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English A: Literature – Higher Level

group1The course is built on the assumption that literature is concerned with our conceptions, interpretations and experiences of the world. The study of literature can therefore be seen as an exploration of the way it represents the complex pursuits, anxieties, joys and fears to which human beings are exposed in the daily business of living. It enables an exploration of one of the more enduring fields of human creativity, and provides opportunities for encouraging independent, original, critical and clear thinking. It also promotes respect for the imagination and a perceptive approach to the understanding and interpretation of literary works.

Through the study of a wide range of literature, the language A: literature course encourages students to appreciate the artistry of literature and to develop an ability to reflect critically on their reading. Works are studied in their literary and cultural contexts, through close study of individual texts and passages, and by considering a range of critical approaches. In view of the international nature of the IB and its commitment to intercultural understanding, the language A: literature course does not limit the study of works to the products of one culture or the cultures covered by any one language. The study of works in translation is especially important in introducing students, through literature, to other cultural perspectives. The response to the study of literature is through oral and written communication, thus enabling students to develop and refine their command of language.

Language A: literature is a flexible course that allows teachers to choose works from prescribed lists of authors and to construct a course that suits the particular needs and interests of their students. It is divided into four parts, each with a particular focus.

  •          Part 1: Works in translation
  •          Part 2: Detailed study
  •          Part 3: Literary genres
  •          Part 4: Options (in which works are freely chosen)

 The aims of language A: literature are to:

  •          introduce students to a range of texts from different periods, styles and genres
  •          develop in students the ability to engage in close, detailed analysis of individual texts and make relevant connections
  •          develop the students’ powers of expression, both in oral and written communication
  •          encourage students to recognize the importance of the contexts in which texts are written and received
  •          encourage, through the study of texts, an appreciation of the different perspectives of people from other cultures, and how these perspectives construct meaning
  •          encourage students to appreciate the formal, stylistic and aesthetic qualities of texts
  •          promote in students an enjoyment of, and lifelong interest in, language and literature
  •          develop in students an understanding of the techniques involved in literary criticism
  •          develop the students’ ability to form independent literary judgments and to support those ideas.

English A: Literature and Theory of Knowledge

The study of literature offers many possibilities for the questioning and reflection that form the basis of theory of knowledge (TOK). The language A: literature course focuses on different approaches to reading literary works. It encourages close analysis of language, as well as an understanding of the different perspectives presented through literature and the ways in which these are informed by, and interact with, the student’s own culture(s). All of these activities require students to engage in knowledge inquiry, critical thinking and reflection.

The following questions are adapted from the Theory of knowledge guide. They are intended to assist teachers in challenging students to explore the methods of study in the field of literature and to enhance students’ critical reflection on related knowledge issues, ways of knowing and areas of knowledge.

  •        Is a work of literature enlarged or diminished by interpretation? What makes something a good or bad interpretation?
  •        How can a literary work of fiction, which is by definition non-factual, convey knowledge?
  •        What is the proper function of literature—to capture a perception of reality, to teach or uplift the mind, to express emotion, to create beauty, to bind a community together, to praise a spiritual power, to provoke reflection or to promote social change?
  •        Does familiarity with literature itself provide knowledge and, if so, of what kind—knowledge of facts, of the author, of the conventions of the form or tradition, of psychology or cultural history, of oneself?
  •        What knowledge of literature can be gained by focusing attention on the author? Can, or should, authors’ intentions and the creative process itself be understood through observing authors or knowing something of their lives? Is the creative process as important as the final product, even though it cannot be observed directly? Are an author’s intentions relevant to assessing the work? Can a work of art contain or convey meaning of which the artist is oblivious?
  •        What knowledge of literature can be gained by focusing attention solely on the work itself, in isolation from the author or the social context?
  •        What knowledge of literature can be gained by focusing attention on its social, cultural or historical context?
  •        How important is the study of literature in individual/ethical development? In what ways?
  •        What constitutes good evidence within the study of literature?
  •          What knowledge can be gained from the study of literature?
  •          What is lost in translation from one language to another? Why?
  •          Can literature express truths that cannot be expressed in other ways? If so, what sort of truths are these? How does this form of truth differ from truth in other areas of knowledge? 

Assessment objectives.

  1. Knowledge and understanding
    1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of individual literary works as representatives of their genre and period, and the relationships between them
    2. Demonstrate an understanding of the ways in which cultural values are expressed in literature
    3. Demonstrate awareness of the significance of the context in which a work is written and received
    4. Substantiate and justify ideas with relevant examples
  2. Analysis, synthesis and evaluation
    1. Demonstrate an ability to analyse language, structure, technique and style, and evaluate their effects on the reader
    2. Demonstrate an ability to engage in independent literary criticism on both familiar and unfamiliar literary texts
  3. Selection and use of appropriate presentation and language skills
    1. Demonstrate an ability to express ideas clearly and fluently in both written and oral communication, with an effective choice of register and style
    2. Demonstrate a command of terminology and concepts appropriate to the study of literature
    3. Demonstrate an ability to express well-organized oral and written arguments

From Diploma Programme Language A: literature guide, International Baccalaureate, Cardiff, Wales, 2013


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