Course Reviews: English


Look at the wings on this man.
Look at the wings on this man. He could use a Bass Pro snapback.

HL Literature

If you like reading good books, take this course. You will read everything from Greek tragedies to modern American fiction (and maybe, if you’re lucky, a little Annie Dullard in between).

Assessment in Literature takes a few forms. For the written component there are two types of test: commentary and essay. The essay is what it sounds like. The IB calls the types of prompts “synthetic questions” because they are applicable to almost any book ever (i.e., “To what extent did the theme of love and friendship play a role in the work.”). On balance, however, by your second year you develop a knack for guessing what the question is going to be. Also, by IB2 you are expected to actually memorize quotes from the book to prove your points, but, at the very least, you can rely on quotes as vague as “Who’s there?” (opening line to Hamlet) that will be relevant no matter what.

The second format is a commentary, which is considered the easier of the two. You get a random passage from a book you’ve (hopefully) read this year, and you have to talk about it. You have the passage right there and draw your quotes from that passage. It’s much more impromptu. Impromptu, in this sense, opening the gates to the realms of creativity and “winging it” – areas where UCC boys excel.

There’s also an oral commentary in IB2 where you get to have a conversation to prove to your English teacher you’ve actually read two or more works.

If you choose the old school Literature over its upstart alternate, Language & Literature, you have the bonus of potentially appearing incredibly cultured, if a lifeless husk, should you quote a little Keats at a formal event.

TBAW Staff Writer and William Rooney


Let me clarify: in this course you do read. You read books. You read speeches. You understand sentence fragments. You both learn and analyze proper grammar. We’ve looked at Sophocles’ Oedipus, Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream, and George Orwell’s essays (so far). L&L is about examining different media. You’re meant to examine everything you look at; that isn’t hyperbole. Your teacher shows you a painting? You’ll have to examine it. Your teacher plays a song? You’ll have to examine it. Despite your preconceptions about L&L, you should consider analyzing this article; the course has more range than you might think.

The exam the current IB2s wrote last year had them compare a GPS manual to another more literary piece. The perception that this is easier than literature is surprising to me. I’d say the two are on par, as would the administration, the teaching staff, and the IB.

Matthew Bu and William Rooney