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The Struggle for

Identity in
Modern Literature
What kind of reader do you need to be?

You need to become an informed, independent reader.

You will learn to build a reading of a text through:
• Careful and close reading which provides you with
appropriate and specific evidence to support your
• Consideration and understanding of other possible
• Research into the contexts of both reading and writing.

Reading for Meaning

As you read you must be actively engaged with your texts in order to develop
informed, personal responses.

• Is an active process: the reader is an active creator, not a passive
recipient of second hand opinion—you are a ‘maker of meaning’

• Can never be ‘innocent’: all readings are historically, socially and

individually specific—you bring your own personal context and
experience to the text

• Is not a single skill: some kinds of reading are more demanding

than others—think, for example, of the comparable difficulty of reading a Mills
and Boon romance on the one hand, and a Jane Austen novel on the other.

• Depends as much on what is brought to the text as what is contained within it—
your own experiences will influence the way you read the text

• Will not necessarily be instantly accessible—you may well have to

research difficult or obscure references and vocabulary

• Will be different on different occasions and changeable as a

result of discussion and reflection— you may find that when
you reread a text, your response is different from your first
reading. Discussion with your peers and/or your teacher may
also influence and change your response to a text

• Can be multiple; different readings of a text can coexist— you

need to be aware that some texts are ambiguous or capable of
delivering multiple meanings, and it is your own selection of
and response to textual evidence that will determine your own
personal interpretation.
The Purpose of your Wider Reading is to
• Provide you with an opportunity to discover and explore your own interests and
enjoyment, developing your awareness of the ways you respond to and
understand different kinds of writing

• Enable you to consider the typicality or shared context of your reading so that
you can explore connections, comparisons and contrasts

• Encourage you to see different points of view, exploring the ways

that different writers describe a similar experience or situation

• Enable you to discover and understand the ways different writers

choose to communicate with you, the reader, exploring choices
of form, structure and language.

Keeping a record of your reading will be very important— extracts as well as

whole texts. This reading log will be a valuable revision resource and your
teachers will ask to look at your log at regular intervals. Another very useful thing
you can do is to place all your reading on the struggle for identity on a timeline.

It is important that you read widely through this course and you
must also develop the skills of close reading. You will need these
skills in every answer you write and they underpin the whole of
your AS English Literature course.

Close reading of a text will enable you to analyse and explore a

writer’s techniques—his or her choice
of form, structure and language.

Close reading will also help you to:

• Respond fully to meaning or possible meanings of a text
• Gain understanding of the ways texts work
• Find textual evidence to support your interpretation

It is important that you adopt good reading habits:

• You should read every whole text or extract three or four times in order to mine
it thoroughly; the first reading will be for general impression, the subsequent
ones will enable you to explore the writer’s techniques fully.
• Initially you will respond to subject matter and theme.
• Then you need to move onto the ways writer expresses the subject matter.

In order to analyse the ways writers write, you need to ask yourself
particular questions:

• What kind of text is this?

• When was the text written?
• What is the subject matter?
• Who is speaking and how does the writer use the idea of voice
in the text?
• How does the writer use setting/s?
• How does the writer use ideas of time? (past, present, future.)
• How does the writer structure, organise and develop the ideas in the text?
• Is there anything distinctive in the way the text is written? (structure,
choice of vocabulary, sentence structures, variations in pace,,,)
• Are there any patterns, repetitions of key ideas or images or uses of
• What kinds of language are used? (formal, informal, descriptive, dialogue,
and so on)
• How has finding out more about the references and allusions in the text
added to my understanding and interpretation?
• Is the language all the same or does the writer use contrast?
• What is the tone of the text?
• What might be the writer’s purpose in this text?

The Struggle for Identity in Modern Literature

Some suggestions for wider reading:

Angela Carter ‘The Bloody Chamber’ and other short stories (gender/class)
Jeanette Winterson ‘Boating for Beginners’ ( Religious/ class/ gender)
Margaret Atwood ‘ The Handmaid’s Tale’ (political/ social/ sexual)
Amy Tan ‘The Opposite of Fate’ (cultural/ racial/ individual)
Ian McKewan ‘Atonement’; ‘The Childe in Time’; ‘Enduring Love’ (class/political/
Lionel Shriver ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ (individual/ social)
Joseph Conrad ‘Heart of Darkness’ (individual/ social/ class/ racial)
Frank McCourt ‘Angela’s Ashes’ (cultural/ national/ individual/ class)
Irvine Welsh ‘Trainspotting’
Kurt Vonnigut ‘Slaughterhouse 5’
JD Salinger ‘Catcher in the Rye’
Zadie Smith ‘White Teeth’
Jonathan Safran Foer ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’

More Prose, Drama and Poetry to follow….

And here is a selection of texts which students used in the first round of

Margaret Atwood The Handmaidís Tale
Murakami Haruki The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Jackie Kay Trumpet
Andrea Levy Small Island
Anne Michaels Fugitive Pieces
J D Salinger The Catcher in the Rye
Alice Sebold The Lovely Bones
Alice Walker The Color Purple
Irvin Welsh Trainspotting
Jeanette Winterson Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Cupcake Brown A Piece of Cake
Emmett Till The Laundry Diaries
Amrit Wilson Finding a Voice

Samuel Beckett End Game
Claire Dowie Why is John Lennon Wearing a Skirt
Brian Friel Translations
Sarah Kane Blasted
Arthur Miller Death of a Salesman
Sean OíCasey Shadow of a Gunman
J B Priestley An Inspector Calls
Willy Russell Educating Rita
Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire
John Agard
Simon Armitage
W H Auden Refugee Blues
T S Eliot The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock
Allan Ginsberg Howl
Langston Hughes
Grace Nichols The Fat Black Woman
Phillip Larkin
Theodore Roethke
Benjamin Zephaniah Too Black, Too Strong

Whatever you read, enjoy it

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