Scared of Lit Crit?

Please log in to view tutor details
A-level Spanish By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Spanish » A-level Spanish
Last updated: 15/02/2018
Tags: lit crit, literary critcism, spanish a-level

Criticising a Set Text with Confidence

(With reference to Spanish A Level)

One of the elements of the modern languages A level exam is that it seems to scare a large number of students faced with the task of writing a literary critique of a set text, or film. This need not be the case. With clear thinking and a structured approach you can develop your analysis with confidence and, at the same time, you will discover how much this enhances your enjoyment of the text, or film, you are studying.

Make a start by following my six step formula and after a while you will find the process comes to you naturally.  

At the heart of the formula is the importance of reading the question?  By this, I mean really reading it and thinking about the meaning of its every key word. This is where you have your first opportunity to take control of your answer.

Take, for example, the following question on the Edexcel Spanish A Level Set Text - Requiem por un campesino español:  

‘Paco es demasiado ingenuo para ser un héroe creíble. Muere por ideas   simplistas y superficiales. Estás de acuerdo? (Paco is too naïve to be a credible hero. He dies for simplistic and superficial ideas. Do you agree?)

Step one - to take control of your answer, the first thing you do is to set out your definition of the key words in this question and by doing so you pick out the conflict at the heart of the debate ie hero versus naïve, simplistic/superficial. It is your call to say what is a hero, but one would expect qualities such as leadership, bravery, role-model or a representative of ideals to which we all aspire. From this alone, you can now see how naivety and shallow ideas do not fit comfortably with the idea of a hero. This now gives you a clear for and against argument to develop.

Step two - now you relate your central discussion to the book or film. You will summarise the story in one sentence. Please do not start telling the story as that will not advance the debate. With this example, we simply say that Requiem por un campesino español, is a short novel related by a priest in pre-Civil War Spain who betrays his young anti-establishment protégé, Paco, to the authoritarian, repressive regime that will execute him. You should explain briefly the context against which your text is set: here the key to understanding the story is your knowledge of the split in Spain between progressive reformists battling hopelessly against the twin powers of State and Church for whom change is not an option.

Steps 3 to 4 now you develop both sides of your debate. With the question we are looking at here, your focus will be on the aspects of the novel that show Paco’s hero-like desires to help the under-privileged versus the elements that show his lack of understanding of the forces against him. Always back up your points with evidence from the text and some quotations. Avoid long-winded examples. Your approach is like a camera, zooming in and out – you make a statement for one side of your debate (hero or naïve) and you back it up with a detail from the text.

Step 5 - set your debate against the bigger picture. All classical works give us an important commentary on a major topic. With the above example, the commentary was on the forces that were dividing Spain and how these affected its development and its people for decades to follow. You always need to look for the message in a work and a good critique draws on appropriate detail to illustrate how the “artist” communicates this message to his audience.

Step 6 - is your wrapping up of the key points of your argument and the timeless relevance of this central debate, across nations and timespans.

A work becomes a classic through its universality. This is what you are seeking to show in your critique.


Victoria Franklin A-level French Tutor (Kingston upon Thames)

About The Author

Qualified and experienced teacher. My personalised, relaxed and experience tuition advances French, Spanish or Latin at a pace that works for each student.

Tutors Wanted

  • Physics, Chemistry Tutor GCSE Redditch Face to Face, not Online
  • English Tutor for 9 yo Girl West London Gen. comprehension and essay technique
  • 11 Plus tutor Leeds Passionate Teacher needed
  • GCSE History tutor wanted Blackeath SE3 Lessons take place at student's home
  • PhD thesis writing tutor UK or Europe Holds a PhD in Health
  • French Teacher Wed 3.10- 4.10 Kingston, London Start 6th June DBS police check needed
  • Economics and Politics tutor Online or Central London Cambridge Pre-U
View tutor jobs
Tutors: Download your free e-book!