a) Text: Hard Times – Charles Dickens
Pre-reading activities focus on student research into the contexts in which the novel was produced: Dickens’ biography and his childhood experiences in London and Kent, the Industrial Revolution and its effects, Victorian Britain and problems of hardship. While reading the novel, students discuss comments on characterisation, themes, setting, narrative techniques and reader response. The focus on themes: power corrupts, man’s inhumanity to man, social inequality, gender issues, man vs. nature
b) Text: Atonement – Ian McEwan
There is focus on contexts and comparison. Pre-reading activities focus on student research into the contexts in which the novel was produced: growing up in the early 20th century, WW2 and its impact, particularly in France, London in the 1990’s. There is a focus on language and form: changing narrative perspective, use of imagery, different time periods, and reportage.
For both texts students complete essays on key aspects of the novel – e.g. characterisation, effects of narrative techniques, writer’s exploration of themes – always linking to the contexts in which the novel was produced and is received.