Principles of Annotation

Commentary of a text gives you an opportunity  to demonstrate detailed and sophisticated understanding and interpretation of a literary work. The  aim is NOT to find ‘the answer’ but to make connections between features in the text and suggest an effect of these features. Commentaries that typically focus on the identification of features without consideration of their effects are rarely insightful. So when commenting, keep two questions in mind:

  1. How does this deepen my broader understanding of the text?
  2. How does this add depth to the thematic ideas I see present?

Approaching commentary from this position moves the task from simply “I can find…” to “these features in combination lead me to think…”

In order to achieve this, we need to work on some skills. Try following some of these activities. Some you should do, others will be more to your preference. You will need to figure out what works for you.

  1. Situate the text. Write a list of atleast 6 bullet points that demonstrates what has lead to this moment in the text (4 points) and what does this moment cause (2 points). Cover the details – who, what, where, when, why?
    1. Identify the setting at this point as it may be important later.
  2. Structure. What stands out about the structure of the text. Start with text type conventions then move towards more specific details.
  3. Mood. What emotions are present in the characters at this point? How does the setting reinforce this?
  4. Imagery. At which points does language become highly descriptive and appeal to the senses?
  5. Figurative or poetic devices. What formal devices are evident?
  6. Tone and Style.

Through this list, you should be able to identify a wide range of features in the text. However, simple identification is not enough. Return to the opening questions.

Image: ‘HIGH GLOSSary

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