Archive for August, 2012

Top Websites For Revision

Revision can be incredibly tough at times, but here are 4 great ideas for internet sites that might just aid you in your study! Check them out to transform the way you revise.

Wordleword map from Wordle

Wordle is a fabulous tool that allows you to create a stunning and impressive graphic from words. If you have an essay, for example, or a long word document full of notes on an assignment, simply copy and paste either the entire thing or a selected portion into the Wordle system, and it will automagically transform it into a beautiful image. It calculates the frequency of a particular keyword and the size of this word in the scattered image is proportional to this rate of recurrence. Each one is eye-catching and bold, and it would be great to print one of these off to put on the wall as a constant reminder of some key phrases or vocabulary you need to learn. I printed one off as a notebook cover design for my English literature revision, and many people who have seen it comment on its awesomeness.

Get Revising

I found GetRevising completely by mistake during my GCSE year, but I found it immensely useful when attempting to plan my revision. It contains an extensive range of resources for many subjects at all levels, and these are written and prepared by teachers or students. It has a welcoming interface and is well organised, allowing you to find exactly what you want without too much hassle. Often so-called ‘revision’ sites can be rather poor, and their content simply pitiable, but this is a pleasing exception. Their timetable planner is also a brilliant tool, and its colourful layout will aid you considerably in your endeavour to compose a study schedule. Rather than just Word documents, it also contains videos, PowerPoint presentations, wordsearches, and quizzes. Something for everyone!


YouTube is a bit hit and miss, as there will be some videos that are not useful in the slightest. But it is definitely worth persevering because the odd clip will have information and ideas that may well inspire you. It is particularly great, in my opinion, for a quick and clear summary of a topic that you might be studying. It is brilliant to vary the medium of your study, so a YouTube video (which will rarely take up much time at all) could be the perfect way to enhance your learning. Lectures are sometimes available free of charge (there are some by YaleCourses, on literary theory, for example, that were fantastic for me during my first year of university.


Many people think that podcasts are quite hard to find, but their popularity is increasing with such speed that they are almost ubiquitous. Many universities upload their own podcasts of recorded talks and lectures, so it fou have missed any of those throughout the year, it would be a great idea to catch up by making use of this resource. Listen to these while running or while lying down in your room, just to ingrain the main points into your memory. If you like to edit media, you could even download the file and cut out the bits you don’t need in order to keep solely those parts that are most important.


Image source: 1

Essay Crisis

Ever since a young age, studying English at primary school, my superiors in the academic world – be they teachers, tutors, or lecturers – have constantly aggrandised the term ‘essay’. It is accepted fact in many departments and faculties across the globe that an essay is the optimum medium through which to express intellectual thought as literary criticism. And with this convention comes a wide variety of academic clichés and figures of speech prevalent in certain fields of discourse. But is an essay always the best way of structuring and expressing ideas on a work of literature?
cartoonified image of a hand with a pencil

The backbone of an essay is surely its content, but too often I see this lacking in essays written either in published collections or on electronic journals. I question whether the best way of engaging with a poem is really to write an essay about it, or whether a Powerpoint presentation, or a visually impactful, expansive reproduction of the work, written out with detailed annotations, is more powerful. When studying Christopher Marlowe’s ‘Doctor Faustus’ for A Level, my teacher printed out the entirety of Faustus’s final speech on A3 paper, and we discussed it and annotated it in great detail. This was infinitely more enjoyable, appealing, and helpful at the time of revision than any essay I had written.

Throughout my teenage years I have written countless essays, predominantly for English and modern languages, that did not aid my understanding when I came to the exam at the end of the year any more than spending an hour or so making notes on the text itself. I used to spend days and days planning what I would write, desperately trying to organise my thoughts into some form of coherent arrangement, when I could have been devoting that time to reading the text itself.

There are some essays, without a doubt, that are exemplary in terms of what literary criticism should ultimately constitute. However, too often I read what amount to vacuous musings on the text, void of any real purchase onto its linguistic make-up and too afraid of Wimsatt’s ‘affective fallacy’ to demonstrate any real, intriguing engagement. Impersonality, objectivity, and academic convention have tarnished much positive interaction with the text, as young writers feel that they cannot express themselves for fear that their style and rhetoric is decidedly inadequate in comparison with established literary critics.

A common observation, pointed out numerous times but over and again with apparent originality, is that literary criticism uses the same medium as its subject, a luxury not afforded to any of the other arts. And yet, why does this have to be so? Why can’t a YouTube video engaging rigorously and tenaciously with a text be considered as ‘worthwhile’ as something too bogged down in rhetoric to be of any value? I myself have often learnt much more from watching an introductory clip on the Internet about a particular aspect of literary theory than I have from reading a dense and periphrastic essay.

I am not saying: ‘get rid of all essays’. I am not saying ‘YouTube is the way forward for literary criticism’. But what I am saying is that the essay should not have pride of place without having continually to justify itself. There are too many essays I read in English, Spanish or French that are useful for nothing more than the odd quotation when a critic has invested all their mental capacities into producing some pleasant turn of phrase. Often I have been more impressed with close analysis -of poetry, in particular – on websites such as Sparknotes than I have with general, overview-type essays written by critics and scholars who attempt to adopt this ‘objective’ stance. The demands on young writers to make their essays logically consistent, with clear lines of argument, sometimes detracts from what they originally think when reading a text. I say we let bullet points, visual media, colour, colloquialisms, and fun back into literary criticism.


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