SCC English

Podcasts from the English Department of St Columba’s College, Dublin, Ireland

Our 21st podcast features ten quotations from King Lear; you can pause your computer or MP3 player after each, and test yourself on who spoke the words, and their context, and then listen to the answers and a commentary on the quotation. These commentaries examine the quotations as key moments in the play, linking them to the rest of the text, and again trying to prompt fresh reflection on the themes and characters.

Our 20th podcast is the third in a series of revision sessions on King Lear, prior to the Leaving Certificate. This talk examines the role of two minor but important characters in the play, the Dukes of Kent and Albany, and how they affect the central story and its themes. Both are decent men; while Albany needs to travel on a path of moral development, Kent is the most clear-sighted and steadfast character in the play. In the end, however, their decency cannot prevent the tragedy.

Our 19th podcast is the second in a series of revision talks on King Lear, prior to the Leaving Certificate in early June. The first one examined Act I scene i. This second podcast looks at the extreme bleakness of Shakespeare's vision in the play, especially through its treatment of religion and the gods. The gods are often invoked in King Lear, and on the surface in it ancient Britain seems to be a highly religious society. But in fact there is no stage at which heaven seems to be active or effective. The play disabuses its audience of the notion that there is any benevolent power above which will protect us from ourselves.

Our 18th podcast is the first in a series of weekly revision talks on Shakespeare's King Lear, leading up to the Leaving Certificate in early June. Like last year's Macbeth revision podcasts, these are designed to freshen up thinking. Each lasts about 10-15 minutes. The first King Lear talk examines the explosive and crucial opening scene, during which the King sets in train the disastrous train of events which leads to personal and public catastrophe.

Our 17th podcast is the second in a series dealing with individual poems on the Leaving Certificate course (following the first on Yeats's 'The Wild Swans at Coole'). This one deals with 'This Moment' by the contemporary Irish poet Eavan Boland, examining how this apparently simple lyric achieves its memorable impact, and quoting from Boland's own comments and other writing.

Blogging in Schools

Our 16th podcast since we started six months ago is a joint effort with the Science Department's Frog Blog, in which teachers Jeremy Stone, Humphrey Jones and Julian Girdham discuss the value and purpose of blogging in schools, particularly for subject departments. The podcast (or, as the scientists call it, 'frogcast') may be of particular interest to teachers, since there's lots of advice here on how blogging can enhance teaching and learning in schools. The discussion examines the way blogging has widened the reach of teaching and learning in both the Science and English Departments at St Columba's.

Our fifteenth podcast is the first of this academic year, and is also the first in a series of podcasts on individual poems on the Higher Level Leaving Certificate course. This one is on W.B. Yeats's poem 'The Wild Swans at Coole', and sets the poem in its literary and historical background.

The second volume of Roy Foster's biography, which is quoted in the podcast, is The Arch-Poet. The Yeats exhibition at the National Library of Ireland, is open now, and the website is here (you can see the manuscript of 'Wild Swans' online by searching). Coole Park's website is here.

Podcast 14: our final podcast of this academic year, just in time for some satisfying holiday reading, is an interview with former colleague John Fanagan, who talks about Henry James's great 1881 novel The Portrait of a Lady. Set in England and Italy, the book examines the progress of the innocent American young woman Isabel Archer, as she comes into contact with the ways of an older civilisation. John discusses other characters in the novel, such as Ralph Touchett, Lord Warburton, Madame Merle, Henrietta Stacpoole and the dark Gilbert Osmond. There's a spoiler warning before the last few minutes of the podcast, in which the infamous ending is discussed, so if you haven't already read the novel, you might like to pause it then, and return later.

Our 13th podcast is an interview with the Artistic Director of the Actiontrack Performance Company, Nick Brace. Actiontrack have been coming to us since 1993, working with II formers in March, and with Transition Year in particular at the end of each year in 'showbuilds'. Nick discusses the process in which a musical production is created from scratch in five days, involving song-writing, singing, dancing, set design and of course acting. He also talks about Actiontrack's work generally, including local work in Somerset with schools, youth groups and communities. Actiontrack's website is here.

Our 12th podcast is an interview with Department member Evan Jameson, about the highly successful part he look in the Balally Players' production of Tom MacIntyre's The Great Hunger, his 1983 adaptation of the epic poem by Patrick Kavanagh (the first part of the poem is on the Leaving Certificate course). We reviewed this here six months ago. Evan discusses the rehearsal process for this very physical piece of drama, the nature of the writing itself, and the experience of going to amateur drama festivals around the country, culminating in the All-Ireland finals in Athlone last month, where the production achieved 4th place.

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