Continuum of Plausibility™

‘You will, generally, be rewarded for originality, but the crazier your argument is, the better your reasoning should be’.

Continuum of Plausibility.001

Originally intended as a confidence-builder for the chronically-tentative, it’s become a cliché in my teaching that ‘in English, there’s no such thing as a wrong answer’. Increasingly, though, and especially at A Level, I’m finding it necessary to qualify that empowering notion.  Perhaps students were getting a little too emboldened, as we’ll see below.  Just as Squealer in Animal Farm reminds us that ‘Some animals are more equal than others’, some answers are – obviously – better than others. [a]

Almost organically, as I refined the concept, it came to be known as The Continuum of Plausibility™.  I’ve been using the term here, off and on, for a while now without properly explaining it, so here goes.

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Forensic Friday (#01): RIII I.i.20-21

We can give those long dead words tone, inflection, pace … and meaning.

THIS is what we do, students.

We are archaeologists of the written word.  Remember that.

BH skeleton2We take our soft brushes and gently but resolutely stroke away the accumulated layers of popular misconception, plain bullshit, and systemic Shakesnobbery that surrounds a text until we are left with the bare bones – the words themselves …

Then – armed with contextual knowledge that keeps us somewhere on the Continuum of Plausibility – we ‘perform’ (and that is precisely the word, so enjoy the performative aspect of the work) forensic autopsies on those long-dead words: we dissect, analyse and record our findings.  

Occasionally, what we’re looking at might seem as alien as some of the stuff Scully chops up in the X-Files, but we persevere, we find points of reference, and with care we perform a kind of necromancy: we can practically bring the sample in front of us to life.  

We can give those long dead words tone, inflection, pace … and meaning.

THIS … … … is OCR H472/01 (Drama and Poetry pre-1900), A Level English Literature, section 1, question A … your Shakespeare extract task.
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