Recent Posts by Hannah Tyson

A Theme? A Motif? Which Is It?!

One of the cranky little issues that often (almost always) arises when you are trying to write about the leading ideas or stylistic choices in a piece of literature—as you often must in your courses that involve this kind of art—is when to use the term 'theme' and when to use 'motif.'  And it's no wonder. However, if you decide to settle this in your own head once and for all, and search out definitions either digitally or in print, ...

Are Memes Relevant to Studying Printed or Digital Texts?

The larger version of this question is really, 'do we need to have a good working knowledge of what memes are in order to usefully expand a sense of our audience, our IB students?  Does such knowledge have some relevance to such new textualities as fan fiction and texts published online using various composition strategies?' It's interesting that, in the last revision of the Language A courses,  various forms of digital texts were suggested as one of the options schools might ...

. . .and more about syntax

The more we think about syntax, reading or writing it, the more we close in on sentences. If syntax is basically the ordering of words, sentences are how we deliver or read that ordering of words. We can opt for doing this in staccato ways with punchy short sentences, in long leisurely orderings, or in sentences that withhold a crucial element until the very end. And good writers use all of these. It’s relevant, then, to do a quick review of ...

Is That a Fish in Your Ear?

This wonderful title comes from a book about translation recommended a while back by a colleague. It’s a stimulating set of short essays by David Bellos, a distinguished translator, written in a style that makes many of the facets of translation easily accessible—which is why I like using some of the essays, or parts of them, with students. As we study works in translation, it seems a significant omission if we do not take a little time to address the ...

Syntax: a path to better analysis, better writing

Very often, in commentaries and other analysis, students bring up the term, 'syntax' but seldom have much to say about it.  If you pay a little attention to figuring out what it is and how writers use it, you could really raise your game in both analysis, and yes, your own writing. First, let's get straight the simplest definition of what we mean when we talk about syntax.  It's simply the way words are arranged in a sentence.   'Arrangement' suggests writers ...

Combining the creative with the critical

Often, IB teachers of the Group A Language and Lit courses regret that there is not much opportunity to do more creative work with their classes. But short exercises can be incorporated into our classes and many of us do that.  Here is one exercise which has not only produced some very lively original pieces with my students, but also raised their consciousness and refined their sense of how prose is constructed and how different effects are created. Obviously there ...

Pump up your verbs, please

In all of your essays, whether they are demanded for your Written Assignments, your commentaries, or your Paper 2 essay, you can win the heart of your examiners by moving beyond the conventional verbs you use to talk about literature.  Show, demonstrate, characterize, suggest, reveal, portray: all of these are good, valid and useful, and sometimes just the right one for your purposes. However, maybe you'd like to extend your options. How about 'intimate' for 'suggest?' ' The poet intimates that perhaps ...

‘The problems of the second act’

In a very interesting little book by David Mamet called '3 Uses of the Knife: On the nature and purpose of drama' there is a section called 'The problems of the second act.'  I can't reproduce the whole section here, but I'm going to select a few quotations in the hopes you might find the ideas useful when you are studying plays with your IB students.  What Mamet is proposing is that there is energy from the playwright that can ...

Summer Investigations(3) Works on the PLT: Cheese

For the last of these recommendations, a work composed in Dutch by a Flemish author, A.J de Ridder, writing under the pseudonym, Willem Elsschot.  To my knowledge, Cheese, has not appeared on any IB Language A: Literature syllabus, and I'd like to make the case that it might be very apt, particularly when people are looking for something to include that is not 'dark and depressing,' a request that often comes up in discussions and workshops. Originally published in 1933, this ...

‘Talk nerdy to me’: Delivering a winning IOP

The challenge of standing before your classmates and not just getting, but holding their attention,  is not a small one; in fact, that part of your audience is even more of a challenge than--yes--the attention of your teacher.  It's true that she or he is going to write down three marks, that this is your IB assessment, that it represents 15% of your overall grade.  But, let's look at it in larger terms. Here is a chance to try out your ...