LETTERS TO ALICE:ON FIRST READING JANE AUSTEN By Fay Weldon. Edited by Jennifer Smith. Cambridge University Press Pounds 5.95.
These two additions to the Cambridge Literature series offer a wealth of supporting material which includes biographical detail, the placing of the texts in their literacy context and student activities.
While the introduction states that the series is aimed at "students in schools and colleges", the scholarly tone of the Frankenstein edition in particular makes its most likely audience A-level students and undergraduates.
The language of the Weldon edition is more accessible. This inconsistency of approach in the accompanying notes, despite the common format, could preclude the series from establishing a clear identity in the minds of teachers.
This also applies to the student activities. Although some are imaginative and challenging - writing reviews and letters for different audiences, a serialisation for television, conducting a mock trial or comparing Frankenstein with the film Edward Scissorhands - others seem vague or over-ambitious without more structured guidance.
The activities also tend to be mixed in with the study notes and little thought has been paid to presentation or, in some cases, to offering advice on how the tasks might be carried out.
Perhaps the English department would be better off with a class set of a cheaper edition and purchasing one copy of the CUP text as a stimulus for ideas and activities.
Mandy Watts is head of English at Mill Hill County High School, north London