The Purpose of this Blog

Your task on this blog is to write a brief summary of what we learned in class today. Include enough detail so that someone who was ill or missed the lesson can catch up with what they missed. Over the course of the term, these 'class scribe' posts will grow to be a guide book for the course, written by students for students.

With each post ask yourself the following questions:
1) Is this good enough for our guide book?
2) Will your post enable someone who wasn't here to catch up?
3) Would a graphic/video/link help to illustrate what we have learned?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Act 3 - Othello changes...

We began by looking at the striking contrast between Othello's speech by focusing on these two extracts. The language transforms and we see him finally showing signs of being heavily influenced by Iago. Although in both cases the subject of his dialouge is the same (Desdemona) his way of describing her changes, he goes from using loving and soft language to dark imagery and sees her as a mere "creature" of "appetite" and sees himself as a "toad" in a "dungeon".

To show that all it took for Othello to become like this was Iago's little 'dent' to Othello's 'shield' Sir did a...interesting demonstration:

(click on the image so you can see its content clearer, it appears blurred here for some reason)

During our reading of Act 3 more ideas were brought to our attention:

  • Iago shows his Janus nature again throughout Act 3, scene 3 when he pretends to accidently stumble on suspicions regarding Cassio and Desdemona
  • Othello begins to use more caesura in his speech thus making his lines more aggressive, short and blunt
  • line 386 sees antithesis in Othello's speech which encapsulates the complete change in his mind
  • Iago radiates vulgar kineasthetic imagery, "topped"
  • Othello demands proof of Desdemona's affair with Cassio and Iago, possibly for the first time infront of Othello, uses animalistic imagery to increase Othello's building fury to describe Cassio's "sexual dream" of Desdemona
  • This results in Othello stating "I'll tear her all to pieces" - which proves Iago succesful
  • But Iago is Protean and retreats after having done the damage with his words, "Nay this was but his dream"
  • Iago is made lieutenant
  • The structure of Othello's speech when he says "Tis gone" (line447), highlights Othello's short-lived love through this short and isolated line
  • Othello kneeling to Othello is a dramatic device
  • Iago uses imperatives to show his control over Othello now, he demands him to "have patience" and "do not rise yet"
  • Scene 4 provides juxtoposition and emphasises how oppposite Desdemona is to Iago and Othello's description of her in scene 3 - she is oblivious to Othello's "black vengance"

After having finsished reading Act 3 we were given homework to:

Create a flow chart of act 3, scene 3 showing the way Othello shifts from being confident in Desdemona to being conident in Iago. We should feature quotes from the play and then surround them with points to do with language, structure/form and character. Sir suggested that the end quote should be Othello's statement that he will tear Desdemona to pieces, meaning that the rest of the flow chart will convey the journey towards this.

Feel free to add in any points we discussed that I missed :)


Monday, 14 November 2011

Embedding Ideas about Tragedy

This lesson focused on AO3:

Explore connections and comparisons between different literary texts, informed by interpretations of other readers.

In particular, the skill being developed was:
- Applying concepts of ‘tragedy’ to both texts

The following 'Aspects of Tragedy' were referred to throughout:

Tragic hero
Uncoiling of spring
Tragic flaw
Modern domestic tragedy
Classical tragedy
Tragic inevitability

A link was made to the next unit, 'Aspects of Narrative', which explores aspects in common in narrative, for example beginnings and character development.

Looking at eight different quotations linked to tragedy, students noted their initial impressions, which aspects were relevant and how this idea can be applied to Streetcar.

A C Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy (1904)
‘What we do feel strongly, as tragedy advances to its close, is that calamities and catastrophe follow inevitably from the deeds of men, and that the main source of these deeds is character.’

Arthur Miller, ‘Tragedy and the Common Man’ (1949)
‘It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time – the heart and spirit of the average man.’
‘I believe that the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were.’

Sean McEvoy, Tragedy: A Student Handbook (2009)
‘the tragic protagonist must be someone who is prepared to devote themselves to some idea or notion, which may range from a political or economic belief to the simple need for utter personal integrity in a world which demands compromises.’
‘in modern tragedy, the protagonist’s very ordinariness may also make him or her able to stand for a wider class of people, and their political views: women, the working class, and other racial groups who have struggled for emancipation during the 20th century.’

Aristotle, ‘On the Art of Poetry’ (330BC)
‘Tragedy, then, is a representation of an action that is worth serious attention, complete in itself, and of some amplitude... presented in the form of action, not narration; by means of pity and fear bringing about the purgation of such emotions.’

J A Cuddon, A Dictionary of Literary Terms (1976)
‘the tragedy, having aroused powerful feelings in the spectator, has a therapeutic effect; after the storm and climax there comes a release from tension, a calm.’

Terry Eagleton, Sweet Violence (2003)
Interpreting catharsis as the purpose of tragedy makes it ‘a kind of public therapy for those in the citizenry in danger of emotional flabbiness ... Tragedy is thus an instrument for regulating social feeling ... a refuse dump for socially undesirable emotions, or at least a retraining programme.’

Felicia H Londre, ‘A Streetcar Running Fifty Years’ in M C Roudane, The Cambridge Companion to Tennessee Williams (1997)
Williams ‘intended a balance of power between Blanche and Stanley, to show that both are complex figures whose wants and behaviours must be understood in the context of what is at stake for them.’

These ideas are valuable because they offer interesting critical ideas about tragedy and Streetcar. However, to make this value work for us, we need to weave the ideas into our writing. This is a writing tool for us to develop and add to our toolkit. By weaving in contextual references (AO4) and critical concepts of tragedy (AO3), our writing will be improved.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Language of Villainy

In this lesson, we had to analyse Shakespeare's presentation of Iago as a villain.

To begin with, we looked at 3 movie villains. Buddy from The Incredibles, Darth Vader from Star Wars and The Joker from Batman. We had to find out what the difference between them was. We realised that the difference was in their LANGUAGE.

While Buddy seemed to talk a lot, he didn't really have the language or even tone of voice which suggested that he was the villain. Darth Vader on the other had sounded really scary. Although he didn't talk much, the weird breathing noises he made were enough. Overall, the Joker was the most villainous villain. He had the tone of voice which showed that he was the villain but he also used different types of language to get his point across. Therefore, Joker is the villain who is most similar to Iago.

Because we were learning about the language of villainy, we were split up into four different groups who had to analyse four different types of language which were used by Iago.

These were:





Afterwards, we had a sort of Farmer's Market trading sort of thing. This enabled people from each group to move around the class and understand the types of language which other groups were doing.


Iago used this when talking to someone of a lower status/topic.

Represents 'protean' nature.

Iago manipulates Roderigo using prose and verse.

Disrupts adjacency pairs.

Uses imperatives.

Has an affect on the audience by involving them.


Opposition of phrases or words against each other.

Janus - shows Iago as two faced.

Iago is not who he is thought to be.


When a character represents his thought or feelings.

Therefore connects with the audience.

Different sides to Iago.

Has a 'protean' nature.

Sinister outlook.

Linguistically clever.


Establishes dramatic atmosphere.

Informative understanding of characters and events.

Poisoning: method of manipulation. Iago is deadly, swift, insidious.

Hell and the devil: evil intentions. Iago is evil and deceptive.

Enjoy :)

Friday, 11 November 2011

Act 3.3 - The Tipping Point

To begin with, we individually had to think of what a 'tipping point' was and how this related to Othello.

I personally thought it was a point in which everything starts to go downhill or changes for the worst, in relation to Anouilh 'the spring has started to uncoil'. This would link to Othello as we've read Iago's plan is set in motion and is now starting to take a significant place in the play.

However, after much conferring Sir gave us a final definition. This being 'the point at which something changes from one state into a new, different state.'

We then proceeded to read through Act 3 Scene 3, stopping when we felt we had come across an important part.

Here are some of the key points which make up much of what we read in the lesson:

  • Sorrowful Cassio persuades Desdemona to ask Othello to reinstate him, declaring 'my general will forget my love and service.'

  • Next, Iago arrives with Othello who slyly comments on a hurried Cassio 'ha! I like not that.'

  • Othello is then faced by a pleading Desdemona who so desperately wants her dear friend Cassio to have his job back, telling her husband 'good love, call him back.'

  • When Desdemona leaves, Iago begins to work on planting the seed of doubt in Othello's mind. Iago questions, with intent, Othello's knowledge of his former worker.

We then argued that the tipping point within Act 3 Scene 3 could be when Iago simply says in 5 mono-syllables to Othello 'Ha! I like not that.'
This is as, without saying much Iago managed to force doubt in Othello's mind and question the relationship between Desdemona and Michael Cassio.

Iago had begun to 'pour pestilence into Othello's ear', and so we analysed the ways in which Iago done this, and had forced the spring to begin uncoiling.

- Between lines 100 and 107, Iago constantly repeats Othello when being asked questions. When Othello asks "is he not honest?" Iago replies "with "honest, my lord?"

- Again, when Othello asks Iago "what dost thou think?" Iago responds "think my lord"

This is seen as Iago not using adjacency pairs, which is very common in his dialogue. I believe this is him showing his power and control over the other characters.

Desdemona also helps Iago's plan, by continually begging Othello take Cassio back and aiding her husbands mind to wander and come up with his assumptions on her real intentions behind her act.

Desdemona (asking about Cassio's reinstatement): but shall't be shortly?
Othello: the sooner, sweet, for you
Desdemona: shall't be tonight at supper?
Othello: no, not tonight.
Desdemona: why then, tomorrow night, tuesday morn, tuesday noon, or night, or wednesday night.

From a sheet, we then examined the conversation between Iago and Othello and broke it down into sub-headings.

Agenda-setting and topic changes:
Iago is very clever at controlling the conversation, without Othello even realising Iago can manage to alter the topic by focusing on Cassio and Desdemona.

First of all Othello initiates the dialogue, however later on when Iago starts to feed him information Iago begins to initiate a new conversation. Iago also interrupts Othello to quiestion Cassio's intentions.

Distribution and length of turns:
Othello's lines are longer than Iago's, however Iago's have more of an impact.

Adjacency pairs:
Iago quite often misuses adjacency pairs on purpose. When asked a question Iago usually replies with a question, this could be him authorising his power over the other characters or just confusing them in a bid to later manipulate them.

The co-operative principle:
Iago says very little in each response however it is so powerful and said in a doubtful but manipulative way. It is also partly relevant as he is feeding Othello with false information regarding Desdemona and Cassio. Othello's lines are both lengthy and passionate, they are said calmly but you sense he is bothered and slightly irritated by the accusations Iago is subconsciously making him conjure up.

Politeness principles:
Iago reassures Othello "Cassio, I dare be sworn I think that he is honest" this shows Iago is purposely trying to defend Cassio. But by saying 'think' he is showing Othello he is doubtful, resulting in Othello also doubting Cassio.

Modes of address:
Iago always calls Othello 'my lord', this distinguishes the difference between the way Iago speaks to certain characters or could be a form of Iago's manipualtion. Also, Othello refers to Iago as 'honest Iago' which conveys to the audience how much Iago has managed to deceive the other characters.

Taboo words:
Iago uses the word 'cuckold', meaning when a husband has cheated on his wife, against Othello. This is snide and is used as by now Iago is becoming agitated by previous rumors of Iago's wife Emilia cheating with Othello, and wants Othello to think the worst of Desdemona and Cassio.

Iago says to Othello "my lord, you know I love you", this conveys Iago as having foresight into which Cassio is supposedly going to betray Othello and so Iagois preparing to take his place in Othello's high regards. However, Othello believes Iago is simply saying he will be there for him no matter what.


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Iago pulls the strings

In the previous lesson, we read through Act 2 Scene 3 of Othello with the aim of considering the theme of reputation. The scene is set the night of when they arrived in Cyprus. In the scene, Iago uses a lot of imagery through two of his soliloquies and engineers the situation to his advantage. We see Iago manipulating and controlling events and start to take charge of the play.  

He talks to the audience about how he is planning on betraying Cassio by Othello relieving him of his duty and rank of lieutenant. Iago describes his actions as a “Divinity of hell,” creating the “blackest sins” towards Othello. This also gives the audience an image of Iago’s views about Othello. We will be exploring Iago’s language in more detail next lesson.

In his last speech, Iago says “how am I then a villain to counsel Cassio to this parallel course directly to his good?” This would give the audience an in-depth breakdown of his plan and giving a brief second opinion of Iago’s actions and make the audience question themselves. His question directly challenges the audience and makes us question his motives even further -  does Iago really want to help Cassio? But as we read on, we do find out that part of his plan is to make Othello angry with Cassio, thinking that Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair. Iago ensures that Cassio loses his reputation and that his own is improved in Othello’s mind.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Hi guys, sorry for the late post!

So in the lesson before last, we were given the questions to choose from for our coursework piece. In order for us to answer one of these questions to the best of our ability, we were going to have to closely analyse the contents of a successful essay.

Sir gave us a sheet of how we can improve our writing academically:
  • Use thesis statements.
  • Using topic sentences which make a distinct, interesting point linked to the thesis statement.
  • Embedding quotations.
  • Analysing language at word-level.
  • Comment on the effects (interpretations).
  • Using connectives to guide the reader through your argument.
  • Drawing upon prior learning and reusing it.
  • Proof reading for clarity and precision.

For Fridays lesson we firstly chose to look at what makes a strong thesis statement. Sir likened a thesis statement to a film trailer, and asked us to explain why we thought this would be. We came up with things such as:
  • it giving the reader an insight to the contents of the essay they will be reading.
  • it should draw the reader in, making them interested enough to want to read on.
  • it will familiarise your reader, preventing any 'surprises' along the way.
  • it should aim to keep them reading, until the end.

After this, we focused on the topic sentence, which starts your paragraph.
We were given 3 already, taken from some of our essays, and asked to slightly improve them so they had more of a powerful effect on the reader.

An example of one of these being:
"Blanche sees herself as superior to those at Elysian Fields, making it easier for her to have a fall from grace, as a tragic protagonist would."

This was then improved to be:
"Blanche sees herself as superior to those at Elysian Fields, making it easier for her to have a fall from grace. This is also a key factor present in a tragic protagonists story"

We then moved onto reading scene 7.

During this, it had been revealed that Stanley had had a dispute with his wife Stella over the events that had occurred in Blanches previous life. In which Stella was refusing to believe this new information about her beloved older sister.

We also witnessed a new, gentler side to Stanley which was unexpected after seeing his brutality towards Stella during an argument.

This took us on to noting down the differences in Stanley's behaviour and language when talking to Blanche and Stella.

Stanley towards Blanche:

- (to Stella about Mitch and Blanche) "he's not going to jump in a tank with a school of sharks - now!"

- (to Stella about Blanche) "She'll go on a bus, and she'll like it!"

- (directly to Blanche) "Hey, canary bird! Toots! Get OUT of the BATHROOM! Must I speak more plainly?"

Here we see Stanley does not hold back in speaking his mind when talking to Blanche, he isn't really bothered about hurting her feelings.

Stanley towards Stella:

- (stage directions) Stanley looks uncomfortable. "I wouldn't be expecting Mitch over tonight"

- (stage directions) Stanley comes up and takes Stella gently by the shoulders.

- (directly to Stella) "Sure I can see how you would be upset by this"

With these it is evident Stanley refrains from talking bluntly to his wife as he cares deeply for her and doesn't want to hurt her.

Finally we briefly answered the question 'Is Stanley guilty of bringing about Blanche's Tragedy?'

When thinking about the answer, we thought he could be either 2 things.

  • He could be seen as a 'catalyst' in which he is just the item that speeds up a reaction but is not at all used. In this case he would be the spark as he has exposed Blanche to her younger sister and he is not effected by it.
  • or he could simply be the sole reason for bringing about Blanche's tragedy.

I hope this is good enough!

Sophie. :-)

Friday, 4 November 2011

Blanche's Story: Exploring Streetcar on stage and film

Read the following essay over the weekend and write down what you learn for Tuesday's lesson.

Blanche's Story. Exploring Streetcar on stage and film.

Richard Jacobs explores changes made in the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire to throw light on the original playscript.

Let’s take a look at two sections of Streetcar, in the middle and at the end, by thinking about two contexts for the play. The first context is formal and historical; the second is institutional. We’ll see that the contexts coincide in the treatment of the story at the play’s centre.

There’s a group of American plays from the late 1940s and early 1950s which share a particular formal device. In them a crucial sequence of events happens not on stage, but before the curtain goes up. The play’s protagonists have to undergo a recognition or rediscovery of this story. It has to be re-presented or re-narrated. The effects of the original events, and the consequent effects of revisiting them, are what drive the play’s emotional intensities.

This technique has its roots in classical tragedy. It seems designed to give theatre something of the illusory three-dimensional qualities and inwardness which we associate with nineteenth century novels. By shifting the balance of narrative so that the most crucial material is in the past, to be recovered during stage-time, the playwright increases the illusion of the character’s depth, of the kind that we tend to associate with novel-reading, perhaps because we read internally and privately.
This is, anyway, what we find in Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. We’ll look at one painfully buried story in Streetcar and see what happens when it moves from the stage to the screen.
Blanche is 30 and wants to be younger. She’s an alcoholic. She obsessively bathes. She has problems with truth and with the past. But one man falls happily into her embroidered version of herself and it is to the sympathetic Mitch that she unburdens herself of the crucial story of the events that changed everything. She married young and, as is revealed in the first scene, ‘the boy died’. On the whole the 1951 film, for which Williams had screenplay responsibility, sticks pretty closely to the playscript, but let’s look at the significantly different treatment of Blanche’s story. Here’s the story as told in the film.

Blanche: He was a boy, just a boy, when I was a very young girl. When I was 16, I made the discovery – love. All at once and much, much too completely. It was like you suddenly turned a blinding light on something that had always been half in shadow, that’s how it struck the world for me. But I was unlucky. Deluded. There was something about the boy, a nervousness, a tenderness, an uncertainty, and I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand why this boy, who wrote poetry, didn’t seem to be able to do anything else. He lost every job. He came to me for help. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know anything except I loved him unendurably. At night I pretended to sleep. I heard him crying, crying, crying the way a lost child cries.
Mitch: I don’t understand.
Blanche: No, no, neither did I. And that’s why … [pause] I killed him.
Mitch: You …
Blanche: One night we drove out to a place called Moon Lake Casino. We danced the Varsouviana. Suddenly in the middle of the dance the boy I had married broke away from me and ran out of the casino. A few moments later – a shot! I ran out – all did – all ran and gathered about the terrible thing at the edge of the lake. He’d stuck the revolver into his mouth, and fired. It was because – on the dance-floor – unable to stop myself – I’d said: ‘You’re weak. I’ve lost respect for you. I despise you.’ And then the searchlight which had been turned on the world was turned off again and never for one moment since has there been any light that’s stronger than this.

And that, for cinema audiences, presumably leaves a big black hole. This key moment, offered by Blanche as a way of understanding her present self, has at its centre an absence, an inexplicable gap. Expecting an explanation to a secret narrative – her young husband’s suicide – we meet instead incomprehension. Is this because suicide in ‘real’ life is often incomprehensible? Or is it that there’s something missing here, something suppressed?

Here you need to take another look at the playscript version of Blanche’s ‘he was a boy’ speech in Scene 6 (Penguin edition p.182; Methuen edition p. 56).

In the playscript we get a name – the ‘Grey’ boy, neither one thing or the other. And there was something missing. The boy’s tenderness ‘wasn’t like a man’s’ and Blanche’s response to him is ‘you disgust me’, not (as in the film) ‘I despise you’. It’s the story of a gay boy who, as elsewhere in Williams’s work, failed to prove the heterosexual lie in bed. Blanche, in rather veiled language, calls it her not being ‘able to give him the help he needed’. There’s a veil on these words too: ‘a room that I thought was empty … but had two people in it’. That’s presumably two young men in a bed. Allan had a secret and illicit sex-life; the boy in the filmscript ‘didn’t seem to be able to do anything’ apart from, possibly, want his mother – or want Blanche to be his mother.

Despite the veiling, Blanche’s guilty sense of failure and inadequacy (overplayed in the filmscript’s ‘I killed him’) are clear as the source of her own vulnerability. In the playscript Williams has to veil the language in order to avoid the moral and legal problems surrounding the representation of homosexuality in the media, but it is quite clearly there under the surface. But the process of veiling becomes critical in the filmscript. There the gay issue vanishes completely. Forbidden sexuality is the root problem of the secret narrative, but institutional pressures on the filmmakers mean it has to be erased from the film.

Richard Jacobs teaches English at the College of Richard Collyer in Horsham, and lectures at the University of Brighton. His book A Beginners’ Guide to Critical Reading: an Anthology of Literary Texts is published by Routledge.

This article first appeared in emagazine 14, December 2001.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Coursework Essay

Hi guys, really sorry for a delay on the blog.

On Monday, we started the lesson by writing which character we sympathise with the most. Although some students did feel sympathy towards Blanche to an extent as she has had a traumatic past with the loss of her husband and house in Belle Reve, this point was contradicted because she brings it all onto herself. For example, due to Blanche's husband- Alan Grey being homosexual, she told him that he "disgusts her" thus resulting him to commit suicide. Therefore, more people in the class started feeling more sorry for Stella, as she is in the middle of her husband and Blanche's clash in opinions.
Secondly, we looked at the criteria, due dates and the questions for the coursework about Streetcar. We analysed what "tools" we need to write a good essay, they were;
- Language analysis (AO2): zoom in on the epigraph (Mr Gall corrected that what we thought was the epilogue is actually the epigraph) include types of imagery; dichotomy (a split between two opposed parts), binary opposition (directly contrasting terms)
- Context (AO4): historical, social and cultural.
- Phrasing sentences, impressive vocabulary, variety of punctuation and correct spelling!
- Topic sentences (AO1) , powerful paragraphing.
- Theatrical devices: music of 'blue piano' every time Stanley is present in the scene, stage directions, lighting. Proximity of privacy available in the house, which builds up the atmosphere.
- Plurality (AO3): include more than one point of view of a certain aspect.
- Dichotomy between Blanche and Stanley's different opinions on morals/social values.
- Value system of Old South (AO4): mixture of social classes and patriarchy (where men has more power than women)
- Embedding critical interpretation
- Foreshadowing a conflict based on structure throughout the scenes.

We then drew a table based on writing experience. This is an example of my table;


Areas for development

Analysing language

Embed critical interpretations

Spelling and punctuation

Foreshadowing conflicts


Value system of Old South

Powerful paragraphing

Embed theatrical devices

Weave quotes

Phrasing sentences

Thirdly, we answered the question of "How does Blanche's conduct with the 'young man' expose her sexual desire and unreasonable morality?" by including multiple interpretations.
Some people's views are that Blanche should not have exposed her sexual to a young man. due to the fact that he is much younger than her. Also, this challenges Blanche as this sort of behaviour is uncharacteristic of the Old South. However, some people think that Blanche's flirtatious behaviour is acceptable as it is typical of her own behaviour because she flirts with every male.

Towards the end of the lesson, we read through scene 6. In this scene, we see Blanche almost breaking her barrier that she puts up. When Mitch asks her about her past, she rolls her eye which is only visible to the audience. This is very unusual coming from Blanche as the audience can tell for the first time that she's playing a role.