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Showing posts from July, 2012

Why I have had to change my mind about the Olympics. Again.

Over the last few years I have made no secret of my frustration about the Olympics.  As soon as the monstrous Westfield shopping centre opened in Stratford, I suddenly realised it was never about regenerating an impoverished area of East London.  Clearly, it was more about creating a cash buffet for big business which would 'regenerate' by simply forcing out of the area those who could not either compete with McDonalds, or afford M&S groceries.  The various sponsorship scandals (Chip-gate, Visa-gate, Crisp-gate, etc.) only served to harden my prejudice, while the targeting of local businesses by the IOC for daring to decorate cakes with Olympic rings made the whole thing frankly unpleasant.

Come the start of the games, I tuned in with a certain sense of foreboding.  That foreboding was not a fear that I would hate it though - but a fear that in spite of myself I would in contrast like it.  Because although I have always felt somewhat underwhelmed in the run-up to any Olym…

Writing Made Simple: Word processing that helps you focus

Computers are a distraction. Or at least, they can be. I have already been blogging about some of the ways in which you can make them less distracting - even helpful to maintaining focus. I have just found another one, and this one has reminded more than ever of what it used to be like to sit down with little more than a blank piece of paper and a pen.

When I first started using a computer, the problem I found was that it was just too interesting. Rather than working, I would always be tempted to explore Hypercard just a little more, to experiment with small scripts, or switch to the rather nice little chess game which came with the machine.

Today computers come with a positive library of distractions which make my old Mac Classic seem about as interesting as Channel 4s round-the-clock broadcast of the Short v. Kasparov chess championship, and I have been sucked into their world of multimedia and gadgetry which is often quite beautiful but has made me forget the problems I had wit…

The Romance of Cinema: Remembering the Barking Odeon

I don’t know why, but yesterday I became suddenly nostalgic about cinema, and in particular about the first cinema I can remember - the old Odeon in Barking.

I have always loved going to the cinema. I love the foyer; rich with the buzz of anticipation and the smell of popcorn. I love the auditoriums; dimly lit and exuding such tantalising promise of adventures. I love the drama of screen curtains swishing back (sometimes, if you are lucky, the projection starts just a little too soon and you get that lovely effect of the image rippling on the curtain as it draws back). I even love the adverts and trailers, which build the excitement and make the appearance of the BBFC certificate like waking up on Christmas morning.
Yesterday I realised perhaps for the first time, that I owe this love to my first cinema-going experiences as a child, and to the glorious Barking Odeon, which sat so majestically opposite Barking station.
The Barking Odeon was originally called the Rio Cinema when it …

Close Reading: A step-by-step guide

Perhaps because of the contradictions I have already mentioned in an earlier blog, it is a little difficult to find any clear advice for students on how to do close reading.  There are plenty of textbooks which introduce students to generic forms, and to the kinds of interpretive questions they can use with texts - but few which explain the steps which a student might take to ask the most basic questions of the texts form.

There are some excellent blogs and websites (see here for a good example - and Dr. Allan Johnson has some terrific stuff which you can access here), but for what its worth, here is my suggestion of the steps which you might take in close reading and analysis.  This is really just a few thoughts, and I would greatly appreciate any comments or additions you might suggest - in particular about stages 1-4, which are lacking in detail.

1) First Impressions:  Read the text, underlining or highlighting any words and phrases that strike you - anything that seems strange, sur…

The Value of Close Reading as a Research Method

For a long time, close reading seems to have had a somewhat contradictory role in English education.  It is still something which is explicitly referred to by the QAA subject benchmark statements for English (the generic descriptors which define what an English degree should broadly contain), which means that it is something which students are expressely expected to be able to demonstrate in their writing.  Students will be told they need to do it, and downgraded if they don't - but at the same time there has been something of a reticence to explain close reading as anything more than an archaic remnant of New Critical practices which were effectively killed off by structuralism and the more political modes of critical practice which emerged toward the end of the twentieth century.

The value of close reading

Perhaps part of this reticence is born of the fact that it is sometimes difficult to explain the relevance of close reading in an age of transferrable skills and …