When Wordsworth wrote that ‘we murder to dissect’, I wonder if he had literary criticism in mind. We’ve all been guilty of it at some time: the kind of analysis that offers an empty identification of devices, the hunt for symbols, the straining for contextual relevance or the falsely balanced argument that lacks conviction to do anything but sit on the interpretive fence. Such approaches are usually born of the best intentions — it’s just that having a heightened consciousness of assessment objectives (AOs) and a determination to demonstrate them sometimes results in leaving the text and what it means behind.
As the quotation from Wordsworth suggests, an overzealous poring over individual parts can damage our appreciation of the whole. Here, we recommend you avoid that by responding to texts and tasks in ways that put overall meaning first: to allow the question to guide you to meaningful responses that articulate convincing arguments and address the AOs effortlessly — without ‘murdering’ the text.
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