Amy versus Walter; Amy Winehouse: From Crisis to Crisis

Daily Mail (London), May 28, 2008 | Go to article overview

Amy versus Walter; Amy Winehouse: From Crisis to Crisis


Byline: ANDREW LEVY

THEY are the some of the foremost figures in English literature -Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth and Raleigh.

Now Amy Winehouse has been elevated alongside them - after her work wasincluded in a Cambridge University exam.

Third-year English students asked to compare extracts by literary giants intheir practical criticism paper were surprised to find one of the drugaddictsinger's songs included.

Love Is a Losing Game was in a question with Sir Walter Raleigh's poem As YouCame From The Holy Land, written in 1592.

While some academics defended its inclusion yesterday, Nick Seaton, of theCampaign for Real Education, said: 'This is another case of dumbing down. Itseems the examiners are trying to be trendy rather than ensure that the examcovers traditional classical literature.

'This has already become commonplace in school exams such as GCSEs and A-levelsand it is creeping into undergraduate level teaching as well.

If they are using Amy Winehouse now, certain contempt for the world as then whoare they going to use next?' A student who sat the paper said: 'It was reallybizarre. I sat there looking at the paper in shock. I wouldn't consider acontroversial pop singer a literary figure.' As well as being a famousexplorer, Raleigh was considered one of the foremost poets of the Elizabethanera.

His work often expressed a contemptus mundi (contempt for the world) attitude.

The favoured courtier of Elizabeth I composed in a straightforward andunornamented fashion known as the plain style.

C S Lewis would pay him the compliment of describing him as one of the era's'silver poets'.

Winehouse has also demonstrated a certain contempt for the world as she veersfrom one drug-addled crisis to another.

She was recently secretly filmed at her East London home, smoking crack andsnorting cocaine.

Meanwhile her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, faces charges of grievous bodilyharm and has been on remand in prison since November.

Students who sat the paper last Thursday were also asked to compare the Raleighpoem with two other songs - Fine and Mellow, by blues singer Billie Holiday,and Boots of Spanish Leather by Bob Dylan.

The exam question said: 'The Oxford English Dictionary defines "lyric" as 'ofor pertaining to the lyre; adapted to the lyre, meant to be sung".' It alsoquotes Ruskin's maxim: 'Lyric poetry is the expression by the poet of his ownfeelings.' Students were then asked to compare the Raleigh poem with one or twoof the song lyrics - with reference to these diverse senses of 'lyric'.

Jonathan Bate, a professor in English and comparative literary studies at TheUniversity of Warwick, defended the exam question yesterday. …

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