A-Level English Literature - Leave feedback on my essay. Q2

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cheerIeader
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Hi,

I received 7/25 marks on this essay on unseen poetry in my real A-Level exam and wanted some support from people on the forum to check over it. The genre is 'Love through the ages' from the AQA A specification for English Lit A-Level. I understand the essay is quite clunky with lots of repetition. After question 1 on Othello (also posted to the forum before) I was really thrown off by Q2. I would appreciate some feedback.

The two poems were - 'Now That I Am Forever With Child' by Lorde and 'The Victory' by Stevenson (I have attached both files).

I can't remember the specific question, but it was along the lines of -





"Lorde's poem celebrates motherhood, while Stevenson's has a very different attitude towards it." In the light of this view, compare and contrast the presentation of motherly love in the two poems.

Both poems, 'Now That I am Forever With Child' and 'The Victory' are written within the nineteenth century and hone in on the maternal love between mothers and their children as explored in the Beatitudes of Jesus of Virgin Mary possessing an agapeic and eternal love.

Lorde uses a free verse in her poem 'Now That I Am Forever With Child' reflecting the experiences of childbirth through a personal pronoun in the narrative with depictions of a baby 'blooming within me' evoking naturalistic imagery and positive connotations between the typicality of love between mothers and children. Similarly, Stevenson explores a depiction of childbirth through a personal pronoun, symbolising the baby as a 'knife.' This creates negative connotations of the baby bringing a struggle and ma metaphorical tug and war when it was 'brought out of my body.'

Both poems use extended metaphors to convey their conflicting depictions of love. Stevenson hyperbolises this maternal struggle through her repulsive personification of the 'sting with bladed cries' and 'you barb the air' which fails to celebrate the love and connection between children and their mothers. Lorde contrasts this through natural imagery of the baby being 'bore.. one morning before spring' creating a dichotomy between the weather and babies which are in fact both indifferent and using celebratory language which epitomises her emotion and the growth of 'her hair' which had 'started to curl' alluding to changes in the weather.

Lorde may have used a lack of fixated structure to manifest the essence of birth as natural and resulting in a 'New World' 'passing' evoking a metaphor for the baby becoming central to her life and world. By contrast, Stevenson fails to conform to maternal and celebratory images of love as the rigid structure of the Quatrains posits childbirth and motherhood as being 'a cloud of glory / bled from my veins' directly expressing the failure to build a relationship with the child. A reader may view Lorde's depiction of childbirth as heart-rending through her metaphorical language of the baby 'fluttered then jumped' which may evoke celebratory animal images of a butterfly and the beauty of a baby and eternal, intrinsic love.

Stevenson, dissimilar to Lorde uses caesura in her poem which may symbolise her traumatic experience of birthing her 'small sin.' The term 'small' denotes the hierarchical difference between the mother and child which allows her to degrade him. Love is clearly presented in a diabolical and disturbing way through her challenging rhetorics 'Why do I have to love you?' This directly contrasts Lorde's poem which explores the term 'You' in an eternally loving and celebratory way.

However, the reader can appreciate the experience and difficulty in love presented across both poems. Albeit Stevenson uses animalistic imagery 'Snail!' and 'Scary knot' to depict the 'tangled' umbilical cord, the narrator may still appreciate and celebrate being a mother through Line 1 which expresses 'I thought you were my victory.' The term 'victory' portrays her baby as a blessing and creates positive connotations of her connection with her child, possibly clouded due to her inexorable birth experience which instills a recurrence in the animalistic imagery of her baby possessing 'blank insect eyes.' Lorde uses enjambment within her second stanza - which shows her diligence and patience for 'her hands to form' and her baby 'growing heavy against the wind' reinforcing naturalistic imagery of her birth.

To conclude, Lorde and Stevenson present love within the poems in conflicting ways; while there is an inevitable similarity between mothers possessing a permanence in their maternal love through the title 'Victory' and the term 'Forever' in Lordes', Stevenson depicts childbirth as traumatic and destructive, showing love being presented as artificial, while Stevenson views it as eternal and an extended metaphor for the creation of 'a new world.'
Last edited by cheerIeader; 1 year ago
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artful_lounger
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I was never very good at unseens tbh, generally I would recommend focusing on using SLIME (structure, language, interpretation, meaning, effect) analysis in a PEE structure as a basic format. Looking through, I feel like you maybe didn't spend enough time on structure and language analysis, and too much on the latter few bits. You have done a little of both, but perhaps some more time spent discussing e.g. rhyme or metre (or lack thereof) and then relating that to the effect of the poem (e.g. how a rhyme might punctuate a given word to emphasise it) would have made it stronger.

Also I'm not so sure about the "scary knot" being animalistic imagery (compared to insect eyes earlier in the poem). The (unnatural) animal imagery could have been contrasted vs the floral/plant/natural imagery in the first poem (seed, bloom, seasonal imagery) Also I think you missed a great deal of possible analysis in the second poem of the framing of the baby as an antagonist (implying the mother is the protagnoist) in relation to terms like victory, won, glory, etc. This could

Like your other essay you maybe don't use the actual texts enough, except in very "bitty" ways; quoting the odd word here or there. You really need to focus on the texts and the language used within them. Basic stuff like commenting on alliteration, onomatopoeia, repetition etc, should be present in your analyses. Also some of your statements seem very speculative and/or are not based on material present in the texts; you need to relate everything you say directly to the text(s)!

Introduction and conclusion are again, rather weak. Your introduction doesn't really outline how you're going to approach the question and structure your essay (in fact it's just a throwaway sentence about the period the poems were written in), and your conclusion doesn't really feel like it relates to what you've actually written in the essay compared to what you think the question wanted you to conclude. Overall it feels like there is little overarching structure to the essay, so it comes across as unfocused, to me.
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cheerIeader
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
I was never very good at unseens tbh, generally I would recommend focusing on using SLIME (structure, language, interpretation, meaning, effect) analysis in a PEE structure as a basic format. Looking through, I feel like you maybe didn't spend enough time on structure and language analysis, and too much on the latter few bits. You have done a little of both, but perhaps some more time spent discussing e.g. rhyme or metre (or lack thereof) and then relating that to the effect of the poem (e.g. how a rhyme might punctuate a given word to emphasise it) would have made it stronger.

Also I'm not so sure about the "scary knot" being animalistic imagery (compared to insect eyes earlier in the poem). The (unnatural) animal imagery could have been contrasted vs the floral/plant/natural imagery in the first poem (seed, bloom, seasonal imagery) Also I think you missed a great deal of possible analysis in the second poem of the framing of the baby as an antagonist (implying the mother is the protagnoist) in relation to terms like victory, won, glory, etc. This could

Like your other essay you maybe don't use the actual texts enough, except in very "bitty" ways; quoting the odd word here or there. You really need to focus on the texts and the language used within them. Basic stuff like commenting on alliteration, onomatopoeia, repetition etc, should be present in your analyses. Also some of your statements seem very speculative and/or are not based on material present in the texts; you need to relate everything you say directly to the text(s)!

Introduction and conclusion are again, rather weak. Your introduction doesn't really outline how you're going to approach the question and structure your essay (in fact it's just a throwaway sentence about the period the poems were written in), and your conclusion doesn't really feel like it relates to what you've actually written in the essay compared to what you think the question wanted you to conclude. Overall it feels like there is little overarching structure to the essay, so it comes across as unfocused, to me.
Do you think that my introductions in general should be more inclusive of points to get me marks? For example using quotes or context etc to instantly captivate the examiner and address the question at hand?

Also thank you for the feedback, I do appreciate it. I think I definitely did panic for this one and didn't use as much of the analysis devices as you stated and used bare minimum evidence which I could work upon. I really do like the concept of the antagonist/protagonist because it'd show a struggle between the baby and the mother and how it undermines conventions of maternal love.

I'll definitely be sure to use the SLIME structure because beforehand I did have a similar acronym of SMILE but I didn't really incorporate all of the letters on the acronym or completely understand them to be honest. Poetry has always been my weak point so for me, it's about building upon understanding how to actually identify rhythm, structure etc. I appreciate the feedback you have given me though, thank you.
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by cheerIeader)
Do you think that my introductions in general should be more inclusive of points to get me marks? For example using quotes or context etc to instantly captivate the examiner and address the question at hand?

Also thank you for the feedback, I do appreciate it. I think I definitely did panic for this one and didn't use as much of the analysis devices as you stated and used bare minimum evidence which I could work upon. I really do like the concept of the antagonist/protagonist because it'd show a struggle between the baby and the mother and how it undermines conventions of maternal love.

I'll definitely be sure to use the SLIME structure because beforehand I did have a similar acronym of SMILE but I didn't really incorporate all of the letters on the acronym or completely understand them to be honest. Poetry has always been my weak point so for me, it's about building upon understanding how to actually identify rhythm, structure etc. I appreciate the feedback you have given me though, thank you.
With the introduction you really want to basically lay out what your overall essay structure is going to be - more or less "I am going to argue x by way of w y and z". That way the reader knows immediately what they're expecting from the rest of the essay. It can also help you think about structuring the overall essay from the start, so you end up with a little less of a panicked stream of literary analysis that doesn't really have any direction (leading to an often weak conclusion!).

SMILE is basically the same as SLIME but my teacher preferred SLIME because "language" comes earlier in the acronym than "meaning" which tends to be more important (especially for unseens) apparently. Just look for wherever they use language devices, try and figure out the structure of the poem (in terms of metre, rhyme, lack thereof; also the physical layout of the poem can be important for some), and then use that as the foundation to build your analysis on

I always found poetry, especially unseen poetry, really difficult so I can sympathise with your there :s that's why for these kinds of papers just falling back on "the basics" is always pretty good so you don't immediately panic about not knowing what to write.
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cheerIeader
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
With the introduction you really want to basically lay out what your overall essay structure is going to be - more or less "I am going to argue x by way of w y and z". That way the reader knows immediately what they're expecting from the rest of the essay. It can also help you think about structuring the overall essay from the start, so you end up with a little less of a panicked stream of literary analysis that doesn't really have any direction (leading to an often weak conclusion!).

SMILE is basically the same as SLIME but my teacher preferred SLIME because "language" comes earlier in the acronym than "meaning" which tends to be more important (especially for unseens) apparently. Just look for wherever they use language devices, try and figure out the structure of the poem (in terms of metre, rhyme, lack thereof; also the physical layout of the poem can be important for some), and then use that as the foundation to build your analysis on

I always found poetry, especially unseen poetry, really difficult so I can sympathise with your there :s that's why for these kinds of papers just falling back on "the basics" is always pretty good so you don't immediately panic about not knowing what to write.
Honestly.. that was possibly the most useful thing I've heard on the English forum so far. I'm not someone who takes much time to plan (although I should start to do so) but the concept of putting in key ideas into the introduction definitely would give my mind a bit of ease and help me focus on the question and portraying those ideas through evidence and targeting the other AOs. Thank you so much for your help, I appreciate it more than you could know. x
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Would love some more #support.
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