Particularly when teaching writing, I’ve often compared a text to a map. My thoughts generally run like this:
When your reader lands on a fresh page of prose, they haven’t got a clue what landscape they are standing on; it’s up to us as writers to orientate them, and our language forms the contour lines and the key to the world we are mapping out for them. We have to make careful decisions about what and how much to show – how far they can see; how quickly they can recognise signs, symbols and the direction of travel. We need to contextualise what they’re reading, even if that is the relationship between this page and the previous one, or this paragraph and the one before it, because context is key to avoiding the dizzy nausea that can turn a reader off.
Conversely, when teaching close reading, it’s all very well spotting WHAT a writer is trying to do. By the time pupils hit KS3 at Y7 they can all spot a simile: a symbol on the map. But how many students, even when we get up to the heights of Y13 can really read the map, talk about WHY the simile was employed; WHY that particular comparison was chosen?
Today marks the day when the undeniably mighty Armada, reeling from a night attack by fireships and blocked from retreating down the Channel, was pummelled by English ships and scattered northwards by storms. Unable to regroup, they tried – and many failed – to get home the hard way, via Scotland and Ireland.
It’s almost impossible to check in my earlier hostility to Henry Bolinbroke at the door; I take grim satisfaction at the suggestion that he’s ‘shaken’, or ‘wan with care’ as the play opens. [a] He deserves it.
Not that I believe him …
Actually, looking back, I promised to crucify you (Henry) at the end of Richard II … OK, here goes.