Leaving Cert English Paper 2: Relief as expected topics appear

‘A hugely important paper that celebrates literature as relevant, moving and thought-provoking’

File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

An audible sigh of relief was heard around the country at 2pm on Thursday as students opened their English exam paper and found that all the predicted poets had appeared.

Jim Lusby, an English teacher at the Institute of Education, said that it was “a hugely important exam paper that celebrates literature as relevant, moving and thought-provoking.”

“The facile debate about which poets appear on the paper is dead,” Mr Lusby said. “The debate about the power and purpose of literature is given a transfusion.”

Lorraine Tuffy, an English teacher at Jesus and Mary Secondary School in Enniscrone, Co Sligo and the Studyclix.ie expert, said that there were no surprises in the poetry section and that the student-centred paper was critically engaging.

“Widely tipped poets John Donne and Eavan Boland appeared. Section one presented compelling reviews of studied texts. While poor Jane Austen’s Emma is lambasted as a ‘frivolous romance of limited appeal’ the Bard’s Hamlet is described as ‘a disturbing psychological thriller.’ This will have given much food for thought.”

Mr Lusby also praised the contemporary critical concept of ‘disturbing psychological thriller’ being applied to Shakespeare’s famous play.

Anne Gormley, an English teacher at Laurel Hill Colaiste FCJ in Limerick, said that even the question on Eaven Boland was no surprise, with examiners asking about her use of symbols and metaphors to explore personal experiences and deliver penetrating truths about society.

“The question on Keats was also quite predictable: his use of sensuous language and imagery and his expression of profound tensions. It’s not surprising he was filled with profound tensions given that he died in his mid-20s.”

Ms Gormley said that the most challenging question was the single text question, which “challenged the student to think critically. Take the question on Hamlet: you had to put away all your learned-off notes on characters and themes and think about the structure of the play and how it added up to make a thriller that was disturbing and also psychological.

“The range of questions also presupposed a good knowledge of marginal characters such as Laertes and Horatio.”

The ordinary level paper was comfortable with no surprises, with clear questions encouraging students to reflect on the modern appeal of O’Casey’s 20th century play and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, said Ms Tuffy.

TRY THIS AT HOME:

Q. Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, has been described as “a frivolous romance of limited appeal.” To what extent do you agree or disagree with this description of the novel? In your response you should deal with all aspects of the statement, supporting your answer with reference to the text.