Writing Critical Essays Higher English
Higher English poetry critical essays are not analysed the in the same way as a Higher English prose critical essay or a Higher English drama critical essay. For the analysis part of your critical essay, you have to do what some call ‘micro-analysis’. This means picking out different poetic techniques/devices and then explaining their effects. You do NOT do this in prose or drama critical essays.
To do this, you have to be able to know the following:
Your quotations from the poem.
The techniques in those quotations.
The effects of those techniques on a reader (you).
How those effects relate to a main theme in the poem.
(Remember that techniques create effects, and these effects can be an idea, a feeling or an image. Also, ‘image’ is a picture in the head. ‘Imagery‘ as used by the SQA in close reading means simile, metaphor, personification and other figures of speech.)
You will always have to relate techniques’ effects to the second part of the task in an Higher English poetry critical essay. This relating effects to the task is what makes Higher harder than Intermediate 2 English or Standard Grade English.
Here’s a video that highlights these points.
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There are many ways to approach the writing of a Higher English critical essay. At myetutor, we have a favoured structure and it would be difficult to change anything about that general structure without diminishing the essay. BUT, other parts of the essay have a structure and this can be done in a lot of different ways.
Take our preferred way of doing the main body of an Higher English critical essay. We think that the TEA structure is the best way to approach each paragraph. Yet we know it’s not the only way. It might be the best way for us and many students, but maybe not all students. It can require having a good memory for some quotations – you can paraphrase though. We think quotations make an Higher English critical essay look good, although we know that some people prefer to refer to parts of a text rather than quote. Sizable quotations are maybe not for everyone.
So, what other alternatives are there for writing paragraphs in the main body of your essay? Well, let’s look at one:
S E E C
This means Statement, Evidence, Explanation and Comment. If you want to know more about Higher English critical essay tasks and making sure statements link to the task then follow the links.)
So that this all makes sense we’ll state the task:
Consider a novel that has something important to say about the world in which we live. By examining the use of character, setting and plot show how the writer has successfully conveyed his/her message to the reader.
Ok. Pretty standard task where we have to take a feature of the text (character or setting or plot) and explain how in an example the writer is getting across a message (theme) to the reader that is also relevant to the world we live in today.
Using Malcolm Bradbury’s classic futuristic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451here is an example of SEEC that relates to this task.
Bradbury uses the character of Mildred, Montag’s wife, to highlight the emptiness and futility of life in the novel’s futuristic setting.
Evidence (short quotation)
When we first meet Mildred, she is having her stomach pumped as she has just attempted suicide. The description of this operation conveys a cold mechanistic approach to life: ‘They had this machine…the impersonal operator. Not unlike the digging of a trench…’
Explanation (we call this analysis and evaluation)
By describing this scene with such matter-of-fact language, Bradbury successfully reveals how little life is valued in this future world. It’s as if Mildred was worth no more than a disused car that is being serviced.
Comment (we would call this analysis and evaluation)
Her world is an empty hollow with no sense of purpose. It is made clear in the rest of the novel that far from being abnormal, Mildred in fact represents the norm of life in the future – a norm that Montag rebels against.
Four of these in an Higher English critical essay would create an impressive essay with a good grade. Personally, we prefer our own method still, as outlined in other blogs. However, we accept that some students will find the above method preferable, so, hey, anything that helps with something as challenging as an Higher English critical essay is good.
If you need more help or advice, you can contact our tutors or you can send a completed essay to a tutor or your choice.
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