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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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John Mullan talks for Connell Guides

Posted on February 06, 2017 by Jolyon Connell | 0 comments

John Mullan is my kind of academic. He’s forthright, original, and engaging. Take his recent highly entertaining book What Matters in Jane Austen? a mini treasure trove of detail about the author who the playwright Samuel Beckett, no less, called “the divine Jane” (As Mullan says, one looks forward to an academic tome on Austen’s influence on the Theatre of the Absurd.) In a chapter on what makes characters blush, for example, Mullan tells us that there are more blushes in Emma than in any other Austen novel, whiles the Austen character who actually blushes most is Fanny in Mansfield Park.

Mullan is very good on Jane Austen – if you don’t believe me take a look at the videos of him on our website. He has plenty to say about Shakespeare, too, so we’re delighted to have secured him as the keynote speaker for our first Connell Guides Revision Bootcamp in March.

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The EU Referendum: Stay or Go?

Posted on May 25, 2016 by Jolyon Connell | 2 comments

Which way will you vote in the European referendum on June 23rd? Do you know? “I don’t think I’ll vote,” a clever friend of mine said this week. “I change my mind every five minutes. It depends who I’ve last talked to.”

In The Sunday Times, Harry Mount says that class comes into it, with Brexiteers tending to come from a lower social rung than the richer, more  metropolitan remainers. The division is there in the Cabinet, he argues, with the Eurosceptics like Ian Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling being largely state-educated and the posher element (Cameron Osborne, Jeremy Hunt, etc) being mostly for ‘remain’. Class and power, says Mount...

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Jon Connell's visit to Winchester College

Posted on May 12, 2016 by Paul Woodward | 0 comments


The irrepressible Professor John Sutherland and I visited Winchester College last week, having accepted an invitation from Richard Stillman, the Head of English, to visit the school and talk about Connell Guides. John showed his customary skill in engaging the students using his extraordinary breadth of knowledge to discourse amusingly not just on Hamlet (as we’d planned to do) but also on King Lear and Jane Eyre – firing questions at the students who fielded them with aplomb.

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How Gatsby Became Great

Posted on April 26, 2016 by Connell Guides | 0 comments


Last year marked the 90th anniversary of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby. Yet back in the 1920s, few would have expected its appeal to last so long. On publication it met with a glut of hostile reviews, sold poorly, and by the time Fitzgerald died in 1940, was practically forgotten. It was only at the end of the 1950s that a gradual build-up of enthusiasm finally secured Gatsby's place as a modern classic, widely anthologised and soon incorporated into American school curricula.

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