Friday, 14 February 2014

‘The Great Gatsby’: A Truly Great Day!

On December 3rd last, forty-six fifth year students made a most enjoyable and educational trip to the Irish Film Institute in Dublin. All are studying F.Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ as their single text for Leaving Certificate English 2015. This will be the first time since 2001, the inaugural year of the current examination format that higher level students have elected not to study a Shakespearean work as their single text. It is thus a landmark of sorts for Loreto, Navan. Never fear though, Shakespeare has not been abandoned completely! Either ‘Othello’ or ‘King Lear’ is being taught as part of the comparative studies instead.

The screening of Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 production of ‘The Great Gatsby’ was the focal point of the ‘expedition’ but the vast majority of students also opted to dress in the style of the 1920’s when invited to do so by The  IFI. Some chose the glamorous, thoroughly modern flapper-girl look, recreating the youthful optimism of the ‘Jazz Age’ to perfection. Others opted for the more conservative and understated elegance of colonial-style dressing: more akin to ‘Downtown Abbey’ reserve than to the razzle-dazzle of the New York jazz club. (Pictorial evidence attached!)

Before the screening, one of the IFI’s Education Officers addressed the group; congratulating it for the accuracy of its sartorial efforts and delivering a short lecture on both the social context of the film and the stylistic features of its director, the aforementioned Baz Luhrmann.

The directorial presence of Luhrmann (whose previous works include’ William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Moulin Rouge’) is unmistakable in almost every scene of the film. Indeed some may regard this omnipresence of the director as somewhat intrusive: the film is, at times, more Luhrmann’s   ‘Gatsby’ than Fitzgerald’s! It is simultaneously a gorgeous and opulent feast for the eyes and paradoxically, a gaudy riot of vulgar and exaggerated technicolour.  There are certain shots which are almost cartoon-like in appearance. There are those, of course, who would claim that this is exactly as Fitzgerald intended! The deliberate anachronism of the contemporary soundtrack is similarly admired by some, criticised by others. Yet it certainly serves as an effective aural link between the hedonism of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and the very recent excesses of the pre-recession Western World.

There are solid but unexceptional performers by all the major players. (Leonardo Di Caprio, Carey Mulligan, Toby Maguire.)  Luhrmann’s critics claim that Luhrmann himself is always the star of his own shows! Some changes have been made to both the plot and to the characters –Nick’s narrative is delivered to his psychiatrist who encourages him to write as part of his therapy! Gatsby’s father does not appear at his funeral and Wilson is so filthy and stupid as to be almost entirely unworthy of our sympathy! Myrtle is more bawdy than voluptuously seductive.

All told, the film lacks the political bite of the novel! The Daisy-Gatsby love story is primary and any political allegory is secondary if not entirely absent! F.Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is a marvellous and witty satire of 1920’s America – a bitter indictment of the concept of the ‘American Dream’. Luhrmann may purposefully have chosen to play down this element of the novel – commercial necessity usually trumps artistic endeavour in Hollywood!

Did any of this affect the pleasure of the outing? Not a jot! We revelled in the attention on Dame Street: bystanders literally gaping as they witnessed dozens of ‘flappers’ and ‘aristos’ making their way to the screening on a cold and drizzly winter morning!  The soup and sandwiches which were served to us in the IFI’s ‘members only section’ were beautifully presented but alas not entirely relished! Apparently the sandwich-fillings were authentically 1920’s- style fillings. We didn’t enjoy them! Mrs. Ryan-Widdis made a noble attempt to disguise our ignorance as feminine daintiness (typical of the genteel Loreto girl). However, no such ethereal feminity was in evidence as we dived into the more contemporary and no doubt plebeian offerings of the nearby ‘Spar’! A girl must eat...even on a bus!

Many thanks to Mrs Ryan-Widdis who organised the trip and to both Ms Delaney and Mrs Ryan- Widdis who accompanied us on the day.  Both were in 1920’s attire. Ms Delaney was so unrecognisable in her blonde bob that she was not identifiable even to her own students! (Amusing anecdote deliberately omitted here!) Somehow there is no pictorial evidence of our teachers. It would seem that they are rather more reserved than the rest of us! Thanks also to Ms Marsh and Mrs Ryan who made the trip possible and who were there to admire us before our early morning departure!

Finally a word of congratulations to both Lisa Murray and Tara Walsh who won prizes for most independently-sourced and original costumes on the day. ‘The Great Gatsby’: a truly great day!

Allie Hughes, 5th year
Eppie Guinane, 5th year


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Charles Dickens' Birthday

Tomorrow, February 7th, would have been Charles Dickens' 202nd birthday!  He was born in 1812 in Portsmouth, England. Over the course of his writing career, he wrote the beloved classic novels Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. On June 9, 1870, Dickens died of a stroke in Kent, England, leaving his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished.  

Click on the short video below to find out more information on the life of Charles Dickens:

To read more about the life of Charles Dickens, please click on the link below:
Biography of Charles Dickens

Monday, 20 January 2014

1st Year Novel: "The Twelfth Day of July"

The 1st year students are reading 'The Twelfth Day of July' by Joan Lingard for their class novel.  Some of the girls have enjoyed the novel so much that they are already reading the second novel, 'Across the Barricades'. Class Alma's finished reading the novel just before Christmas and have created 'Character Boxes' for the main characters of the novel and also designed some new covers for the novel.  Have a look at their work...



If you would like to read some of their thoughts on the novel, please visit their reading blog:

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Many of our Leaving Certs are studying John B. Keane's 'Sive' either as part of their comparative study or as their single study text and lucky for them, the Abbey Theatre is staging a production of this fantastic play from February 12th until April 12th 2014.

Isn’t it only bringing two people together in wedlock we are?
-Thomasheen Sean Rua

Sive is a beautiful young woman. She lives with her aunt and uncle in rural Kerry. They view Sive as a burden until a local matchmaker convinces them of her worth. Under his influence they determine to marry her to an elderly farmer Seán Dóta. This story of greed and social status in 1950s Ireland was John B. Keane’s first play. 

Click here for more details:

Saturday, 16 November 2013

'Macbeth' Podcasts

The link below will prove an invaluable study tool for our 6th years studying 'Macbeth'.  The link will bring you to a series of podcasts from Alan Stanford (Actor, Director and Writer) along with RTE Radio 1.  The podcasts are recorded discussions with previous Leaving Cert Students commenting on the main characters, themes and key moments in the play.
It is well worth a listen and we highly recommend our Leaving Certs to download the MP3s, stick them on your phone or ipod so that you can listen to them while out for a walk!

Here's the link:
RTE 'Macbeth' Podcast



Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson appears on the 2014 and 2015 Leaving Certificate curriculum.  Ever the popular poet due to her unique style of writing, the following links may prove helpful to all our 5th and 6th year students who are studying her poetry.

A video of Dickinson's poem, 'I heard a Fly Buzz - when I died'

A detailed biography of Emily Dickinson:

A fantastic website from Harvard University that contains images of Dickinson's manuscripts:

Notes on Dickinson's poetry from The Dublin School of Grinds

BBC 'Great Lives' episode on Dickinson's life and poetry (30 minutes long)

Monday, 21 October 2013

New 1st Year Book Review Blog!

All of our 1st year English classes are enjoying their 'Library Day' which occurs during one of the English classes each and every week.  At the beginning of the year, each girl contributed a least one novel to their Class Library.  On their chosen Library Day, girls are able to choose and then read their novel over the coming weeks.  Each 1st year is encouraged to read at least one novel each term and once they have finished their novel, they then write up a short review to share their thoughts with their classmates.  One class, Class Almas, have created a book review blog which they have called, 'Chapter by Chapter'.  They have been posting fantastic reviews of the novels they have read since starting 1st year.  So please click on the link and become inspired by our 1st years to pick up a novel and begin reading!