Get ready for the English syllabus change

Giving you plenty of time to prepare

Publishing April 2011

To help you prepare for the new English A syllabus, we’ve summed up some of the most important changes that will impact your teaching
Inside – more detail on:

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The course aims for both the English A Literature and English A Language and Literature syllabuses The new Works in translation component for English A Literature The individual syllabus requirements for English A Literature The ‘language’ aspect of the Language and Literature syllabus and how the Course Companion can help if you are new to this area

Oxford works uniquely with the IB to ensure that our resources take the right approach, so your students learn the IB way

English A Literature – what to expect
A new, flexible literature course that helps students reflect on literary artistry and encourages them to think critically about their readings. With a focus on the literary and cultural contexts of each text, this course also emphasises intercultural awareness and different cultural perspectives through a unit on Works in translation.

English A Language and Literature – what to expect
A brand new course that looks at English beyond the bounds of traditional literary study. This course aims to have students critically engage with a wide variety of texts, to ultimately understand how language constructs meaning.

Course aims – for HL and SL ✓ Develop in students an understanding of the techniques involved in literary criticism ✓ Cultivate the ability to form independent literary judgements and to support those ideas

Course aims – for HL and SL ✓ Help students develop an understanding of how language,

Encourage students to identify and analyse textual features such as structure, form and style Have students think critically about the interaction between a text, its purpose and its audience

context and culture influence the construction of meaning in texts

How Oxford can help – Course Companion English A Literature


Conventions and genre


connection to actual poems, and seeing them in various contexts, they are difficult to remember in a meaningful way. You can read Chapter XX for further exploration and practice.

Why are we weighed upon with heaviness, And utterly consumed with sharp distress, While all things else have rest from weariness? We only toil who are the first of things, And make perpetual moan, Still from one sorrow to another thrown; Nor ever fold our wings, And cease from wanderings, Nor steep our brows in slumber’s holy balm; Nor hearken what the inner spirit sings “There is no joy but calm!” – Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?
Alfred Lord Tennyson

A huge array of texts are included, exposing students to a broad range of literature and literary devices


Returning to the aspect of sound in poetry, here is a small project Probing activity questions that involves reading, listening and creating. help students


reflect more deeply on the text, encouraging 1 Choose a poem that you like from any source. Select a poem that is not much longer than a sonnet, around 14 to 16 lines. independent, original and critical thinking You might find it easier to work with a metrical poem.
2 Spend some time reading and re-reading the poem, maybe finding out something about the writer, even creating some visual or graphic representation, becoming truly familiar with the poem. 3 Using original music, or favourite musical works of whatever kind you believe suits the mood, rhythm and words of the poem, create a performance piece that you could present yourself or with the help of others. 4 Write a short critical introduction or afterword in whichin detail, Different literary genres are studied you discuss the poem itself, some of your creative choices and their in line with Parts 2 and 3 of the a little syllabus rationales. (In some cases you may want to provide new help with how you heard the meaning of the poem.) 5 Embody the poem in a performance.

Both of these extracts are from longer poems, so these give you only a brief sample of the poets’ ideas and feelings, but there are some inferences that can be drawn in the changing focus of some of the poetry of the 18th and 19th centuries. Read the above extracts written by Pope and Tennyson and see what similarities and differences they have. a What is your sense of the voice and attitude of the speaker? b How alike or different is the verse, its rhythm and pace? c What values seem to be foregrounded and praised in each extract?

How Oxford can help – Course Companion English A Language and Literature
A wide variety of text types demonstrates how language can be used in different contexts

Understanding the relationship between language and culture is a priority, in line with the new syllabus

Discussion points are integrated throughout to stimulate debate and raise awareness of different perspectives

“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility…”
William Wordsworth


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After the strong emphasis on intellectual reasoning in 18th-century poetry, the Romantic movement in the middle to end of the 19th century tended to value both the imagination and the expression of the self, and these appear in many of the lyric poems. Both narrative and dramatic poetry continued to be written, but with much less popularity and prevalence than in earlier periods.

The 19th and 20th centuries
Again, the dominance of lyric poetry is sustained into these two centuries. Dramatic poetry still can be found, narrative poetry as well, but one strong interest in poetry tended to be its connection with certain movements in the visual arts such as surrealism and symbolism. Stories tended to be more often found in the novel and short story than in poetry. Drama had its own development as well, but the poetic demands of the 16th century had disappeared; the blank verse practised by Shakespeare and his contemporaries had largely disappeared from the theatre. One of the interesting features of the developments in poetry in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially from the angle of the auditory and the visual, was the experimentation with different formal aspects of poetry such as how the poem would appear on the page, and how sound features would be handled in poetry.

“A Poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds… Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the best and happiest minds…”
Percy Bysshe Shelley to argue that even our own understanding and knowledge of ourselves is in question and ontological certainty itself is more arbitrary than fixed. Postmodernism also tends to refer to both a historical era and an artistic movement that further problematizes its usage. Yet another term that is frequently substituted for poststructuralism is deconstruction with its emphasis on texts and language mis-speaking, a multiplicity of meanings that emerge through interpretation and reversals of traditional binary operations. It is worth noting that both the overlap and the differences in all three of these terms have had an influence in the approach to literary texts during the second half of the 20th century. Again, for our purposes, the primary focus on the lack of an absolute informs the focus on ongoing and complex negotiations between parties such as a text and a reader (in other words, socially constructed meanings).

Language and culture Language, as a communicative act, is social. While meaning may be tied to cultural context, culture itself is shaped through our language use. These concerns will be the more specific focus of chapter 4, but it is worth noting here the close tie between what it means to be the social, cultural animals that we are and language. The more closely we consider language, the more obvious it is that it has special qualities equivalent to, or as a function of, its place in our lives.

Discussion Point
What role do languages have in your life?

Activity: Life and death in language
Read the following extracts from On the Death and Life of Languages by Claude Hagege and answer the questions that follow.
Languages accompany human groups. They disappear with them; or, on the contrary, if those groups are large and quick and spread beyond their original environment, the languages can be dispersed, in their wake, over vast territories. Thus, it is from those who speak them that they derive their life principles and their ability to increase their area of usage. Nevertheless, languages are also one of the essential sources of the vital force that animates human communities. More than any other properties defining what is human, languages possess the power to provide individuals with the basis for their integration into society—that is, on a level different from one’s biological framework and mental structure, meaning the very foundations of one’s life. … the existence of languages is a very simple and universal means for deceiving nothingness. After all, languages allow for history, in the evocation of the dead through public or private discourse … No animal species possesses the means to evoke its past, assuming that some of them do not lack memory, or at least memories. It is humans who create the history of animals, in paleontological works in which their language allows them to relate a breathtakingly old past. ….


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Ontological certainty A doubt in ontological certainty refers to our inability to ever know for certain who we are or the authenticity of the world in which we live. Binary operations A system of conceptual oppositions where one concept is understood in light of its opposite (i.e. we know “love” because we know “hate”).

Theory of Knowledge connections
As a way of bringing together the emphasis of this chapter on the importance of seeing poetry as a meaningful and pleasurable facet of artistic expression, we will explore the connections of poetry to your Theory of Knowledge course by posing the question: What kinds of truth can poetry convey and how is a truth delivered and experienced through this form of art? What you need to do: 1 Read through the following four short poems by yourself. 2 Organize yourselves into groups of four: a Re-read the poems silently. b Ask each member of the group to read aloud one of the poems. c Ask each member of the group to say a sentence that essentializes a ‘truth’ that has been heard in one of the poems.

Through speaking and writing, languages not only allow us to trace our history well beyond our own physical obliteration, they also contain our history. Any philologist, or anyone curious about languages, knows that treasures are deposited within them that relate societies’ evolution and individuals’ adventures. Idiomatic expressions, compound words, have a past that calls up living figures. The history of words reflects the history of ideas. If societies do not die, it is only because they have historians, or annalists, or official narrators. It is also because they have languages, and are recounted in these languages.
Source: Hagege, Claude. (trans. Gladding, Jody). 2009. On the Death and Life of Languages. New Haven: Yale University Press. [pp. TBC]

Questions to the text 1 Do you agree with Hagege’s views on language? What does it mean when he says language “deceives nothingness”? 2 Hagege thinks it is important for people to be bilingual, no matter what two languages they speak. Why would he hold this view? 3 Can bilingualism (or multilingualism) call our attention to special qualities of language?



Reading it two ways
Look at the following list of phrases and statements collected from newspaper headings, shop signs, advertisements, etc. Ambiguity can create hilarious situations. Imagine the impact of the same potential ambiguity in legal documents or philosophical treatises. In fact, poststructuralists would argue that this ambiguity is everywhere, even if not in quite so obvious a manner. As you read through the list looking for the “jokes,” pay attention to what assumption you make or how your assumptions change in order to be able to “read” these statements.

IB Course Companion English A Literature
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How to tackle the new English A Literature syllabus with Oxford
Syllabus Requirement Works in translation Detailed study What this is – in brief for HL & SL A literary study of works in translation A close study and analysis of works of different genres A literary study of works of the same genre Three works chosen by the school, with 4 options on approaches to study How the Course Companion can help Dedicated unit on literary translation Nine chapters on genre to ensure well-rounded understanding Focused, in-depth material on genres, for detailed understanding An integrated array of potential options for further study

What is culture?
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d Draw up a list of the poems and the ‘truths’ perceived by group members. e Each member then reads each poem aloud again. f In turn, each member chooses and talks about a ‘truth’ someone else has experienced from a particular poem, trying to understand how that ‘truth’ was derived from the poem.

Entire store 25% off “I once shot an elephant in my pajamas.”
Hospitals are sued by 7 foot doctors

We exchange anything—bicycles, washing machines, etc. Why not bring your wife along and get a wonderful bargain?
Toilet out of order. Please use floor below.

March planned for next August Lingerie shipment hijacked—thief gives police the slip L.A. voters approve urban renewal by landslide

3 The exercise should finish with a discussion of these questions:

I will bring my bike tomorrow if it looks nice in the morning.
Tech support: “What does the screen say now?”
Person: “It says, ‘hit enter when ready’.” Tech support: “Well?” Person: “How do I know when it’s ready?”

Since language is so clearly tied up in culture, and a significant part of this course asks you to look at both literature and language in relation to culture, it is worth asking what culture actually is. Though we could start with a basic definition for culture, it is worth looking at a variety of definitions and how our ideas of what culture is, how it operates, and how it should be studied have changed over the years and are really in a constant state of flux. It would be wrong to say that the word “culture” means the same thing to every person. In fact, your own conception of culture may vary depending on your culture.

Culture a system of meaning for a group of people and it includes language, laws, customs, myths, images, texts, and daily practices.

Was there a sense that everyone ‘heard’ the truths of these poems similarly?


Quarter of a million Chinese live on water Hershey Bars Protest
Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers Safety experts say school bus passengers should be belted
"Iraqi head seeks arms".

Please wait for hostess to be seated
Students hate annoying teachers.

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TOK is integrated into every chapter in both books, making it easier for you to bring TOK into your lessons

IB Course Companion English A Literature

Literary genres

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They hit the man with a cane. Slow children at play
Automatic washing machines: please remove all your clothes when the light goes out

IB Course Companion English A Language and Literature
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Local high school dropouts cut in half
"New vaccine may contain rabies".


IB Course Companion English A Language and Literature
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Activities are designed to cultivate and strengthen skills linked to the syllabus and the IB learner profile

nguage? aching la New to te dents on forms stu The text in critical language, es to approach as mass reas such overing a c language ations and ne with ommunic c – in li l contexts in cultura llabus. the new sy
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Experienced authors you can trust
Hannah Tyson and Mark Beverley – teachers, examiners, and workshop leaders who have worked closely on the revisions to English A Rob Allison and Brian Chanen – teachers and examiners who have collaborated in creating the new English syllabuses

English A Literature – Contents
Unit 1 – Introduction to the course
1. Nine propositions about reading 2. Engaging writing

What exactly is covered?
Our new English Course Companions are closely matched to the new syllabuses – see how they cover the syllabus requirements below:

Unit 2 – Internal assessment
3. Close reading as a practice 4. Tackling Paper 1 5. The individual oral commentary 6. The individual oral presentation

✓ Contents link closely

to internal and external assessments, for maximum preparation

English A Language and Literature – Contents
Unit 1 – How and why
1. How has the study of literature changed? 2. Thinking about language 3. Putting it all together

Unit 3 – A wider world
7. Literature in translation

✓ An entire unit on

Unit 4 – Conventions and genre
8. Writing 9. Conventions and genre 10. Drama 11. Poetry 12. The novel and short story 13. The autobiography 14. The travel narrative 15. The essay 16. How to write an essay for the Paper 2 exam

translated works, to build intercultural awareness and understanding of different cultural perspectives

Unit 2 – Language
4. Language in Cultural Context 5. Assessment in Language in Cultural Context 6. Language and Mass Communication 7. Assessment in Language and Mass Communication

✓ A skills-based approach

ensures students develop and practice the skills they need for success

Unit 3 – Literature
8. Literature: Critical reading 9. Assessment in Literature: Texts and Contexts 10. Literature: Texts and Contexts 11. Assessment in Literature: Critical Study

Unit 5 – the written assignment
17. The extended essay

✓ Nine chapters on genre,
ensuring that students’ knowledge is in-depth and well-rounded


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