The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0535 Wednesday, 10 September 2008
From: Susanne Greenhalgh <
Date: Saturday, 06 Sep 2008 09:14:19 +0100
Subject: Carol Ann Duffy's New Shakespeare Poem
Following the controversial removal of a Carol Ann Duffy poem 'Education for
Leisure' from a British exam board GCSE curriculum because it depicts a young
person killing a fly (there is an oblique reference to King Lear) and then going
out with a knife, Duffy has published another poem for the first time in
Saturday's Guardian. It's called 'Mrs Schofield's GCSE' (referring to one of the
complainers, who is a teacher) and is made up of references to violent acts in
You can read it here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/sep/06/poetry.gcses
Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies,
Roehampton University, London.
[Editor's Note: I was intrigued by Susanne's post, so I looked up a bit about
the original poem and the controversy. See the following for details. -Hardy]
1.) Carol Ann Duffy - Study Guide
This guide is written for students and teachers who are preparing for GCSE exams
in English literature. It contains detailed studies of the poems by Carol Ann
Duffy in the AQA Anthology, which is a set text for the AQA's GCSE syllabuses
for English and English Literature Specification A, from the 2004 exam onwards.
[ . . . ]
Carol Ann Duffy was born on December 23 1955, in Glasgow, Scotland's largest
city. Carol Ann was the eldest child, and had four brothers. She was brought up
in Stafford, in the north midlands, where her father was a local councillor, a
parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party in 1983 and manager of Stafford FC,
an amateur football team. Carol Ann Duffy was educated at St. Austin Roman
Catholic Primary School, St. Joseph's Convent School and Stafford Girls' High
School. In 1974 she went Liverpool University, where she read philosophy.
She has worked as a freelance writer in London, after which she moved to live in
Manchester, where she currently (2002) teaches creative writing at the
Metropolitan University. Her first collection of poetry was Standing Female Nude
(1985), followed by Selling Manhattan (1987), The Other Country (1990), Mean
Time (1993), The World's Wife (1999) and The Feminine Gospels (2002). She has
also written two English versions of Grimm's folk tales, and a pamphlet, A
Woman's Guide to Gambling, which reflects her interest in betting.
[ . . . ]
Anne Hathaway (1556-1623) was a real woman - famous for being the wife of
William Shakespeare. (We do know some things about her - she was nine years
older than her husband, but outlived him by seven years. They married in 1582,
when Anne was already pregnant, and had three children together. Although
Shakespeare spent many years working in London, he made frequent visits to their
home in Stratford-upon-Avon.)
In the poem Anne sees her relationship with Shakespeare in terms of his own
writing. She uses the sonnet form (though she does not follow all the
conventions of rhyme or metre) which Shakespeare favoured. She suggests that as
lovers they were as inventive as Shakespeare was in his dramatic poetry - and
their bed might contain "forests, castles, torchlight", "clifftops" and "seas
where he would dive for pearls." These images are very obviously erotic, and Ms.
Duffy no doubt expects the reader to interpret them in a sexual sense. [ . . . ]
Education for Leisure
This powerful poem explores the mind of a disturbed person, who is planning
murder. We do not know if the speaker is male or female, though this barely
seems to matter. What we do know is that he (or she) has a powerful sense of his
own importance, and a greater sense of grievance that no one else notices him.
The poem contrasts the speaker's deluded belief in his own abilities with the
real genius that is creative. We do not know if the poem is based on any real
person, though it has echoes of the true story of the young American woman who
shot dead several of her classmates, and when asked about her reasons answered,
"I don't like Mondays" [ . . . ]
The poem's title seems ironic - we see that the speaker's education has done him
little good. It has not enabled him to find work, nor to cope with the boredom
of enforced "leisure." But this may not be the fault of the school and teachers
- if the response to King Lear is anything to go by (remembering a metaphor to
justify the violence against which it was meant to be a protest).
2.) Poet's rhyming riposte leaves Mrs Schofield 'gobsmacked'
Saturday September 6, 2008
"Today I am going to kill something," says the unnamed protagonist of Carol Ann
Duffy's poem Education for Leisure. "Anything. / I have had enough of being
ignored and today / I am going to play God."
Duffy, one of Britain's most admired poets, might have been tempted this week to
feel the same way, following the news that the exam board AQA had ordered
schools to remove from its GCSE curriculum an anthology containing the poem
because it supposedly glorified knife crime.
[ . . . ]
"What it seems to me to be saying is that Shakespeare - the greatest writer -
some of his stuff is a bit dangerous [too]," Duffy's literary agent Peter
Strauss said yesterday. "It's saying, look at what's been written previously
before you criticise this."
3.) Top exam board asks schools to destroy book containing knife poem
Polly Curtis, education editor
Thursday September 4, 2008
Britain's biggest exam board has been accused of censorship after it removed a
poem containing references to knife crime from the GCSE syllabus.
Officials at the AQA board said their request that schools destroy the anthology
containing the Carol Ann Duffy poem Education for Leisure had been triggered by
concerns in two schools about references to knives. A spokeswoman confirmed the
decision had been made in the context of the current spate of knife-related murders.
[ . . . ]
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook,
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>
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