Living in contradiction without shame: the challenge of intertextual response in GCSE poetry
Changes to the GCSE Literature syllabuses introduced in 2004 have raised a number of pedagogical challenges for teachers and their pupils. One of the most significant is the increased emphasis on intertextuality. In many ways, the fact that students are now expected to be able to make comparisons between texts, as well as to locate them within their political, social and historical context, is to be welcomed. However, this shift in emphasis from the relation between text and reader to one between text and text could threaten the importance of personal response. Insecure readers, particularly, may find it difficult to achieve and demonstrate the appropriate qualities of critical detachment—with their emphasis on complex skills of analysis, synthesis and evaluation—which the new assessment objectives demand. This article explores one young writer's response to an examination question designed to test these skills and seeks to offer some pedagogical explanations for the candidate's relative lack of success in meeting two key examination imperatives: ‘choose' and ‘compare'.
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