Unseen Critical Appreciation

  • S. H. Burton
Part of the Macmillan Work Out Series book series (MCWO)


Note Six of the examining boards set a compulsory paper of this kind. The others offer it as an option. The term ‘unseen’ refers to the fact that candidates are neither assumed nor required to have any previous knowledge of the passages or of their authors. When a passage is taken from work by an established author (of the past or of the present), that particular work is not a set book and, usually, the author is not one of those set for special study in that particular year. Often, the passages are taken from work recently published by writers who are not yet widely known. Again, it is the policy of some boards to print passages without supplying their authors’ names. When that is the practice, candidates may well be required to comment on a passage without recognising that it is by an author of classic status. Or they may be required to compare two passages, one by a famous author and the other by an as yet obscure young writer, without knowing the identity of either. By denying candidates the assistance (or by preserving them from the prejudice) of previous knowledge of the passages, and/or by concealing their writers’ identities, the examiners force them to rely entirely on their own critical resources.


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© S. H. Burton 1986

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  • S. H. Burton

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