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John Carey on the Warner Bros plan to remake Lord of the Flies – with girls not boys…

Posted on September 25, 2017 by Bold Commerce | 0 comments

Supposing the boys on the island in Lord of the Flies had been girls. Would they have behaved in the same horrifying way? The proposed Warner Brothers film raises that question. So far as I know Golding never answered it. But the indications are that, if asked, he would have answered ‘Yes’. For one thing he frequently said that the boys on the island were exhibiting original sin (he liked quoting St Augustine in support), and original sin affects females as well as males. For another thing he said in the unpublished autobiographical essay, Men, Women and Now, that the worst thing about women was that they admired, looked up to and imitated men. The twins Sophy and Toni in Golding’s novel Darkness Visible show what he thought girls capable of. Sophy discovers she is a sadist when she digs a penknife into a boy who is having sex with her and it gives her an orgasm. Toni joins a terrorist organisation and kidnaps a group of schoolboys, successfully getting away to Africa with the boys as hostages . It would not be good to be on a desert island with either of them. 

And an extract from Carey’s Connell Guide to Lord of the Flies 

Golding felt qualified to describe how boys would really behave because he had watched them with, he said, “awful precision” during his years as a schoolmaster. Further, he had introduced, he admitted, “a certain measure of experimental science” into his teaching. This was evident to the boys themselves. It occurred to more than one of his pupils that he had stirred up antagonisms between them in order to observe their reactions. Once, as master in charge of a trip to Figsbury Rings, a huge Neolithic earthwork near Salisbury, he gave permission for the boys to form into two groups, one to attack the enclosure and the other...

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Sir Peter Hall, giant of theatre and founder of the RSC, dies aged 86

Posted on September 14, 2017 by Jolyon Connell | 0 comments

"The most blasphemous play Shakespeare wrote, 
The Tempest is about a man on an island who's allowed to play God and who doesn't just dabble in witchcraft but actually performs it."

The words are those of Sir Peter Hall, who died this week, challenging the idea that The Tempest is a Christian play. Graham Bradshaw quotes him in the Connell Guide to The Tempest which, as it happens, was the first guide I commissioned, and the first to appear. Before it went to the printers, I sent it to Hall, asking him if he might like to read it and perhaps give it an endorsement.

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Connell Guides Revision Bootcamp: A Student's Perspective

Posted on July 20, 2017 by Connell Guides | 0 comments

In one of the Imperial College buildings, with university professors and other tutors giving the talks, the Connell Guides bootcamp gave me a flavour of university study and seminars, yet at the same time the intimate and friendly atmosphere meant everybody had the confidence to contribute their own points of view in discussion. It was an amazing and very rare opportunity to be on the receiving end of talks from such knowledgable and enthusiastic people.
The day began with theory crash courses, including psychoanalysis, feminism and Marxism. Each detailed the theory and applied them to some of the A-Level texts, before John Mullan, associated with Edexcel, presented his talk. He spoke about reading literary criticism with...

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Jon Connell on How to Write Well and How to Read a Poem

Posted on July 05, 2017 by Jolyon Connell | 0 comments

By Jon Connell, founder and editorial director of The Week, and editor of Connell Guides
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If I’m writing an editor’s letter in The Week, and want a lively response from readers, there’s one subject that never fails: the English language and how we use it. Sound off about the imminent danger of World War Three and you’ll draw a total blank, email-wise. Venture a thought or two about the pros and cons of the semi-colon and your inbox will rapidly start to fill (often, it has to be said, with readers pointing out your egregious errors). Well that’s my experience anyway. People have very decided views about grammar, punctuation and the subtleties of the written word. Mark Twain, for example, loathed proof readers who interfered with his copy. “First God created idiots,” he said. “But that was just for practice. Then he created proof readers.” 

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Is The Handmaid’s Tale about Donald Trump?

Posted on June 05, 2017 by Connell Guides | 0 comments

From the moment it premiered on American TV earlier this year, people have been drawing a parallel between the events depicted in Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale and Donald Trump’s presidency. In Margaret Atwood’s classic 1985 novel, America has been taken over by an autocratic, Christian fundamentalist regime, called Gilead, which hides its violent, repressive violations behind soft rhetoric about ‘a return to traditional values’. For a number of commentators, it has an eerie resonance. As Sam Wollaston wrote in his review of the first episode for the Guardian on Monday, ‘[t]here has been a lot of talk about new resonance for The Handmaid’s Tale since the election of You Know Who; fear of freedoms, rights and long-established orders disappearing overnight.’

Women are Gilead’s chief victims: as a result of plummeting fertility rates, they are valued (or not) only for their child-bearing capabilities. Those lucky few who remain fertile – whom Gilead calls ‘Handmaids’, a Biblical reference – are kept in isolation, forced to wear veils around their faces so that they have no peripheral vision, are no longer allowed to read or write, and are victims of ritualistic state-sanctioned rape.

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'So you want to write better sentences than Jane Austen' from The Guardian by Ian Jack

Posted on June 01, 2017 by Connell Guides | 0 comments

Ian Jack's Guardian article 'So you want to write better sentences than Jane Austen? Take some lessons' references our new guide How to Write Well, by the professional Tim de Lisle. Read the article here...

Thanks to this newspaper’s belief in self-improvement and its need in these hard times to earn a bob or two, a reader can sign up to a Guardian Masterclass and learn how to be a columnist. Not only a columnist, of course: there are many other skills you can learn. Column writing, nonetheless, is the course to which I’m strangely drawn.

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Connell Guides Revision Bootcamp: How to Get an A*

Posted on April 11, 2017 by Connell Guides | 0 comments

We’ve had wonderful feedback about the first Connell Guides “boot camp” a couple of weeks ago, and I’m not surprised. It was a hugely successful and enjoyable day, attended by more than 40 students and featuring sparkling lectures by Professor John Mullan and Jonny Patrick. 

John Mullan gave us some fascinating insights into Shakespeare (as well as some very sensible practical advice, such as to pay no attention to critics who write badly). Jonny Patrick talked first about the novel, and then, as an experienced examiner, addressed the vital question of how to write an essay, debunking some hoary old myths and passing on plenty of invaluable practical tips. We had excellent tutors, too, who gave fascinating talks on literary theory...

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