Paper 1 and 2

I thought I was getting the the hang of analysis in English. I was filled with hope!…Mr Macknight ruthlessly crushed said hope, along with my self-esteem. I am starting to see beyond the plot though. I suppose that’s good. Oh WOE IS ME! WOE IS ME! WHY ART THOU SO CRUEL PAPER 1 AND 2?!?! It’s is quite good practice. However, if we do it over and over in class it can get quite frustrating without a break.

Paper 1 and 2 Revision



After doing paper 1 and 2 revision, I realized that I’m going down hill. Like Averil, when I see a question, I have no idea how to start, where to start from. For writing commentaries, I have problems knowing what the poem is even about.

These practice papers made me remember how we need assertions for every paragraph. I know that I need to re-read the books and understand the detailed information about them as well. What it made me do the most was really think about the books from different angles, and see how I can compare and contrast them a bit more. I think it is important to have some basic ideas about each book that you think are common themes or ideas that you know you can write about. This way, when deciding which books to write about, you also have some idea.

Beloved Personal Response

This novel has been one of my favourite out of the whole course. The reason for this is how the novel is written. It has a narration similar to movies, this is because when a person is talking it flashes back to their memories. This is so much easier to follow compared to To The Lighthouse, the story although it is a bit weird at times (Beloved coming back from the dead) it has a story that is interesting and easy to follow. The way Sweet Home is written about, as discussed in class, is a pleasant memory. This is very unusual but it gives us an insight into Sethe’s views on life, and how she allows finds the good in a bad situation. This was one of favourites parts of the book, since she had been through a lot terrible things. The resurrection of Beloved was a big let down for me but it did add more depth to the book. Since Denver’s feelings towards her. If I were to read this novel again, I think I would definitely look more carefully at the interaction of Beloved with Sethe. Beloved for me was the most interesting person because of what happened to her at the end and the uncertainty throughout the novel. All in all, pretty good book for me to actually be ahead of schedule for once. 😛

Hamlet Act III

The 2 most interesting part about act 3 was the death of polonius, and the reaction of the king to the play.

To me Polonius seemed to be quite an important character, his long winded speeches while mostly boring seemed to imply his importance as a spymaster and adviser to the king. Thus it came as quite a shock when he died so abruptly in the early stages of the play, being the second casualty after Hamlet senior.

The kings reaction to the play by stopping it 1/2 way and leaving shows his guilt at the sight and thus confirming to Hamlet the truthfulness of the words of the ghost. However it is quite surprising that Hamlet continues to delay his revenge before killing the king, despite his promise to the ghost

IOP reflection

I felt that for my first (actual) IOP I did alright. My biggest failure in this was probably the fact that I missed out an entire category. I implied things that would fit the category of the Gods being indicators of morals, however I never really stated it.

I think that the biggest lesson I’ve learned in this is to read through the text and go through my presentation to pick out any mistakes that I could have made. Through all the IOP’s it seemed like the biggest problem for everyone is keeping the attention of the audience, which I tried to do with a powerpoint. An example of this would be David’s presentation where although it was filled with interesting analysis of Thoreau’s use of paradox had me falling asleep at times, due to the fact that it was quite hard to follow (no offence meant David XD). I felt like a powerpoint instead of a tool that distracts the audience was used (quite affectively) by everyone to help the audience follow along.

The most interesting part of the presentation for me was the question period at the end. This made me reflect on all the points I’ve already made and on the text itself, in order to effectively answer the questions. In terms of analysis I felt as if I could have looked more closely at the characters, as in how the Gods also play an important part in the development of characters such as Telemakus.

Overall I would say this IOP was quite an interesting experience for me.


It was interesting to see all the IOPs, especially since they were all on different topics. I learnt something new from every presentation. It really made me realize how many different possibilities of interpretations there can be for one text.

I liked John’s presentation, as I had never thought about Telemakhos as an individual character in the text. It is true that he  has his own journey and story in the “Odyssey”. Once he mentioned it, it seemed something obvious, yet I never thought about it before, shows how I didn’t think deeply enough.

Averil’s IOP was really in-depth. I couldn’t imagine how she could say so much information and keep talking that fast for over 15 minutes. I mean, her topic was really focused on one point, yet she got so much information out of it. If it was me, there would be no way that I would chose something so hard like that. I really think her skill was shown in that presentation, as she really read her parts of the book and looked in depth at the details.

I thought it was quite hard in general to get all the information down in 15minutes. I guess an important part of it is to know what to say and what not to say. And that you need to focus on one aspect of the book in detail, and not the whole text.

Ah… I don’t know what to write. I think there was something worth learning in everybody’s presentation. I guess it’s also quite hard to keep the attention of the audience as well. How are you suppose to keep them all interested?

English IOP’s

From watching and listening to the IOP’s, I realised that me and my sister have opposing views about culture/generations.

An interesting point of Averil’s was when Brandon made a comment about post traumatic stress disorder. This could be an explanation for why she didn’t protect her daughter. It fits perfectly, but just cause it fits doesn’t necessary mean its true. Another interesting point of the IOP’s was Johns presentation, he made me think about the purpose and importance of Telemakhos. I always thought he was just a background character to set the scene but I underestimated his importance.

Role of a women – Angels interpretation of this subject was one I expected since the women’s role was just to satisfy the men. I felt like this could used her personal opinion on it a bit more but that is only my preference.

All in all what I learnt from these is that to get a good understanding of our chosen topics we must first fully explore all answers.

Sonnet 29

When I first read the commentary I thought I had the meaning of the sonnet straight away (a never ending chain of heart breaks that’s getting worse due to the poets advancing age). Mr. Macknight’s essay gave me an entirely different outlook on the commentary as well as the style of writing needed in a commentary. It was precise and to the point. There were no generalized statements or run on statements, it was more like state point => example=> explanation/analysis/comment. This essay had lots of different ways of analysis that he had mentioned in class before yet I neglected to follow such as details about the sounds when reading the sonnet and language used, which was also explained with great detail. Another thing I didn’t do in the essay was looking at the poem as a whole. Instead I merely explained parts of the sonnet while failing to link it to the rest of the sonnet, as opposed to Mr. Macknight who managed to efficiently link his points back to the sonnet as a whole. This has given me the idea of creating a basic template or list of ideas of different aspect that need to be mentioned in a commentary, I believe this would also improve my general level of analysis in English, giving me new points and outlooks to a text.

Civil Disobedience-Personal Reflection

Thoreau has a rather pessimistic view of the government. He seems to think that there are few good people left in the world. I was initially confused about Thoreau’s view of rebelling against the government by not paying taxes as he seemed to think that the money was used wastefully in the war, slavery etc. Thoreau to me seems to me as a person who views the world in a different way, in the end I came to realize that if everyone refused to pay taxes then Thoreau’s method would actually work and there would be no war as the government can’t fund it, however what he fails to realize is that if the funds were to stop then all other government services would also be stopped.

I personally thought that Thoreau tries to appeal to the more humane side of his readers, even though I disliked reading his essay as to me it was quite boring due to the fact that I don’t really read that kind of text, I found his writing revolutionary and quite persuasive in trying to stop the gevernment and slavery.

Reflections on IOs -Antigone

In today’s IOs, I learned a great number of pieces of information that I was not aware of before. A few of the things that I was aware of was the greek myths and legends connected to Antigone and that women rights in ancient greek times were far below that of men. However before todays IOs I couldn’t connect my knowledge of ancient Greece to the play Antigone.

After the IOs I was able to piece together that Antigone’s behaviour in the play Antigone is quite significant as it shows her rebel like attitude going against the general rule of that time where the women were submissive and followed orders. A perfect example of thisis the character of  Ismene who represents the normal, lower view of a woman during those times. As Antigone was supposedly the ‘protaganist’ of the play it made me wonder whether Sophocles who wrote the play was encouraging or even starting the idea of revolution and equal rights between the men and the women.

I learnt that Sophocles’ reason (that people who wrote about him claimed) for writing was political as is the same as many who have used the tale, which has shown that it is not interpreted as a feminist tale but a form of resistance. Much later Jean Anouilh rewrote the play with the same intent in mind to spark the idea of revolution and to portray the French Resistance’s struggle against Vichy France.

I know that in ancient Greece, there were many gods, (12 major and hundreds of minor and demi-gods) who were often portrayed as cruel or uncaring due to the fact that they were higher beings. I was not aware however of the fact that some people took it a step further and portrayed the gods as being stupid. This is relevant since in the Antigone, the gods are portrayed as uncaring of tragedy that befalls Oedipus and his family for any good reason.

Through todays IOs although I didn’t learn much new information I was able to see how the knowledge that I possessed of Ancient Greece connected with the text.

Question: How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?
Work used: Antigone by Sophocles

Antigone’s interactive oral presentations taught me a lot about the history of the time of Sophocles. Such that the time of his life around the 400 BCs, was when Athens was in great development and also called the ‘Golden Age’.

I found it fascinating how Antigone had been re-created into modern versions. This includes Jean Anouilh’s version of Antigone with the same name made in 1943. This adaptation was based on Creon being the Vichy government, and Antigone being the French Resistance. I also found out about Athol Fugard’s play called ‘The Island’, which is about two prisoners acting out the play of Antigone. I found this idea very interesting, and I would like to watch this play in the future.

I had only heard of a few of Sophocles’s plays before this oral presentation session. However, I understand that he actually wrote 123 plays, whilst only 7 of them survived. I find this quite tragic, as most of his other plays have become very famous. If all 123 plays had survived, I think Sophocles would have become an even more famous play-writer. I found out about the three great poets of that time, who were Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Sophocles and Aeschylus were said to be the ones who were quite traditional and respectful of the culture and Greek Gods. Where Euripides was less traditional and believed that the Gods were spoilt and didn’t deserve that much recognition.

I learnt that in the time of Sophocles, Athens was a male dominated state. Royal family members passed on their power from father to son, daughters were not respected as much. It is effective for the female – Antigone to disobey the rules of the government, which makes her an even greater hero. Whereas her sister, Ismene, is a character who fits the general image of women at the time, being weak and incapable. This shows the difference between the ‘normal’ woman and a heroin.

In conclusion, I believe I learn a lot about Sophocles himself and the history of Athens at his time. All of this information has helped me further interpret the background knowledge to Antigone. It has also made me understand how Antigone was seen as such a great hero of the time.


How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

The interactive oral about Antigone by Sophocles acknowledged me of the significance of characters in Antigone, and what effect the play had on other plays afterwards.

Antigone takes place in 1200 B.C Thebes, and this describes the courage of Antigone to bury his defamed brother Polynieces’ body and tragedy of Creon who didn’t listen to others and caused death of his family members. The fact that Antigone doesn’t have right to become the ruler tells the viewers that men and women are not equal, and the passivity of the Ismene and other citizens explains that citizens, in particular women didn’t have right to express opinions at those times. However, the courageous action of Antigone is quit atypical which presents the other side of women.  I’ve also realized that banning of Polynices’ burial had strong impact since burial was very important at the time of Sophocles. Antigone was recreated and adapted to various plays such as that of Anouilh and Fugard afterwards.

The poet Sophocles was born in 497/496 BC and died in 406/405 BC. He was born in Attica and wrote 123 plays among 7 of which have survived, including Antigone. He was born in wealthy family, was general in the Athenian campaign, and lead choral chant to God. He lived during the Golden age of Athens and was born in wealthy family, which caused him to focus on tragedy of royal family since he didn’t experience hardships of poor.

The tragedies such as Antigone started with Thespis and were then made by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. Some like Sophocles were more devout to God, but others like Euripedes’ play reflects the spoiled behavior of God. Also, it was amazing how the addition of 3rd actor began with Sophocles, and before his play there were only main actor, secondary actor and chorus in the play.

In conclusion, I’ve understood the implications of scenes in Antigone such as the banning of burial in cultural context, and learnt characteristic of the play such as multiple actors and courage of Antigone which I took for granted, but was very novel at Sophocles’ time.

Antigone- Reflective Statement.

How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

Through the interactive orals today, I learned more about Greek mythology and Antigone. From the various presentations and discussions, it was quite obvious that nothing much was known about Sophocles and his work Antigone. All I learnt was that as a writer, Sophocles wrote about 123 plays, and all of them have been lost except for 7, and Antigone is one of these 7 plays still existing. Antigone is one of the greatest plays written by Sophocles and truly is a testament of his great writing.

While discussing Antigone today, I realised that Ismene and Antigone in the play represented women of society at that time. I learnt that women at that time did not have much say, and it was a male dominated society. Ismene and Antigone represented two opposite kinds of women- the kind that submitted to authority, and the kind who stood up for her own rights. I never thought that the play represented two different kinds of people, and only saw these two contrasting characters as different moral standings with two contrasting kinds of ulterior motive. Also, I learnt that burial was a big important issue at that time, and thus the issue of not burying polynices probably had a very great impact out of the people reading it at that time. Sophocles used ‘current day’ issues and expressed his ideas through concepts that could be understood by his audience.

Antigone is a very well known play and has been adapted by some writers in later years for different intents and purposes. Antigone was adapted by Jean Anouelh in 1943, and was used to represent his political stand against the Vichy Government, represented by Creon, who was portrayed negatively, but was humble and forgiving. Antigone represented the French Resistance against the Nazi’s, and also represented Anouelh’s support of them. Antigone was recreated by different people in a variety of different ways with various intent and meaning. It was especially popular during the Vietnam war, where people were expressing their views against the government.

I think that my understanding of ‘Antigone’ has grown a little through this interactive orals. I am now able to look at the issues raised within the book with greater clarity. Though not much information can be learnt about Sophocles himself as a writer and his thoughts, learning about life at that time has shed some light on ‘Antigone’ as a whole.

Antigone IO – Reflection

Question: How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?
Work used: Antigone by Sophocles

Antigone is a play written by Sophocles around 442 BC but the story actually takes place in Thebes around 1200 BC, before Sophocles was born. This play clearly showed how Greek states were run by dictators and it was a patriarchal society and women were not of great importance. The two main female characters in the play is Ismene and Antigone. They show the two polar opposites of women: one weak-minded and submissive, while the other is strong and independent, respectively. Many elements in the story show the culture at the time because when Polynieces was not buried and was left outside after his death to sow his public shame. Proper burial was an important ritual at the time that guaranteed a safe passage to afterlife. In other depictions of Antigone, characters’ personalities were slightly changed for example, Creon is much more forgiving and political figures and their actions were described in a certain way. Some argue that a newer version gained prominence for its political interpretation and not for its literal ability.

Because Sophocles lived so long ago and has never written an autobiography, it is difficult to say exactly what he was like and specific details about him. We are only able to trust the honesty and accuracy of others. Sophocles was said to have a fairly peaceful life with very few hardships and difficulties. This may have an impact on his writing as it shows that he doesn’t write much about the peasants and mainly of royalty and the upper class.

Overall, this book holds many mysteries for me because there are many cultural meanings to greek culture that holds many of the important details that I have yet to uncover. When reading this book, I see the polar opposites in Antigone and Ismene and even though I admire Antigone and her courage and hope I would have the courage to do the same in the same situation, I also understand Ismene’s hesitance. Since, I have never been in that kind of a situation, I cannot say what I would have done, but if I grew up in that culture and background, it would be nearly impossible for any woman to act in the way Antigone did.

Sophocles , Antigone

How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?


In today’s IOs, I learned that, in the Ancient times, role of a greek women was not as equal to the man’s as I’d imagined. I assumed that women did have equal rights in ancient Greece as today, just as some things, such as homosexuality were prominent and socially accepted then, but were attacked by societies dominated by Christian cultures, and come back.

I have now learned that on the contrary, the women did not have much say in political affairs and that Antigone’s behaviour in the play Antigone is actually quite significant because she did stand up against authority, whereas Ismene is supposed to represent the normal, lower view of a woman and  that Antigone is bold and exceptional standing up for her belief. I also did not know that similar things had happened in ancient times and that Sophocles had just changed the names.

I know that in ancient times, there were many gods, enough for some to be evil and some to be killed, which does not happen in monotheism. I knew that  polytheists would worship the gods they chose and as many as they chose, going across cultures. I did not know that this extended further to where the gods were sometimes portrayed as being stupid and downright cruel. This is relevant since in the Theban Plays, the gods are not portrayed as dealing misfortune to Oedipus and his family for any good reason.

Sophocles’ reason for writing (political) is the same as many who have used the tale, which has shown that it is not (thank god) interpreted as a feminist tale. Jean Anouilh rewrote the play to portray the French Resistance’s struggle against Vichy France (the southern part which sympathized with the Nazis).

I learned that Sophocles was renown both before death and posthumously, but I didn’t learn much about how his life was relevant to his works as he never wrote an autobiography and the only information we have is from what others have written of him. I did learn that he was a general in the Athenian campaign against Samos in 441BC, so understood how war politics worked, so perhaps this is factored into his works.

‘Antigone’ Reflective Statement

Work: Antigone

How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

In our interactive orals today we discussed the cultural and contextual consideration of Sophocles’ play “Antigone”.  In our discussion we covered the life and career of Sophocles, later versions of Antigone and the development of Greek tragedy.

From our discussion it was easy to see that not much was known about Sophocles – or at least not much that was certain.  However, it was apparent that he had achieved a lot in his life time and that he had lived in Athens, Greece when it was at the height of its power.  During this time Athens was full of great philosophers, politicians and, of course, playwrights – of which Sophocles was arguably the greatest.  Sophocles was said to have written 123 plays but all have been lost but 7.  Of the seven we have, all or most are great plays.  They are a testament to Sophocles play writing prowess and the likelihood that he had produced many other greats plays.

In our discussion about the development of Greek theatre we had many names thrown at us – those of great playwrights that had been influential.  One that stood out to me was that of Thespis.  He was the innovator behind the addition of multiple actors to the role as chorus – where it had previously been only one person.  In Antigone we can see that Sophocles took a similar approach as he also uses multiple people in his Chorus – people that represent members of the community.

We also learned that Antigone was a play that was popularly adapted or presented again.  Jean Anouilh adapted the play and put it on in Nazi occupied France in 1943.  It was seen as a sign of resistance with Creon representing the Vichy government and Antigone representing the French Resistance.  This use of ‘Antigone’ was a recurring theme as its popularity grew again in America during the Vietnam War.

I think the most useful part of this IO was the discussion about ‘Antigone’ being used as a play of protest.  For me this really drew attention to the theme of protest and resistance in the play itself, while at the same time making me more aware of the contextual considerations of the play.

Reflective statements on the IOs of ‘To Live’ by Yu Hua

Question: How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

My initial reaction to reading ‘To Live’ by Yu Hua was confusion, as I didn’t have much knowledge of the politics of the time that the book was describing, and thus many of the ideas presented within the book were alien to me

One of the main things I learned from the IOs was about the life of the author. One of the main and most important thing that I learnt was that Yu Hua once worked for a cultural center, and was given a cushy job as a ‘soft’ government official whose job was to go to villages and laze around. This reminded me strongly of the nameless narrator of the story who Fu Gui tells his life story to, which makes it seem like Yu Hua based this story on his life experiences.

I also learned of The Great Leap Forward one of the main periods described in the book, was an economic change which failed. The book demonstrates this by showing the hardships that Fu Gui and his family went through at the time that this was occurring in the story.I learned that Yu Hua was most likely based this theme in the book on his experiences of life during The Great Leap Forward in china. The hardships were horrendous as The Great Leap Forwards killed at least 18 million people. As the book claims people were expected to much while in theory gaining the same profit as everyone. However due to The Great Leap Forward killing millions of deaths, it was eventually considered a failure and thus it was abandoned.

The Cultural Revolution was in its own way worse than The Great Leap Forward. The intelligent were targeted and thus progress in the field of new ideas in anyway what so ever was suppressed. Anyone opposed to the ideals of the party at the time and “revisionists” (people who interpreted the revolution different from the party) were publicly tortured and humiliated in order to keep the people submissive under the party’s views.

Overall the IOs helped me to increase my knowledge on the historical context of the text, which in turn helped me understand the book better as I could see why certain events happened in the book.

Reflective Statement – To Live

How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

Prior to the Interactive Orals, my knowledge of China and it’s history was limited, I feel the Interactive Orals helped expanded my knowledge about China and helped me in understanding Yu Hua’s To Live.  While listening to the Interactive Orals I did get slightly confused during the first presentation about The Big Leap Forward, however I feel that it being a group question and answer activity helped me as I better understood The Big Leap Forward.

The presentations given were about The Big Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and the life and career of Yu Hua.  As mentioned in above, the first presentation baffled me, but as John worked through his presentation it became clearer to me about collectivization, industrialization and starvation. Having a more in-depth knowledge on these aspects of Chinese culture aided my understanding of Yu Huas, To Live, as I was never quite sure of the effects the history of China had on Yu Huas works.
Similarly, the presentation on the life and career of Yu Hua helped me to understand To Live from a different angle. Before knowing about Yu Huas past, To Live wasn’t very appealing as I was unaware of the cultural effects on the story. However, after learning how he grew up during the Cultural Revolution, how he left his job as a Dentist to become a worker for the Cultural Centre, and how he became a fictional author, I believe that I better understand the story, To Live. As many people’s posts have mentioned, the unnamed, young travelling narrator throughout To Live reminded me of Yu Hua and his job at the Cultural Centre after leaving Dentistry.
To sum up, I feel my contextual and cultural understanding of Yu Hua’s To Live has developed throughout the three Interactive Orals, although I feel I could achieve a better understanding of To Live by re-reading this novel, with my new found insight.

To Live Reflective Satement

Question: How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?
Work used: To Live by Yu Hua

Since To Live describes many things that happen around Fugui’s family, I found it interesting to learn more details about these events. (The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.) It was also good to understand more about the author, Yu Hua, and how he wrote To Live.

An aspect that I didn’t know was that in the Great Leap Forward (1956-1962), Mao Zedong was trying to industrialize China, thus inviting villagers from the countryside into the city. This is extra information for me because Fugui’s village didn’t have this type of influence, as there was nothing written about people being forced into the city. I can now see To Live from a different perspective. The link between the Great Leap Forward and smelting iron for industrial development is also clearer for me now. I thought that Fugui’s family were starving just because of the war. I now know that it wasn’t this simple. The Great Leap Forward was more about industrialization leading to an unbalance in agriculture. I can also understand why some of the family’s land was taken away, as this was Chairman Mao’s idea of collectivization of the farms.

During the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976, there was the People’s Liberation Army, also called the Chinese Red Army. They were the backbone of Mao’s power, and were split across the country to make sure his ideas were spread around China. I can see the link of this in the novel where there were descriptions of Mao Zedong’s posters and murals all around the village.

Since To Live is just a novel and not a real story, I thought that many facts could have been made up. However, I understood that Yu Hua was actually inspired by the Cultural Revolution. From a young child he was told many stories about the history of China and what was going on. He also experienced some of the scenes that were described in the book.

After understanding the background of  life in China at the time. The IOPs have helped me gain a fuller understanding of the motion and situations of the people in To Live.

‘To Live’ Reflective Statement

Work: To Live by Yu Hua

How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

During the interactive oral, we were presented information about the life of Yu Hua, the ‘Great Leap Forward’ and the ‘Cultural Revolution’.  Also we discussed how these cultural and contextual considerations may have influenced Yu Hua in the writing of ‘To Live’.

When we looked into the Great Leap Forward it was interesting to see just how much it was included in ‘To Live’.  From the whole of ‘To Live’ we were able to see three distinct aspects of the Great Leap Forward that were described and discussed by Yu Hua’s main character Xu Fugui: these being collectivization, industrialization and starvation.  We see collectivization when the communes are established and the village head is appointed to be the team leader – all part of the communist party initiative to conform to communist ideals.  Then we see industrialization when Fugui describes in great detail how his family was tasked with smelting iron with only rudimentary equipment.  Lastly, and most tragically, are the similarities between Fugui’s account of the lack of food in the village and the reality that somewhere between 18 and 46 million people died as a result of the Great leap Forward.

Though not as prevalent in ‘To Live’, the Cultural Revolution also comes up.  This could be seen from the time when Fugui goes into town and witnesses members of the Red Guard beating ‘political rivals’ and the general terror amongst the people.  While the Cultural Revolution was shown in ‘To Live’ I wondered why it was not discussed as explicitly as the Great Leap Forward – though learning more about Yu Hua’s life gave me ideas about that.

Yu Hua lived through the cultural revolution and then later wrote his book in the late 80’s or early 90’s.  We learned that during the Cultural Revolution Yu Hua took up the job of a writer as he earned the same wage as his previous profession as a dentist but barely had to work.  In a way it seemed as though he was ‘cheating the system’ communist-style.  This made me believe that, perhaps, Yu Hua was not so against the Cultural revolution as his experience of it was pleasant – though from his writing we can see that he did know something of it’s more violent side.

Overall, these discussion greatly enhanced my understanding of the background of ‘To Live’ and allowed me to see the story in a different light.

Interactive Oral

Question: How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?
Work used: To Live by Yu Hua

Through todays Interactive Orals, the topics brought to light concerning To Live, Yu Hua, were the life and career of Yu Hua, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. The first presentation today was about the Great Leap Forward and how this had effects on Yu Hua’s writings. Through todays Interactive Orals I came to realize just how much Yu Hua’s life could have had on his work. Growing up through the Cultural Revolution, Yu Hua read a lot of government issued posters, saw a lot of violence and experienced the Cultural Revolution first hand. He also we subject to reading a lot of lies people of the town would make up about other townspeople to get them into trouble. Through Yu Hua’s To Live, he gives an image of how terrible his characters had their life. How it was all changed, how Fu Gui’s home town was collectivized, his children lost to the people of higher positions and just generally lived a life of misfortune.
Through todays presentations we learnt about how Yu Hua left his dentistry job to become basically a bum. Doing easy work when he wanted, organising his days as he pleased yet still making the same amount of money as any of the doctors, dentists etc. This was depicted through To Live by the narrator, who was always nameless. The narrators job was to wander around, collecting stories, then continue on his way relying on the hospitability of others for places to sleep, this was much like the job Yu Hua did after leaving dentistry but before becoming a full time fiction writer.
I feel todays Interactive Orals helped me better appreciate the cultural and contextual considerations of To Live, Yu Hua. Although the book wasn’t hard to grasp in terms of the cultural difficulties and the events that happened, I feel learning more about the back ground of Yu Hua helps give a better personal view onto the topics raised throughout To Live. I feel I appreciate the book more now, as it’s content is based/focused on real life that I barely knew anything about before todays Interactive Orals.

To Live-Reflection

How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

To Live-Yu Hua.

The interactive oral on ‘To Live’ by Yu Hua gave me insight into the history of China in 1950-1960 and how the life of Yu Hua influenced his book “To Live”.

The “Great Leap Forward” which occurred during 1960s promoted collectivization, industrialization which resulted in failure including massive starvation; causing numerous deaths. I was surprised how the main characteristics of the Great Leap Forward were mentioned explicitly in “To Live”: such as the collectivization process where team leader persuaded people to gather all the food resources to distribute them equally, and rudimentary iron-smelting by throwing in pieces of broken metal pot .Furthermore, the death of his family members which are all associated with poverty and starvation explained the failure of the collectivization and how much the citizens have suffered.

Also, the Cultural Revolution which happened between 1966 and 1976 explained the existence of the Red Army which came to village of Fugui, the main character of To Live. Also, Cultural Revolution which enforced socialism by punishing oppositions have resulted in destruction of both art and culture of China, and caused the military sector to gain power. This clarified the scene in which Fugui was forced to join the army during the civil war and killing of numerous people during the wartime, just like what Fugui have witnessed when he joined the war.

Furthermore, the life of Yu Hua improved my understanding of the book’s context and his motivation to write such a story. Yu Hua’s parents were from Zhejiang province, which was affected during the times of Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward. Since there were only slogans and propagandas during the Cultural Revolution, Yu Hua wanted to write a book which accurately reflects the atmosphere of the society during
1950-1960s. He became a dentist and worked in cultural center, and he began his proper career as writer in 1993. This made me think that the reason why the actors of ‘To Live” movie was banned in China is because this accurately shows the fault of the Chinese government at the time of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

Therefore, the interactive oral have acknowledged me of the cultural background of “To Live”, how Yu Hua was inspired to write this book and allowed me to understand that the consequences which Fugui have experienced was not personal but affected the whole society of China.

To Live – Reflection

Question: How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

Work used: To Live by Yu Hua

In “To Live ” Fugui, the main character, goes through many hardships and tragedies after he gambles away the family fortune and is forced to work as a peasant farmer to support his wife, daughter and elderly mother. When he is forced into the army and fights in the Chinese Civil War we start to see elements of the Great Leap Forward. Some other parts in the book that show the Great Leap Forward include when the communes are created in the villages and land no longer belongs to individuals but rather the whole of the village and they equally distribute the food. Soon, during the Great Leap Forward, there was a some contribution from bad weather that brought a lack of food which caused the subsequent starvation, however, many argue that it was the negligence and policies of the Great Leap Forward that brought about this famine. This was evident throughout the book, when smelting iron, communes, and starvation is mentioned specifically in the book.

The Cultural Revolution is evident near the end of the book where Red Guards are mentioned as well as the young girl in charge of the Red Guards. The main role of the red guards were to ensure that Mao’s beliefs were spread throughout the country and that they were followed. The mention of the ‘young’ girl demonstrated that it was often schoolchildren and university students that strongly supported Mao and terrorized the people who opposed his beliefs. The Red Army were Mao’s main source of power and this is shown in “To Live” when the young girl asked the Red Guards to break the team leaders leg’s because she suspected him of being capitalist.

The presentations helped me understand a lot more of the cultural background of the book but some questions I still have are where the author Yu Hua got his inspiration from and where did the idea come from. Since he lived during the times of the Cultural Revolution, he could have potentially seen many of the events happen live in read life. This could potentially be why Yu Hua found a dentist’s work mundane after seeing the Revolution and it’s devastating effects.

Reflective Statement on IOs of To Live

How has your understanding of the cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

Prior to the IOs, I had little understanding of the nature of the revolution in China and how real Yu Hua’s To Live was, except perhaps with reference to Stalinist Russia.

I learned that Yu Hua had observed the place he’d grown up and felt they would tell stories to get one another into trouble; this reminded me of the beginning of To Live, in which the narrator travels and collects stories. I also learned that some of what is written, including the violent parts, is based on things that Yu Hua has witnessed. In addition to this, Yu Hua was raised during the Cultural Revolution and so he can be considered a fairly reliable source on the matter.

I also learned of The Great Leap Forward, which was an economic change, but a failure. The book demonstrates this, but I did not understand that the section about in which it features in To Live was largely factual.

I learned that since Yu Hua was around at the time, the economic hardships were almost real and are as bad as written, considering that The Great Leap Forwards killed at least 18 million people. Villages were, as the book says, tasked with smelting iron, and to little avail. They did collectivize (I am aware of the concept from my education in soviet history), where they pool all of their resources to farm better and they did urbanize (move from being peasants to the cities) as in Russia too (but with less success). I also learned that the famine is unusual, since China is fertile and that it may have been caused by either the urbanization taking away some aid from other villages or due to the collectivization itself.

The Cultural Revolution was perhaps much like the purges in Russia, as the economic change was. The intelligent were targeted and so science and fields contributing to growth were smothered, along with anyone opposed to the ideals of the party at the time and “revisionists”(people who interpreted the revolution different from the party).

To Live- Reflective Statement

How has your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

Through the interactive oral presentations today, I realized the things going on in China during the course of Yu Hua’s life affected and influenced the way he wrote ‘To Live’. Yu Hua grew up during the Cultural Revolution, and was surrounded by violence and hatred. As he grew up, he saw how people in the villages turned against each other and created stories about each other to get them into trouble with the guards. Apparently this is where he got his creative ideas from. In the book, Fu Gui leads a very sad life, with his family members passing away one at a time. Yu Hua paints an image of misfortune, which represents his own belief that life during the time of the Great Leap Forward brought about great misfortune to lay Chinese people.

Also, while learning about his life, I learnt that Yu Hua once worked for a cultural center, and was a soft government official whose job was to walk around the villages and towns and just laze around, working as he pleased. This reminds me of the nameless narrator whom Fu Gui (main character in ‘To Live’) tells his story. This narrator could, in fact, be himself.

‘To Live’ depicts a time during The Great Revolution of China. This is evident through villages going through collectivization. Fu Gui’s family was definitely impacted by collectivization. They lost their land and had to work on the commune’s land, and were given a ration of food each day. However, harvest was bad at that time as workers moved into cities to work, causing a lack of man power in the farms, leading to famine and starvation. This was experienced by the village Fu Gui was living in as well.

‘To Live’ shows us the extent of effect the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward had on people’s lives in china at that time, while illustrating the tragic yet touching story of Fu Gui’s life. Reading and understanding ‘To Live’ the first time was not a difficult task, but now knowing more about the background setting of the book, I am better able to appreciate the reality of the hardship experienced by the characters in the book.

Question: How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral? Work used: Inferno by Dante Alighieri

During the interactive oral presentations, four topics were presented upon – life and career of Dante Alighieri, Christian theology, earlier and later depictions of Hell, and numerology.

Before this interactive oral session, I hadn’t thought about Dante as a person. However I found out that he was involved in Dolce Stil Novo (Sweet New Style) movement in the 13th century. Although Dante’s style had changed over time, one theme was still kept in Inferno. This was that the Sweet New Style found it important to write about their reflections and inner-most feelings in their work. After being told this, I thought that that may have been the reason why reading Inferno made me feel numerous emotions deeply. I was intrigued to find out that Dante’s mentioning of Popes in his poem actually relates to his own experience. He was part of the White Guelphs who were against Popes. The Divine Comedy was written when Dante was forced into exile in 1302. This could be expressing his hope to be called back to Florence, since these three poems end up successfully reaching Heaven (Purgatory).

I also learnt how there are differences between Dante’s Hell in Inferno from common Christian views. In Christian theology, limbo is only for those who were not baptized – babies. However, Dante links Inferno’s limbo with all types of different people including non-Christians. This made me think about how Dante was a Christian, yet seemed to change some of the ideas in Inferno from classical Christian views.

This is related to how there many be different interpretations of hell. One common theme is that punishment between the old Testament, Dante’s hell, Greek mythology and some others are all eternal. This was important to me because it means the people in hell will not be forgiven. It was interesting to see how other artists were influenced by Dante’s work and created their own versions of hell. (Gates of Hell by Auguste Rodin). I also learnt about numbers being an important part of classical and Christian worlds. Dante uses both Christian and Roman ideas to unite his poem.

In conclusion, from these interactive oral presentations I was able to learn a great deal about Dante himself and possible explanations behind Inferno which I had not understood before. I can relate to it more as I feel I have seen Dante and Inferno from a whole new perspective.

Reflective statement on oral presentation of ‘The Inferno’ by Dante

Question: How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

The interactive orals helped expand my knowledge of The Inferno by Dante by quite a vast amount. I realized that when I read The Inferno I was barely scratching the surface level of it.

What I found interesting was the recurring theme of numerology in Dante especially the number 3. When he first arrives in the dark woods he was stopped by 3 animals from entering Purgatory, this was perhaps the beginning of an introduction to the theme of numerology within the Inferno. I realized that the number 3 represented the Holy Trinity (The father, Son, and the Holy Spirit). The number 3 is used multiple times such as there being 3 parts of the afterlife (Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory), what most people would argue as the 3 main parts of hell (appetite, will, reason), or even in the number of circles in hell [9 circles (3×3=9)].

When I was researching Christian theology I came across an interesting argument about Alchemists and how they should be in the ninth circle of hell instead of the eight. This was due to the fact that one of the main goals of alchemy was to produce the elixir of life which would extend their life indefinitely. Theologists argue that this was a betrayal against God as we are made to live on the earth before dying and judged of our worthiness to join God, by extending our lives we are defying God and thus betraying him by turning our backs to him. After the interactive oral I wondered if turning our backs to God counted as betrayal wouldn’t Hell just be one large pit as everyone in it has turned their backs to god in one way or another.

When I first read ‘The Inferno’ I realized that Dante included multiple modifications to the classic view of Hell including several Greek/Roman mythological creatures and figures such as the Cerberus, the Minotaur, and King Minos. Dante also modified the first circle of hell ‘Limbo’ to include virtuous pagans instead of just babies who died after only committing the original sin. This made me wonder what other modifications Dante added to his view of hell. From the oral presentation I realized that Dante being involved in literary group “Dolce Stil Novo”, and having strong political ties with the White Guelphs could have influenced his writing style and his views on the ‘perfect’ hell. I realized that Dante’s reasoning for his view on the people who should be in hell is affected mostly by the political situation of Italy from when he was in exile.

After the interactive oral on Dante I realized that many of Dante’s views on hell and sin, were biased towards the political and religious thinking of his time. This helped me to increase my understanding of the cultural times when Dante wrote ‘The Inferno’.

Reflection-Interactive oral: Inferno

The interactive oral about Dante’s Inferno have let me investigate different aspects of elements in the Inferno and allowed me to understand the Inferno more thoroughly.

By researching various depictions of hell, I’ve discovered information that I could have never realized by solely reading Inferno. For example, the depiction of Dante’s hell being affected by Greek mythology and Vision literature was very new to me. I also found out that there are numerous artworks which were influenced by Dante’s Inferno, such as ‘The Gates of Hell’ by Auguste Rodin. By comparing Dante’s Hell with earlier and later depictions like ‘Hades’ from New Testament and the painting ‘Hell’ by Bosch, I’ve realized that Dante’s Hell, which seemed similar to common images of hell, was in fact very distinguishing. Dante’s Hell is divided into nine circles according to types of sins, includes punishment by freezing the souls, and makes souls to receive punishment that reflects their sins. This is very different from the image of ‘Hades’ or ‘Sheol,’ the blazing abyss where souls are tormented altogether without particular distinctions. Ultimately, I’ve discovered that Inferno affected later notion of Hell because of its unprecedented, unique portrayal along with detailed description.

Through other’s presentations, I’ve discovered new facts about Dante’s life, Christian theology and Numerology which deepened my understanding of Inferno. Dante being involved in literary group “Dolce Stil Novo”, and having strong political ties with the White Guelphs made me think that it could have affected Inferno’s introspective writing style and mentioning of characters like Pope Nicholas III who was punished for simony. The fact that Dante wrote Divine Comedy during his exile seemed as if Inferno, to some extent, reflects his hope to be called back to Florence respectfully, as shown by nomination of Dante as one of six greatest poets in Limbo. For the Christian theology, the alchemists put in 8th circle of Hell due to their attempt for transmutation of metal opposing God’s will was shocking to me. Furthermore, the significance of number three repeatedly shown in Inferno was finally made clear to me by learning the importance of it in Christian society which implies holy trinity, God’s virtues and a lot more.

Therefore, by interactive oral I felt that Inferno which was initially vague to me was made clearer and realized the significance of Dante’s  background and reigning culture for more comprehensive understanding the Inferno.

Dante – Reflective Statement

Question: How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?
Work used: Inferno by Dante Alighieri

From my understanding of Dante’s Inferno, Dante the traveler starts out in a forest and meets the three beasts, leopard, lion and she-wolf. This is an introduction to all the important symbolic elements that will repeat itself throughout the epic poem. One of the recurring themes is the idea of numbers and how they represent certain ideas in Christianity. For example, the number 3 continues throughout the poem which reminds the readers of the three divisions after death, Heaven, Hell an Purgatory as well as the Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The number 3 also symbolizes the 3 Christian virtues that allow a person passage to salvation unlike the 4 cardinal virtues which do not. Other numbers such as 7 and 9 are also important but the number 1 represents wholeness because even though there are divisions in hell and the three divisions of where a soul can go after death, it is all combined by the omnipotent God. This poem represents how the Classical world is combined with the Christian world.

In today’s presentations, we have learnt that the major literary movement in 13th century Italy was the Dolce Stil Novo which was first used by Dante in his one of his epic poems out of the Divine Comedy, Purgatorio. The Dolce Stil Novo was based on the concept that the writing contains a lot of the author’s inner thoughts and it is considered as more intellection with more usage of metaphors and symbolism. Some elements of Dante the poet’s life is woven into Inferno. As shown in Canto 14 where Pope Nicholas the Third is in the 3rd Ditch of the 8th Circle for the sin of Simony and Dante the poet predicts that other Pope’s may go to hell for various sins. This concept of members of the clergy in hell is the most confusing in the whole poem because it seems that they have dedicated their lives to revering God and yet they have ended up where God punishes the souls of the condemned which makes readers question the reliability and credibility of the Church.

Overall, this book will always hold many questions for me for example, the Church members and how their power may have corrupted the purity of the religion and how a devout Christian as Dante was may have perceived this mockery of his religion by certain members of the clergy.

Reflective Statement – Dante’s Inferno

How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

Through the presentations of Dante’s life and career, christian theology, earlier and later depictions of hell and a short part about numerology. I learnt that understanding Dante and his life led me to a better understanding of The Divine comedy.

When we started the presentations we  got some information about Dante’s life, this really helped me with understanding why some of the people that were in certain circles. The reason is what he thought of them they was actually no reason except were he believes they should go. I originally thought that the people in the certain circles has been convicted of their crimes not just his opinion. The presentation on his life also talked about him being a politician, I also had imagined Dante as a very religious man who always was quiet about his opinions, but now thing about it he has his own opinions put through the whole poem. His opinions on people, on his thoughts on Hell, this was a big eye opener for me since my thoughts on the poem has changed. Also I thought most depictions of hell would be the same with the hierarchy of the sins but as I learnt today most early and later depictions don’t agree they never usually use a hierarchy. This completely baffled me at first because I thought as Dante being a christian would use original techniques of viewing hell but he went totally against it. For example most views of hell if fire but in Dante’s hell the closer you get to the centre the colder it gets and the centre its frozen.


I think my understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work has developed through the interactive oral, and once I learnt more about them the better I understood of the poem.

Reflective Statement on Dante’s Inferno IOs

How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

Before the IOs I was unsure of the extent of Dante’s involvement in the events in Italy around the 1300s, or of the similarities between mythology and Dante’s Inferno. I was aware that there was a link between Dante’s work and the Classics, but I assumed incorrectly that Dante’s depiction of hell hell should, since he was a Christian, almost like an early protestant, line up with the Bible’s depiction.
I understood that Dante had been exiled and that Dante’s Inferno was sometimes revenge, and that Dante was sometimes punishing those who had wronged him in Italy. On the other hand, I didn’t really know his past; I could not understand how he feels when he writes about a certain sin is punished.
I was aware of some of the depictions of Hell, but never paid attention to how they are significant, relative to other depictions.

Now, I understand that though Christianity has Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek as places of shadow and eternal, fiery torment (later replaced by The Lake of Fire), the Hades of mythology is closer to Dante’s Inferno in some ways:
Dante’s hell punishes proportionally to the sin’s severity, as opposed to all sin being punished equally in the Bible.
Demons are used to punish in the Greek (as in Christian hells, demons are punished for their disobedience to God too).
On the other hand, Dante’s hell is unusual as the only hell that includes both hot and cold temperatures.

I now understand that Dante was involved in the fighting for Florence as a part of the Guelphs. These Guelephs split into the white Guelphs and the black Guelphs, for which Dante fought for the white, and losing side, and later exiled.
I believe that further research into this area could benefit me greatly since learned that there were Guelephs that did not choose a side when the faction split. This could possibly relate to the first circle of hell, where there the punished chase flags, desperately trying to pick a side. In researching further I hope to better understand how Dante feels about certain sinners, helping to better understand the potentially confusing idea of Dante the Pilgrim, Dante the Poet and Virgil the Guide and how all of this is influenced in the Inferno.

Inferno- Reflective Statement

How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

I think that through the oral presentation, I gained a deeper insight into Dante’s Inferno. We explored Dante’s life and career, Christian theology in relation to Dante’s inferno, earlier and later depictions of hell, as well as numerology- how Dante used numbers in the Inferno, and why he did that.

By looking at Dante’s life, I learnt that he was born into a politically powerful family and was quite well off. As he grew up, he was greatly involved in politics. Dante was part of the White Guelph, which opposed the corrupt actions of Pope Boniface VIII. He was the leader of the delegation which was supposed to investigate Pope Boniface’s intentions. In the Inferno, Dante stated that Pope Boniface VIII was due in hell, and this was probably where he got this impression from. From here, I can see that when Dante was writing The Divine Comedy, he made use of people he knew and met before and heard of before. He judged them and determined where he thought they would fit into the whole scheme of the christian after world.

Dante was a Christian, and I originally thought that he would write from a typical christian’s perspective. However, his view of hell was quite different from those depicted in the old and new testaments of the bible. Those images of hell were typically dark, hot, with a monster or demon torturing the sinners physically. However, in Dante’s hell, we see how a sinner’s punishment is the sin that they’ve committed, and that some circles are hot while other’s are cold. Dante’s hell can be said to represent Pagan Greek and Roman mythology instead.

This actually can be said to represent Dante’s idea that the Classical and Christian world were one and the same, with the same God above. Dante also used the number 3 a lot in the Inferno- 3 main divisions, three ditches in some circles. The number three is a very important in both Greek culture (Three Fates) and Christian theology (Holy Trinity).

I think that through understanding Dante’s life and beliefs, as well as other views on Dante’s Inferno and of hell, I am better able to understand the cultural and contextual considerations of the Inferno

Dante Reflective Statement

How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

During the interactive oral, we were presented information about the life of Dante Alighieri, Christian theology, other depictions of hell and numerology.  More precisely, we discussed how the aforementioned related to that which we had read in Dante’s Inferno.

Previously I had not given much thought to the background of Dante but after learning more about his past, I could see how it may have influenced his work.  We learned that, in the late 13th century, Dante was involved in the development of the ‘sweet new style’ of writing.  This type of writing was very poetic and full of self reflection.  While Inferno did not possess the same level of intricacy as the ‘sweet new style’ Dante was a part of, I still noticed a lot of self reflection – and now I knew how Dante came to write like so.

While discussing Christian theology’s role in Inferno I learned that not all Christian theologists agreed with Dante’s divisions of the sinners in Hell.  However, the differences in their views were minor and I thought they could be attributed to Dante’s insistence on incorporating the classical world with the Christian.  For example, we saw that in Christianity limbo typically has only original sinners while Dante also includes virtuous pagans.

When looking at earlier depictions of hell we saw that it was mostly full of the typical dark pit, flames and torture.  What most developed my understanding of the context of representations of hell was when we discussed examples of later depictions of hell such as the French play No Exit.  While this play was far more modern in setting, I felt that it’s representation of self-torture in hell to be very similar to the idea conveyed by Dante that the sinner is essentially torturing himself by committing said sin.  Therefore, earlier depictions of hell were more similar to Inferno in setting while later ones developed the moral implications of punishment in hell.  In this respect, I learned how, contextually, Dante was ahead of his time with his portrayal of morality in hell.

I think Dante’s Inferno was heavily tied to all of these cultural and contextual considerations and the discussion of them greatly enhanced my understanding and appreciation of the many nuances Dante weaved into his writing.