Assignment Guidance

A brief note first about secondary sources for those doing either the dystopia or blurred  essay writingchild/adult boundary question:

No, there is not a wealth of material referencing your texts. You must apply broad quotes or quotes referring to other texts when you think they discuss the same ideas which are present in the texts you are discussing. For example, the following quote could be used for Here Lies Arthur, Dying to Know You and Z for Zachariah:

‘The two novels narrate the two poles of adolescent need. The need to free oneself from parental and childhood ties that get in the way of becoming what you imagine you want to be. And the need to be rooted and safe and unchangingly identified as a self with the birth conditions of one’s life-family, history, genetic makeup, cultural background’ (Chambers, Finding the Form, The Lion and the Unicorn Vol 34 No 3, 2010, p279)

Chambers is talking about two other texts but this applies to the texts you are studying (especially Dying to Know You as he wrote it!) so just use the model for your analyses.

Assessment Guidance

Like the books you read, your essays will provoke an emotional and academic response because of the language you use and your sentence structure. Try not to repeat words but ensure you understand the words you are using. Write consciously and deliberately, keep it simple. Your essays for this module are not art (I hate to break that to you), they are words written to persuade the reader to agree with an argument about two children’s texts and all you need to do is get that argument across. Therefore, sentences should not be too long but should be direct. Each sentence should make a small point which logically leads on from the point before. Shorter sentences are very effective when making a strong point. Don’t use too many paragraphs. Try to group points into paragraphs but they shouldn’t really be more than half a page long.

Here is a very simple example of sentence structure and how to develop arguments (off the top of my head, nothing fancy I’m afraid):

Reeve’s Here Lies Arthur is a young adult text which aims to encourage readers to be critical of the stories they read and hear and understand how they can shape the adult identity they are in the process of constructing. His protagonist, Gwyna, witnesses Myrddin’s ability to influence people through the telling of stories and sees the consequences of the ideologies those stories promote *use a quote from the text*.

Perhaps use a secondary source at the end of this section.

Reflecting on Myrddin’s legends of Arthur, Gwyna exposes their role, and the role of storytelling in general, in the oppression of women in her society *use a quote from the text*. This discussion encourages readers to be critical and aware of the political and social impact of narratives in their own world and on their own formation of their gender identity and role in society. At the end of the text, Gwyna chooses to dress like a boy to circumvent the limitations forced upon women in middle age Britain *use a quote from the text*. She has agency by choosing not to accept social norms and, as the protagonist, provides of model to readers of how to be a critically aware and powerful individual . Moreover, she chooses to tell stories which are subversive in the hopes that her stories will encourage a change in the social status of women *use a quote from the text*.

You could then use critical material to underpin this argument about critical readers and ideological awareness in child readers.

Reeve’s text attempts to promote gender equality in young adult readers on the cusp of achieving the power which comes with adulthood by exposing the falsity of stereotypes *use quote from the text*  

and so on…

You will notice I do not write in the first person. I have found that when one does so, the temptation to adopt a position which is cautious undermines the argument, One tends to use phrases like ‘I would suggest’ or ‘this could be interpreted’, whereas if you are in the third person you automatically state things confidently. Of course, you can still appear hesitant in third person. The phrase above ‘this could be interpreted..’ is not needed unless you are going to offer an alternative interpretation and if you do you should then go on to explain which interpretation is more likely using context, authorial information and evidence from the rest of the text to support your conclusion. If you have chosen a quote to include because it has an effect which is part of your central argument then place some faith in it!!!  For example, I would not say ‘When Gwyna states at the beginning of the text that her version is ‘the truth’, this suggests that there are other alternatives of telling the Arthurian legends’ because that is the truth!! Even if I had not heard the other versions, I would know from reading the text that there are other versions of the stories because Gwyna tells us Myrddin’s versions.  You are all highly competent and good at analysis and interpretation. If you use the words ‘suggest’ or ‘one interpretation is’ then unless you go on to offer an alternative and choose between them then I will not be as inclined to believe your argument because you don’t believe in it! When Jean and I stand up in front of you and talk we are giving you our interpretations of the text. At no point have you felt that our interpretations are invalid (not publicly anyway) because we have stated them confidently and used social, political and historical context, biographical information and knowledge about the whole text to back our statements up. You may not agree and have different interpretations but you cannot say that we have not presented a valid argument. Nor have we talked about every aspect – that is part of persuasion, focus on what you can use to support an argument. If something doesn’t really fit or have much to do with it then leave it out!


There are many forms of introduction. In my experience, the best essays use the following model:

A general overview of your argument should introduce your essay. In two or three sentences you should be able to get a basic understanding of your argument across and the themes / main points you are going to make. Your introduction should tell the reader not only the intended final destination / conclusion but what points or themes you are going to use to construct that argument, maybe even outlining in brief how those points contribute. Make sure you actually do in your essay what you say you are going to do in your introduction.

You don’t have to do this, but it is usually a safe bet for it ensures that if your signposting within the essay is weak in places then the reader can fill in the gaps because they know where the argument is intended to go.


This should give a sense of completion to your essay and should be centered around your basic argument. You could summarize or raise further questions or possibilities. You don’t have to be conclusive but you should adopt a strong position without talking in the first opinion (this applies to the whole essay) or making it a personal opinion.

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE AN ARGUMENT TO MAKE! This is not just a close textual analysis, though you use quotes from the text. Rather than just describing the narrative, ethical and linguistic effects of the texts, make statements and relate it to a greater meaning. What is the general message of the text and how does it relate to the construction of the child, the context of the story, authorial intention/ideology etc., as I have done above. Your essay shouldn’t contain everything that can be known and said about the text. Rather, it discusses certain aspects or key features of them. The questions are vague so what you need to do is impose your own limits on them by choosing related points which are all part of a spirit of the text. For example, using the Secret Garden to answer the landscape question, one essay will talk about it being a British landscape and talk about contrasts being India and England and regionality (Yorkshire) and the Romantic child, whereas another will use the Romantic child to discuss Burnett’s construction of physical and mental health as connected to each other, and also connected with nature. One essay may argue that a connection with nature transcends class boundaries and may develop an argument around the contrast between the house as elitism and stratified society, and the garden as a universal.

Try to achieve a balance between the texts, writing equally on both if possible.

You should include all of the following types of writing:

Descriptive writing is about the main characteristics of the text.

Analytical writing is about making a detailed examination of the texts in order to understand their natures and essential features.

Your evaluative writing will discuss the messages created by those features and what you think the texts mean, in both broad and specific ways. 

Comparison writing is where you discuss the similarities and differences between the texts, in terms of both those textual features and how they work to create that general message.



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