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Revision sessions 2018
Revision sessions will take place on 30 April 2018 in H058.

11am - 12pm: literature and 17th-century context (JW)

12pm - 1pm: revising 17th-century drama (TG)

1pm - 2pm: revising 17th-century poetry and prose (JW)

These sessions will take place after you have recieved the seen exam paper (which will be released on 23 April). The sessions cannot speak directly to that paper. But they will guide you in revising some of the broad topics and concerns of the literature on the module in a way that will help you to make sense of the exam.

Owing to the industrial action in February and March, some material was not covered in lectures and seminars. In the exam, if you wish to do so, you may write on set module material for which there was no class/lecture, but we advise that you focus on areas/texts which you feel most comfortable with and prepared for.

Part A contains questions on "Absalom and Achitophel", The Rover and Orinooko on which there have been no classes, but also 7 other questions for which the teaching has left you fully prepared.

The rubric of part B of the exam already allows you to nominate a date range for your answer, so part B answers do not require you to write on material from later in the module unless you feel able to do so. It is perfectly acceptable to confine your answer to texts from earlier in the module as long as your answer demonstrates an understanding of the variety of contexts that existed across the seventeenth century.

There will be no penalty for not writing on the material not taught in weeks 8-10, nor will there be any particular advantage in doing so.

You may find the following advice from a former convenor of EN228 (Professor Elizabeth Clarke) helpful:


Well this is where I tell you what the course was all about in case you were wondering….I shall try not to give away the questions but as you know you will get the paper from the office 3 weeks in advance.

So number 1 forget that this is meant to be the golden age of Eng Lit. Did they know that at the time? No. In fact they were very aware that England was just a barbaric NW outpost of Europe which is why Herbert and Milton wrote in Latin and Greek and why Shakespeare worked so hard at enriching the language (over 200 neologisms) It didn’t help that they were so rude about each other—you have never heard me use the term ‘metaphysical poets’ as that was an insult by Dr Johnson so don’t you use it. What does it mean anyway? ‘Hard’, perhaps. And you know about the two different schools of poetics. Did the sons of Ben like the school of Donne? No. Not classical enough you see. And what could possibly link Herbert and Marvell who are so different in terms of belief, class, period, subject matter and reason for writing and are often called metaphysical? These poets were anthologised in a 1960s Penguin book called The Metaphysical Poets. It was given to me as a school prize and is probably the reason why I am teaching seventeenth century today (God help you). But in an article called ‘The Metaphysical Penguin’ Nigel Smith exposed what harm that little book had done. You know that some books are crap so don’t use those. For example please don’t tell me that any of your authors are ‘universal’. What could that mean? Only that they are what we now think literature ought to be like.

Which means that I don’t want out of date ideas in your exam. Don’t read anything earlier than 1980 (ok can read Barbara Lewalski’s Protestant Poetics (1979), it’s dead good. If you were science students you would want the latest research……forget A level. No really I mean forget it. I am not interested in themes or character studies or anything else you did at A level…..I am asking you to include exciting ideas from your reading. Have you found the bibliographies on the website yet? Look for the blue button called ‘bibliographies’. I know you don’t have time to reference properly in an exam but if a max of 3 times per essay you say something like ‘Lewalski says that Herbert was very influential in the seventeenth century’ you will get an extra mark for having read something each time.

So what am I interested in? When you look at the paper you may decide that it is designed to produce answers that will not bore me and you are not wrong. I have taught this course for 10 years and learned so much from exam answers and I bet not many people can say that. So Section A includes a question for every author in term 2 and if you came to the lecture you know what turns me on. If you didn’t come don’t answer on that author……not that I want my ideas thrown back at me. But use them…take them somewhere. Develop them or disagree with them. Read the poetry well and read the crit critically. And especially in section A learn quotation. You can do that. If you want to, learn the whole brilliant essay you have written by heart.

Quotation is key for section A because you need evidence. Everything you assert has to be based on intra-textual reading or extra-textual historical fact which you should give sources for unless it is so obvious that everyone knows it—like who was on the throne when or the dates of the Civil Wars (you do know them don’t you?) Preferably both. Critical opinion is not evidence it is backup for what you think for other reasons (and not everything in a book is right) Anyway no more than three critics per essay as I already said. I am really interested in what you think—as long as you have really tried to find out the answers from reading and thinking (ie research), Even if you got your answer from books make it sound like you (to get a good English degree you have to be able to write).

Section B is designed to get your opinions on the century as a whole. In fact the whole course is designed for that which is why you currently are writing an essay on a text hardly anyone else has written on. I am not interested in producing experts on Milton-- there are far too many of those already. But if you can pick up any old seventeenth century text, look at the date, read the dedicatory epistle and then having read the text say something interesting about it I am happy. So what kind of things will come up?

Class—what kind of people read and wrote things? Why?

Markets—were texts sold and did they make a profit? Why?

Changes during the century in the above—why?

You will see that you will need certain facts at your fingertips—because you need evidence--like the change in literacy rates which is crucial. As I hope you have learned, what happened this century made ‘literature’ possible—how? Why could more people afford to be literate? These are big but important questions and I think they dictate not only the content but the style of writing. Think of the difference between the masques and pamphlet literature like Absalom and Achitophel. They were both commissioned by the King and designed to promote his policies—so why are they so different? I would argue that they are so different because they are 70 years apart—what has happened?

I don’t really expect quotation in section B because we are working on a broader scale. The rubric probably says deal with at least 2 authors but I mean at least two (the more the better).Yes use the author you are writing on now—surely you can say one interesting thing about it. Don’t worry too much about the ‘don’t answer on the same authors’ rule as that is a section A type rule where the questions are more usual and talk about one author in depth. If the question is too broad for you—it deals with the whole century but you have a really interesting theory about one decade—fine. Just make clear in the introduction that you are going to apply the question to the 1650s (that is what introductions are for) You don’t know what to put in an introduction? Just start—you don’t have time to try and make one up. And on the subject of not boring the examiner (which is what English essays are all about) don’t do an intro because you feel you have to. The key para is always the conclusion of your argument which answers the question and which is the last thing we read before we mark your essay at 74 (or 81).

You will get marks for everything that answers the question so make sure the first sentence of every para does and the rest of that para is evidence for that statement (sorry this is essays 101 and you know it) I expect about five good paras—order them from bleedin’ obvious to deep. That way you won’t need an intro and the conclusion will be the most interesting thing you say (and your essay will have pace and movement—it will lead the reader from simple to profound answers to the question)

OK well really I don’t see how you can’t do brilliiantly as that is the whole point of a seen paper. I don’t see any point in you panicking and you won’t will you. Mind you a few years ago one of my tutees complained that a seen paper was worse than an unseen—it was more work. And he was right—I am afraid I make no allowances for exams, I want to know what you really think and why.

Why should the standard for exams be lower than normal? After all it is 50% of your marks.

I look forward to your papers—and if anyone wants to practice doing an old paper on the web, just do it and send it to me—I will tell you what your essay would have got. Good luck.