More classic insights

30th October 1998 at 00:00
Literature Study Books
Edited by Sue Hackman, Alan Howe and Patrick Scott.

by Thomas Hardy
Edited by Chris Marshall.

By William Shakespeare
Edited by Jo Shackleton

By J B Priestley.
Edited by Jean Moore and John Catron
Hodder #163;1.99 each

Hodder English has established itself deservedly as a major language resource in secondary schools and its range of literature study books, aimed at GCSE, marks out a significant difference from its rivals. The books seek to provide a full range of activities and insights into a growing corpus of frequently selected texts.

They have a lot of good competition: there is a strong consensus now on what constitutes worthwhile literary study at key stage 4. Are there intrinsic virtues in these books which make them worth having.

I think there is. For a start, they are beautifully produced: sturdily made, finely printed and illustrated, with clear,inviting and highly practical layout. There is an editorial team behind them with a track record known to many teachers, inspiring confidence and producing consistency.

There is care not just for the integrity of the text being studied, but for the methodology used. Pupils respond to the texts with reading, writing, speaking and listening: the indivisibility of English as a subject is never lost sight of.

But what makes the books most worth having is the understanding of the texts themselves: not only in their historical and social contexts, but also as aesthetic objects obeying laws and structures of their own. I recommend them strongly.

Dennis Hamley is a former English adviser for Hertfordshire

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