker-winning Bring up the Bodies (Robert Douglas-Fairhurst). Also, Nicholas Shakespeare selects the best biographies, including Oliver Matuschek's Three Lives: a Biography of Stefan Zweig. Here, Tom Payne chooses his poetry books of the year, including Andrew Motion's The Customs House. Gaby Wood reviews the year in literature here.
  6. The Sunday Telegraph also has a selection by critics and guests, including Jan Morris (the frequently-cited Artemis Cooper biography of the travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor) and Anne Chisholm (Rose Tremain's follow-up to Restoration, Merivel).
  7. The School Library Journal each year provides one of the best-informed lists of children's books. The list is broken down into categories, including in fiction Son by the well-known children's writer Lois Lowry.
  8. The National Science Teachers' Association in America has a fine list of the best science books of the year for secondary pupils.
  9. The Washington Post's 10 Best Books of the Year include Katherine Boo's widely-acclaimed account of three years spent in the slums of Mumbai, Behind the Beautiful Forevers and Richard Ford's Canada (which is likely to be mentioned often in these lists). They also have 50 Notable Works of Fiction (including Mario Vargas Llosa's treatment of the life of Roger Casement, Dream of the Celt), 50 Notable Works of Non-Fiction (including Richard Russo's memoir of his mother, Elsewhere) and Top 10 Graphic/Comics Read of 2012, with Chris Ware again to the fore with Building Stories.
  10. The Wall Street Journal offers History books.
  11. The New York Times: 100 Notable Books of 2012 in fiction, non-fiction and poetry includes the final volume of Edward St Aubyn's brilliant Melrose series, At Last and, recently published in the US, the hugely talented Kevin Barry's City of Bohane. And there's also the 10 Best Books of 2012, including Chris Ware's boxed graphic novel Building Stories and the great Robert Caro again on Lyndon Johnson.
  12. The Slate staff picks for 2012 include Louise Gluck's Poems: 1962-2012 and (twice) Katherine Boo's Mumbai book. They have also posted the Overlooked Books of 2012, including the Australian novelist Gerald Murnane's Inland.
  13. Atlantic magazine's Books of the Year 2012 features its top 5 and the runners-up. One of its top picks was actually first published a long time ago - Molly Keane's superb Good Behaviour. A runner-up is Alice Munro's latest, Dear Life, which features often in these lists. Also in The Atlantic there is a feature 'The Best Book I Read This Year' by editors and contributors: Scott Stossel goes for Edward St Aubyn's extraordinary Melrose series five-partner, now complete with At Last.
  14. Times Literary Supplement: Books of the Year 2012 has choices from 47 authors, including = Edna O'Brien's memoir Country Girl (chosen by Hilary Mantel) and Kevin Barry's excellent new collection Dark Lies the Island.
  15. NPR (National Public Radio) has several lists by its critics here; the short story recommendations include Nathan Englander's much-noticed What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, and Sherman Alexie's new and selected collection, Blasphemy.
  16. The New York Public Library has a fine list of children's books from 2012 - '100 Titles for Reading and Sharing'. Stories for Older Readers include Barbara Wright's Crow.
  17. Amazon.com's list of the Best Books of the Year includes the award-winning The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers and Ian McEwan's new novel Sweet Tooth.
  18. The Yellow Birds also features in the Huffington Post's interesting selection by its editors,as does Brian Evenson's post-apocalyptic thriller Immobility.
  19. The London Independent's lists include Audio Books of the Year, Literary Fiction (J.K. Rowling's adult debut The Casual Vacancy is mentioned), Teenage Fiction (an interesting selection by Susan Elkin) and Art Books. A list of all their lists is here.
  20. One of the most comprehensive and interesting selections around is from the Financial Times, which of course starts with the Economics and Business categories category but then goes on to cover almost everything else, including history, politics, sport, art , music, film, fashion, travel, food, gardens and fiction (Pat Barker's Toby's Room, Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behaviour). 
  21. The St-Louis Post-Despatch has Our favorite books of 2012,  including Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue, and of course Robert Caro on LBJ, again.
  22. The New Stateman's Books of the Year 2012 is a big selection from well-known authors and critics. Christopher Ricks recommends an American poet not well-known over here, David Ferry.
  23. The excellent Brainpickings site from Maria Popova has Best Art Books of 2012 including a stunning Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.
  24. The London Evening Standard's Books of the Year 2012 has Jane Shilling recommending Peter Carey's new novel, The Chemistry of Tears.
  25. The reading social network Good Reads 2012 Choice Awards resulted in over 1 million votes, with J.K.Rowling's The Casual Vacancy heading the fiction list.
  26. The Sydney Morning Herald's 'year in books' features Thomas Kenealy's choice of Patrick White's first novel Happy Valley, recently republished, and Montebello, the new memoir from Robert Drewe, author of the superb The Shark Net.
  27. Bookriot's 5 Top Most Overlooked Books has at number 1 Joe Meno's Office Girl, about "two 20-something Chicagoans."  And their contributors' Best Books of 2012, including Javier Marias's extraordinary sequence Your Face Tomorrow.
  28. The Library Journal's staff choice for 2012 includes John Sutherland's Lives of the Novelists: a history of fiction in 294 lives
  29. The New Yorker books blog Page Turner has a list of favourites from contributors, including Mischa Hiller's thriller Shake Off and, of course, the Caro LBJ book - 'one of the great literary achievements of our time.' 
  30. Chicken Spaghetti has a very helpful and comprehensive list of children's books of the year, including awards. 
  31. The Independent on Sunday has several lists: poetry (including Carol Ann Duffy's 'unabashed fan-girl' Sylvia Plath selection), biography and memoirpage turners (Gone Girl again) and children's picture books.
  32. The Printers Row journal on the Chicago Tribune has 19 Chicago booklovers (with photo portraits) recommending the books they loved this year. Novelist and lawyer Scott Turow goes for Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.  
  33. The Reading Matters blog from @kimbofo has several posts surveying other book bloggers' books of the year, nicely laid out (click on the covers for the review).  One example: KevinfromCanada goes for Tony Judt's superb selection of biographical essays, The Memory Chalet.
  34. Declan Burke's 30 Shades of Great from his site Crime Always Pays highlights Tana French's Broken Harbour as 'the most frightening book I read all year', and Keith Ridgway's innovative Hawthorn and Child
  35. The Globe and Mail has Margaret Cannon's Top 10 crime fiction books of the year, including the latest Donna Leon Brunetti novel, Beastly Things.
  36. Scott Pack's 'alternative' Best of 2012 on Me and My Big Mouth asks for contributions from readers  - and there are lots of them, too.
  37. The Spectator's Books of the Year by regular contributors includes the much-praised biography of Henry VII by Thomas Penn, Winter King: the dawn of Tudor England (Sam Leith) and Richard Ford's novel Canada (Charlotte Moore).
  38. January Magazine has several lists, including Children's Books, Crime Fiction 1 (including Absolute Zero Cool by Declan Burke) and 2.
  39. John Self's Twelve from the Shelves include a novel he has championed a lot, Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway, and May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes.
  40. The New Statesman: A Year in Books has among its highlights Zadie Smith's novel NW and Shalom Auslander's Hope: a tragedy.