The Commentary - a rough guide
What is a 'commentary'?
A commentary is a close analysis of a passage or a short work. More than a summary, it must investigate both the content and the language, i.e. WHAT the passage/poem achieves and HOW it achieves it, and the relationship they have with each other. It describes the writer's intentions, effects and how he or she accomplishes them.
In addition to detailed analytical skills, you need also to demonstrate an ability to construct a line of interpretation. This, if you like, represents the sense you make of the passage - the argument that all your analytical points help to prove. A thesis works a but like a funnel - you begin your analysis broadly and then as the commentary moves onwards, you begin to channel your points in a particular direction, tying them all together at the end.
In this way you are able to score good marks for 'independent engagement' and 'personal response'.
Both written and oral commentaries can follow the same basic approach and format, but you must remember to. adjust the commentary to the nature of the passage.
How do I begin the process?
The most important thing here is to read, re-read and re-read again, each time fine tuning your eye and your brain into different component parts. Annotating should be a record of your imaginative journey through and around the passage - and as such, may well draw attention to things you are not sure about as well as things you think you are. Therefore, list questions about words/lines that are problematic as you come across them.
To start with, try asking some basic questions about the passage:
1. What is the subject?
2. What are the significant aspects of content? i.e.:
• Does it explore aspects of character?
• Does it explore relationships?
• Does it make use of setting?
• What ideas...
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