Essays about Character: Analysis, Not Re-description

In your earlier years, writing about characters by re-describing them in your own words was quite acceptable, but as an IB diploma student that won't work.  First, you need to change your thinking from 'character' to 'characterization.' This last is the kind of critical thinking you need to engage in: 'how does the writer create the character' rather than 'who is this character.'  Writing about characterization is something you can usefully do in essays and oral presentations and get good ...

Literature and Film

Currently, 'Literature and Film' is one of the most popular 'suggested options' under Part 4: Options (a bit confusing, to say the least, though it all shakes out as 'Free Choice', really). There are a lot of great ideas coming from creative classrooms and here are a few from workshop participants which you might not have considered. Madame Bovary is not an easy text for many of today's students, but using film can function as a complement to reading the novel.   ...

Humor and Irony, Elusive Terms

In my own classroom, we often struggle with clarifying what constitutes humor in writing, how it is to be handled critically and how to write successfully about it. One (of many) complementary problems is being sure what we mean by irony.   These terms have long been a problem in the history of criticism and separating what is comic in a classical sense, what is ironic, what is funny  gives all of us problems with precision. To help my students, I created ...

Advice for Successful Individual Oral Commentaries

At some point, sooner or later, whether you are a HL or SL student, you'll see that IOC coming toward you.  You'll be thinking such things as 'how am I going to get through this?' or 'what can I do to prepare?'  Your teachers will have offered you a good many tips, some of which you took on board and others that have slipped away over time–or weren't actually heard.  Teachers have diverse opinions about how best to do this, ...

A Wider World (Part 1)

Assuming that you're on this site because you're interested in the kind of reading and writing that your literature and language courses may or may not involve, these three (or maybe more) blog entries will be looking outside and inside of conventional 'English class' materials to provide new directions and unpack some older ones. Widening our sense of graphic novels  Take a look at these four graphic narratives. A Game for Swallows Born in the midst of the Lebanese war when the city ...

Greek Terms (3)

This post adds two much larger terms to the series. There is no possibility that we can provide the range and depth the terms involve but may at least give you some brief references to two significant treatises by Aristotle.  And in the case of both, you will likely have some acquaintance with the particular elements below that fall under these terms, rhetoric and poetic. (A small hint: the stress in 'rhetoric' falls on the first syllable.) And most students ...

Coming to Terms with Greek Terms (2)

In this pair we are dealing with one term that you may encounter but are less likely to actually use in your own critical writing, and another that you might actually find usable.  Either way, your knowledge of these 'terms of art' can work to expand your sense of how to talk (or hear others talk) about the way literary works are constructed and operate. The first term is mimesis.  Both Plato and Aristotle employed this term, not in precisely the ...

Some Ideas for Thinking about World Literature

I've been poring over some materials I've used in workshops on 'Literature in Translation,' and thought it might be useful to share some of these resources and add in a frequent question about the Written Assignments. These articles are variable in their weightiness, but there are likely to at least be bits and pieces that you may find useful for deepening your own thinking or some ideas to explore in your classes. I like the following for its range of views ...

…And One Last Go at Syntax

Here's an interesting set of recommendations about improving your writing through 'conscious syntax' that gets to the issue through a pair of basic sentences.  I like it and maybe you will, too: 10 Varieties of Syntax to Improve Your Writing It is this rich variety of word and phrase order and variation in punctuation that makes prose — fiction or nonfiction — readable. As you review your writing, make sure that you vary sentence structure among these and other constructions to create ...

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, ...