Eavan Boland poetry
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Poetry – AS Paper 2, Section B The Language of Literary Texts
A Level Paper 2, Section A The Language of Poetry and Plays
At both AS and A Level, this examined unit asks students to analyse the use and impact of poetic and stylistic techniques, demonstrating how meaning and effects are created.
Topic: Eavan Boland, New Collected Poems
- Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a substantial poetry collection.
- Apply relevant methods for text analysis, drawing on linguistic and literary techniques.
- Explore how linguistic and literary approaches can inform interpretations of texts.
- Identify how meanings and effects are created and conveyed in texts.
- Analyse the ways in which a poetry text draws on its literary, cultural and stylistic contexts.
At AS Level the exam asks students to compare two named poems from the collection they have been studying.
At A Level the exam asks students to compare the named poem with one or two others of their choice from the collection they have been studying.
This examined unit requires the students to read the following fifteen poems written by Eavan Boland: From the Painting Back from Market by Chardin, The Famine Road, From the Irish of Pangur Ban (for Mairin), Naoise at Four, Anorexic, Degas’s Laundresses, Woman in Kitchen, The New Pastoral, The Oral Tradition, An Irish Childhood in England:1951, The Black Lace Fan My Mother Gave Me, Object Lessons, White Hawthorn in the West of Ireland, This Moment, The Pomegranate.
In this Language and Literature specification, the students will analyse how meanings are shaped in poetry, exploring how the poet uses poetic and stylistic techniques to present ideas. They will focus on the way in which meaning is created through the use of pattern making and pattern breaking, (deviation) and through repetition.
This analysis will require the students to have an awareness of phonology, lexis and semantics, grammar and morphology, pragmatics and discourse.
They will also analyse the connections between the poems, and explore the influence of context on the poems. The context may be the literary context (the way in which the poem uses the conventions of a particular genre, for example) or the broader social or historical context.
Conceptual links to other parts of the specification
In common with AS Level Paper 2, Section A (The Language of Prose), and A Level Paper 3, Section A (Reading as a Writer, Writing as a Reader), this paper requires the students to think about how the texts are constructed, for example. The focus might be on how the choice of first person narrator shapes the meaning of the poem, for instance, rather than on who that narrator actually is.
Students closely analyse the language of poetry through poetic and stylistic techniques, and this is a useful skill that can be applied to other AS and A Level units. The knowledge they gain about the way in which language works, the effects that it creates, and the way in which it can be used, is also an excellent basis for their own written work at A Level, and for any analysis that they do of either spoken or written texts in almost any genre.
An understanding of the relevance of context is essential to any study that requires students to think about the purpose or audience of the text (particularly relevant in the exploration of the texts in the anthology in AS and A Level Paper 1, for example).
In this unit, the students are already required to make connections between two named poems (AS Level) or between one named poem and one or two poems of their choice (A Level), and this process of finding connections is part of thinking contextually. The students are exploring the poem in the light of at least one other poem in the collection, and are therefore thinking about the patterns that emerge, or the patterns that are broken, in terms of the poet’s choice of lexis, syntax etc.
An awareness of the broader context of other genres is also required in order that the students can see how the poet breaks or follows those conventions.
Some knowledge of the wider social or historical context may be useful, if that context affects the grammatical or lexical choices made by the poet.
The activities in this guide are examples of the ways in which the context of the poems can be explored.
This guide will help teachers plan for and teach approaches to Eavan Boland by giving guidance on key concepts and suggesting classroom activities.
For A level, students analyse the use and impact of poetic and stylistic techniques, demonstrating how meaning and effects are created.
In this activity the students are given a list of quotes taken from fifteen of Boland’s poems and asked to find any links they can between them. They may start by identifying thematic links, but they can then go on to begin to think about the characteristic narrative voice, or any lexical patterns that are evident.
This task would serve as an introductory activity to the study of Boland’s poetry, and consequently, there is support for the students in terms of a list of Boland’s themes, for example. They can then go on to link their findings to the poet’s own view of her poetry, as a consolidation activity.
It would provide a good starting point for Activity 2, which asks the students to more closely analyse the poetry itself.
See 'Boland’s work' for an overview and a list of further reading.
This activity is good preparation for Activity 2.
Please see Student resource 1 for all materials related to Activity 1.
This activity builds on the work in Activity 1, bringing in extracts from critics and re-visiting the themes the students have touched on already. It uses Chardin’s painting Back from the Market as inspiration for identifying characteristics of Boland’s poetry, before going on to closely analyse the text itself.
Having discussed the poem’s likely focus (by drawing inspiration from Chardin’s painting), they then divide into groups to study de-contextualised verbs, adjectives, and pronouns from the poem, to further their understanding of how the meaning is shaped. They then read From the Painting Back from Market by Chardin, and apply their analysis in a collaboratively written paragraph.
This activity would be most useful at the start of study on Boland, as it reiterates over-arching themes, and provides an introduction to a linguistic analysis of the poem.
Students could look at the 'Complete works of Chardin', as well as an online version of the painting. It might provide a useful introduction or conclusion to this activity if the students were to research links between the paintings of Chardin and the poems of Boland: how does each portray domesticity, or women, for example?
Please see Student resource 2 for all materials related to Activity 2.
In this activity, students approach the poem from “behind the scenes”: they draw conclusions about what might be happening in the poem, by analysing the metre, rhyme and lexical patterns, before they look at the poem as a whole. This enables the students to see how the parts of the poem integrate to shape the meaning. They then go on to take a more thematic approach in their exploration of the parallels that resonate throughout, before having a group discussion about the “message” of the poem. The students should be able to draw on their initial analysis of enjambment as evidence to support their final reading of the poem.
This activity would work well in the middle of the study of Boland’s poetry, as a knowledge of Boland’s characteristic themes and style would help in their initial analysis of the lexical patterns etc.
Students could read an 'Interview' with Eavan Boland in which she talks about the role of the Irish woman poet. Also 'Ode on A Grecian Urn by John Keats' provides further reading.
Please see Student resource 3 for all materials related to Activity 3.
With reference to Boland’s own analysis of This Moment, the students explore to what extent the comments influence their understanding of the poem.
The students are divided into four groups and each group is given different information about This Moment:
1) Boland’s comments on the autobiographical elements of this poem;
2) Boland’s comments on the form and on a particular image;
3) a more linguistic approach to the poem; and
4) a more visual, figurative approach.
Each group is encouraged to look at the poem from a slightly different angle, and the final class discussion relates to the way in which knowledge of context either adds to, or hinders our own interpretation.
This activity should be done later on in the study of Boland, as a knowledge of her other poems will mean that the students depend less on the stimulus material they have been given.
For a podcast of Boland’s comments on the poem click on the Resources links.
Please see Student resource 4 for all materials related to Activity 4.
This is an exam-style question that encourages the students to integrate context and close analysis.
In addition to the activity offered in Student Resource 5, these two tables could be used in the classroom in many ways. They could be used after the students have done their own analysis, annotating the tables to add in their own ideas. Students could use them to help to think about the structure for their essays, numbering the boxes and discussing whether they agree as a class. They could work in groups, taking the notes as a starting point in order to produce a presentation to the rest of the class on one of the poems, or on a comparison of the poems. They could be encouraged to do further research, looking at Pastoral Landscape (1648) by Claude Lorrain, for example, in preparation for reading The New Pastoral.
This activity is designed to be done later on in the study of Boland, as it presumes that the students have an understanding of the terminology and of Boland’s characteristic use of language.
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OCR acknowledges the use of the following content:
Student Resource 2: Return from the Market 1739 by Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, courtesy of www.jean-baptiste-simeon-chardin.org