Empathy for writers facilitates appreciation of Literature!


When we read different writer’s works, it helps if we are able to empathise with them  – their life, the struggles they have. Writers possess character flaws, of which some can be considered alarming, hence making readers and students empathising with them a challenge. Take for example, Ibsen. Despite  his glittering career and the timeless appeal of his works, Ibsen abandoned his mother for all the great concern about women and their situation shown in most of his works. He only resumed contact with his younger sister when they were both in their twilight years. Tsk tsk tsk, how could he do that? Even more incriminating was the tragic fact that his mother was bullied and

stomped upon by his father throughout their entire marriage until his father’s death. Ibsen witnessed it when he was living in  his family house. But then Ibsen’s literary genius remains spellbinding and to appreciate his works, it helps to understand that he is an aloof character.  And although he did not show any concern for his mother during his illustrious years, he was a man ahead of his time and his works are admired and studied by writers after him and of course by students from all over.

Then of course how can i ignore Edgar Allan Poe who achieved posthumous fame but was variously regarded as a practical joker, fraud, a foolish drunkard and worst of all an unbalanced and sadistic criminal. He would have frightened the daylights out of many of us if we had him for our neighbour or relative! Sorry that I am taking great liberty here to drive home a point! But then if we know his tragic life – he lost his parents at a tender age of 4,  he struggled with poverty throughout his entire time – even at the height of his fame and his enormous reputation in France, he was still living on the cusp of impoverishment and his untimely demise at the age of forty make it less difficult to put aside our judgment and appreciate his works and even view him in a sympathetic light.




New year new titles and what is so special about the Lit tuition here?


20140201_204733[1]A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

Adding a new title is a lot of work but it demonstrates my commitment to help as many students as possible.

There are many special features of the Literature sessions. Some of them are as follows:

  • no downloading of online materials from Wikipedia, Sparknotes or Bookrags.
  • no simple relating of events in the book

Instead there will be:

  • understanding the contexts. – relating the texts to certain periods such as modernism, postmodernism, naturalist theatre, etc and to the events and cultural phenomena of the period in which the texts are set.
  • detailed analysis and interpretation of events, actions and dialogue
  • mapping of literary and cultural theories onto the reading of the texts
  • analysing questions and practising answering them.


A-level Literature Tuition matters


A-level Literature is not for the faint-hearted. This paper is ten times more difficult than the IB Lit paper or for that matter the IB English HL paper. In the same vein, tutoring this subject is not for the weak-hearted either. This is not an easy or fast way to earn money. Is that why I do not have much competition in this area? Too much work for the tutor? Definitely! All it takes is for the tutor to teach 4 students and the poor dear will be inundated with at least 15 different texts all at the same time! Scary thought, right? Yes definitely. Unlike History at H2 in which the same set of  materials can be used for all H2 History students from all the JCs on the island, for Literature this is definitely not the case! Unless there some students from the same JC, it is a set of different texts for each student.

Most tutors who do H1 and H2 Literature are obviously tutoring other levels and so parents need to know that the tutors do not multiple time slots for JC students. In other words, the students do not have different time slots to choose from. Not for these few months anyway because I am busy, 

Are parents cognizant of the amount of effort that a tutor has to put into helping their college children? Have they seen the number of text options for each paper? Do they know that even when two schools are doing the same paper, they can be using different texts? And usually they do use different texts! I have placed a link to SEAB here to show them the number of texts available for schools to choose for each paper.

And this is why I do not like taking students in on the eve of CAs or SAs. There is a lot of back end work to do and  besides a student needs to give the tutor time before he or she can see results.

Having said that, I want my students to enjoy the subject and in teaching this demanding syllabus, I prefer to teach my student to engage in interpretation rather than analysis. I  find it more applicable to learning Literature and mastering the subject. Interpretation according to Nietzsch is everything, and I secretly believe that those who can interpret are much smarter. When you interpret, you enter a higher plane. Interpretation happens when you take into account the context, the cultural and political history of that period and the text to form insights and construct meanings. 

I have written many times before that applying literary theories is essential to doing well for this paper. And of course, close reading of the text is a must too. Close reading is a skill. Some do close reading and see nothing while others do it and are able to decipher and extract meanings and make interpretations. 

Call me if you like to find out more but I only have a few time slots for JC students and I do not travel to the student’s place and I am unable to teach all the texts. My students know it and they accept it. This is because they know it is next to impossible to find a tutor who can teach all 7 texts. I have told a few parents who want that that I can never be able to help their college children. So far most students engage my services even when I am unable to teach two to three texts. Be ready to tell me the texts you are doing when you contact me so that I can let you know whether I can help you. Chances are that there are one to two texts that I am unable to handle because I do not have the time to reread them.

I am honest about whether I can help a student based on the demands of the parents and if the answer is no today, it will be no even in six months’ time or the following year. For these parents, I encourage them to contact the tuition agencies for help.

In the meantime if you are willing to accept that there may be some texts that I cannot teach because I do not have the time to read them, you can call me. 🙂