30 Apr 2015

Text analysis - the headline and picture (for GCSE English)

'Life expectancy increases
but gap widens between rich and poor'

by Sarah Boseley
GCSE English - question 2: Explain how the headline and picture are effective and how they link to the text. 

The title of the article is big and informative, indicating that the article is based on scientific research, and not going to play on emotions. There are two facts that concern the author: life expectancy and the gap between rich and poor. The huge picture with the building of Bank of England dominates the page, implying that social inequalities are reflected in how long a person is going to live.

The picture of a bank usually means money and problems, the picture of the Bank of England indicates that the nation has been in financial troubles. The researchers from the Imperial College London warn that increasing life expectancy will be 'putting further pressure on pensions, health and social services'.

Two groups of people are represented in the picture: the rich by the huge legs, crossing from the left and the poor by a small figurine of a man walking away, being seen through the gap between the legs. This is a very effective way of visualizing the social gaps, discussed in the article.

The affluent are eating lunch, not much troubled by 'five years of austerity'. They are sitting on the right (right-winged), they are not only richer but also live longer: 'Men in Blackpool can currently expect to live to just 75.2 years, the lowest life expectancy in the country, while those in the City of London – where life expectancy is highest – live an average of 83.4 years,' says the author.

The static right part of the picture is unbalanced by the movement on the left, forcing the reader to look at a small figure of an old man as a symbol of walking away from the prospectus life. He cannot expect to live so long - his life has been shortened by the poor life standards.

The author explains that the current problems with financing the public sectors and plans to privatize NHS may widen these gaps even more, because when 'social conditions have become worse, especially for children and younger people, there has been greater health inequality', hence shorter lives of the poor.

18 Apr 2015

Hope is the thing with feathers on Genius.com

This is a title of  a wonderful Emily Dickinson's poem about Hope, which I have found on a website called Genius. There is nothing special that I found this poem, as there are many websites publishing poetry, as many (some free) publishing the analyses of famous works, too. What makes this website special are annotations, and the motto of the founders 'to annotate the world'. They started with annotating rap songs a few years ago, but nowadays there are not only songs: the website offers annotations to poems, novels and even contemporary articles. And I think that this idea is amazing and highly educational.

Imagine, there is a text, you click on the word or the thought - a box pops up with information on the text, with the meaning of the idea, connotations, pictures, videos and links, and even more. And now imagine that you have, say, a poem and everything inside, needed to understand it, is linked and, therefore, leads you from one thought or source to another and another and another. Like an online dictionary or Wikipedia, but it is you who decide which path to choose, you are an active reader, you may leave a comment or add another annotation. The readers are encouraged to post new texts and annotate them, to contribute to the whole project.

It came to me as an answer to two texts I have read recently; one is a book, 'How to Read a Book' by Charles Van Doren and Mortimer J. Adler, I am still reading it (it is quite long but very powerful) and it concerns the annotations, and the other - an article, 'What I Really Want Is Someone Rolling Around in the Text', by Sam Anderson from 2011, presents the idea about the books not only annotated but also shared with the other readers. So far, the only problem for me is that I cannot see the way to annotate the text only for myself or for my friends. I would not like to publish all my private thoughts to the public, but also when we annotate a text, there are lots of questions to answer in due time, and - what is important - by ourselves, by the readers. So I hope that at some point in the future it would be possible.

And now the poem with the annotations - there is a link to the website.