Understanding AO2 (A Level English Literature)

Uploaded by freeeschool on 25.08.2012

Hello and welcome to the third video in the series ‘Understanding Assessment Objectives
in English Literature AS and A2’. In this video we’re going to be looking at assessment
objective 2.
This assessment objective focuses on your ability to use literary skills that is using
literary techniques and understanding to analyse texts closely and show a good understanding
of what authors intended when they were writing their poems, plays or novels. So objective
2 focuses on showing your critical understanding; that’s using those technical terms, analysing
a range of texts; so that’s looking at plays, poetry drama, non-fiction, fiction and so
on; talking about how they work and why they’ve been written in the way they have and then
analysing and evaluating – that’s weighing up – how the writer’s use of structure,
form and language shape the meanings within these texts and create impressions and ideas
in the mind of the reader.
As I said before, as you can see here as well, Examiners are really, really concerned that
candidates understand the difference between poetry, prose and drama. You should know these
by now anyway if you’re embarking on AS or A2 courses because you’d have learnt
it in GCSE. Poetry obviously is verse – that can be blank verse, sonnets, odes, epics and
so on. Prose is written in paragraphs and often involves informative speech so it’s
novels, short stories, journals, recounts, travelogue and so on, and drama which is written
in scripts. It’s important that you understand these areas and why writers use different
techniques within the different genres. But understanding it also means that you have
to build on the knowledge that you gained at GCSE, so it’s no good just reading these
things and pointing out ‘oh there’s a simile, there’s a metaphor’ and so on
or ‘the writer has used personification here’, you’ve got to have a deeper understanding
of how they work within the form, why the author has used them, what effects they were
trying to create, how it reflects upon their ideas and philosophy, how they’re trying
to influence the reader and so on. So there’s a lot of deep understanding that you need
to gain and you need to be able to learn how to analyse these texts when you’re shown
them. Of course some of the AS and A2 courses they give you unseen texts so they expect
you to use this AO2 skill very well and in depth and then use AO1 - which I talked about
in the previous video – to express this understanding and analysis.
In AO2 Examiners identify three major problems. So first of all, this often happens in coursework
when students are asked to compare pieces or in essays under exam conditions when they’re
supposed to compare two poems for example, or poems by the same author, or they’re
given unseen writing and they are meant to use in there synoptic skills – that’s
the skills they’ve learned over the whole of their course – able to analyse a whole
range of texts – prose, poetry and drama.
So the first problem that they indicate is that candidates respond to the text in a narrative
way, just telling the story, telling the Examiner exactly what’s already happened in the story.
You’re not being asked to write a summary, you’re being asked to analyse, say how and
why these things are there, why they’ve been done.
They have problems with technical terminology; it’s not just metaphors and similes but
also the language of grammar, the actual technical language that identifies what’s going on
in language; stylistics and so on. If these terms are strange to you that means you need
to go away and identify different areas where you’ve got a lack of knowledge but mostly
your teachers will show you how to understand the way that language is used. You must keep
notes and you must keep up. The whole idea then is to not play ‘spot the term’.
And some candidates have problems identifying and analysing uses of form and structure.
Why for example use a sonnet? Why the 14 lines? Why the rhyme scheme? Why the run on lines?
Why the breaks in the middle of the line? Why has the poet done this? You need to be
able to link your understanding of the themes and content of the piece of writing you’re
looking at to the actual devices used by the author.
In responses they can tend to be too narrative, there’s no analysis, you’re not telling
the Examiner or your teacher how or why something is being done, you’re just re-telling the
plot, re-telling the story, talking about characters as if they are real people. That
is basically a U at AS and A2. You need to build on your understanding of what you gained
at GCSE.
And the of course, you can’t explore or analyse if you don’t link what’s being
written to the author’s intentions. What was the author trying to do? How does it link
to its time? Here we have AO2 linking very much to AO3 and AO4. AO3 is a comparison between
texts and AO4 is its context; when it was written, how it reflects the thoughts and
feelings of the people who wrote it at that particular time and how it links to our time
Again, returning to this idea of terminology, just pointing out features, not explaining
how they work, not analysing their use or personification and why it was done, what
it was meant to reveal, the layers of meaning.
And then finally, not understanding the form and structure of the different genres. Why
are stage directions and stage craft used in certain dramas? Why is rhyme used in certain
poems? Why does an author use an ellipsis at the end of a paragraph? If you don’t
understand the structure, you won’t be able to analyse it and you won’t be able to employ
Below then we have an A example of AO2. I have taken this out – it obviously uses
other assessment objectives for example, AO1, the ability to write critically, coherently
and clearly like I talked about in the last video. So again here we have it. This paragraph
again begins with a good discourse marker, comparing one paragraph with the next and
it’s talking about Shakespeare’s play, ‘As You Like It’ and the relationship
between Orlando and Rosalyn. So here we’re talking about Shakespeare’s intention, linking
it to the model of the drama, linking it to actually – and here we’ve got AO2 moving
into AO3 comparison with other texts – linking it to a convention that informs the play itself,
the pastoral and the love poem.
There is a clear, deep analysis of the use of language and how that that language is
exaggerated/fantasised classical world and again, technical language here is employed
to explain Shakespeare’s intentions, it’s not here to just be listed, so the candidate
does not write just about rhetorical and elevated language and leaves it but actually links
it to the intentions of the writer and links it to the conventions of the drama and its
particular theme here, the pastoral idyll.
Finally, the candidate quotes a critical source which shows their particular understanding
of AO2 in its depth, because here in AO2 you are also meant to take into account other
peoples’ readings, other academics’ readings, other writers’ readings of a particular
form of writing and here we have it again and it links in again, using AO1, links in
very well with the quotation, links in very well with the point that’s made at the beginning
of the paragraph and reinforces their argument and evaluates their argument by talking about
this idea of ‘a conscious artifice’. Note the high level language, basically talking
about that Shakespeare was conscious of the fact and very well aware that he was using
language that might seem a little bit out of its time and old fashioned, in order to
show that he’s representing a world that’s not completely realistic.
So you can see then, AO2 really is important. It supports AO1 and the rest of the AOs. AO2
is essential for answering questions on unseen poetry, prose and drama. It’s essential
in understanding authors’ intentions and it’s essential in building your response
to any question about how a writer has gone about producing a play, a poem or a novel.