Ib Part 1 Written Assignment Conclusion

The IB Programme is of course defined by a number of core principles. One of these is an holistic approach to education - an interest in the development of different aspects of a student's intellectual, emotional, moral and physical development.

Another fundamental idea has to do with intercultural awareness and understanding; all DP courses are designed in such a way that through various means, students become aware of themselves as representatives of cultural place and time, and of the nature and origins of both connectedness and difference.

Part 1 of our course, entitled Works in Translation invites the study of texts originally written in languages other than the language of instruction; these are read and discussed in terms of their status as literary works - as with every other text on the course. However, they are also read and discussed in terms of the way they illuminate issues to to with cultural location and readership. There are 4 'stages' through which teachers and students have to go that move from a focus on issues associated with contexts in which literary works are written and read, through to the writing of an essay that centers on a more literary topic.

Part 1 of the course aims to deepen students’ understanding of works as being products of a time and place. Artistic, philosophical, sociological, historical and biographical considerations are possible areas of study to enhance understanding of the works.

Teachers should aim to develop students’ ability to:

  • understand the content of the work and the qualities of the work as literature

  • respond independently to the work by connecting the individual and cultural experience of the reader with the text

  • recognize the role played by cultural and contextual elements in literary works.

(Language A: Literature Subject Guide, p.18)

1. In what ways are particular works studied reflective of the period of time or the place in which they were originally written? This may include such things as:

2. How important are elements of the writer's biography to the production of the work e.g:

3. Consider the importance of literary context:

4. Examine the importance of context in terms of the way the work is read:

In addition:

The fact of works being in translation inevitably opens a door to a wide range of fascinating issues concerning what happens to the meaning of a work when it is translated into a different language. Some of these are of course linguistic, but given that language of course operates within a set of social and cultural circumstances - embodying meaning and values that exist within a particular society, many political, sociological, cultural or historical points of interest are raised when we read works in translation.

A: Choosing texts

All works for Part 1 must come from the list of Prescribed Literature in Translation (PLT). This is a generic list for all Language A syllabuses, and so you will see works there written in the language of instruction. This does not mean, however, that these mother tongue works can be chosen: all Part 1 works must have been written originally in a different language.

The PLT is a large and comprehensive list and it is worth reading it carefully before making your Part 1 choices. Remember that at Standard Level you study two works and at Higher Level three. These works can be from any genre and do not need to connect in any way with each other; that being said, some teachers like to choose texts that relate in some way, either directly through place and time, or more indirectly through theme or motif. Keep in mind, however, that you will need to complete two Interactive Orals, which focus on contextual issues. If you have chosen two works that are written within and focused on the same contextual circumstances, it might make it difficult for your students to find research material that is sufficiently different in nature for each Interactive Oral.

The more popular choices are found here

When choosing your works you might like to make sure that there are plenty of contextual aspects to consider, but remember that ultimately students will be writing on a topic that is explicitly literary in nature.

B: Considering contexts

The following table is designed to provide a brief guide to the kinds of contextual issues a typical work might bring into focus.

The Master and Margarita, Michael BulgakovRussia
  • Stalin's Russia: 1917 Revolution, Collectivization, The Great Purge, Moscow Show Trials
  • Art and Literature: Socialist realism, the Secret Police (NKVD)
  • The New Testament story of Jesus and Pontius Pilate
  • Bulgakov's biography
Hedda Gabler, Henrik IbsenNorway
  • Dramatic realism/naturalism
  • Growth of movement for women's rights (1880s)
  • Religion: Lutheranism
  • Attitudes towards family, social class, gender and sexuality
  • Conventions of tragedy
  • Ibsen's biography
The Elephant Vanishes, Haruki MurakamiJapan
  • Post War development in Japan/Tokyo
  • Japanese economic and technological development in the 1980s
  • Westernization/Globalization of traditional Japanese culture
  • Magical Realism
  • Folk Tales
  • Post modernism
Metamorphosis, Franz KafkaGermany
  • Kafka's biography - particularly his relationship with his family
  • The geographical makeup of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the build up to World War 1
  • Status of Jewish people living in Prague
  • Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche
Antigone, SophoclesGreece
  • 5th Century Athenian Society - status, 'democracy' etc
  • Religious beliefs and practices
  • The work of the 3 great playwrights -Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides
  • Sophocles' biography
  • Conventions of Ancient Greek Theatre e.g. chorus, use of masks, costume, staging - orchestra/skene etc
  • Festival of Dionysus - roots of theatre in religious practice
  • Structure of plays (prologos / episodes / stasima / exodus etc
  • Conventions of Tragedy and Tragic Hero

C. The concept of translation

Whether or not you or your students are able to understand the text chosen for study in its original language, an examination of at least some of the implications of the text in translation will yield some very significant issues, and these are worth returning to throughout your study of Part 1:

  • How important but difficult is it to translate word and sentence choices with all their associations, implications and connotations into a different language ?
  • What aspects of meaning can accordingly be lost?
  • What are the implications in terms of translating stylistic features such as imagery, rhythm, sound or figurative expression?
  • How important is the fact that texts create meaning within a social or cultural context? Does understanding of a cultural, as well as a linguistic, frame of reference affect the way a work is read and how easy is this to translate?
  • In what ways does the author of the original text remain the author of the translated work? Does the translator in a sense become the author through the linguistic choices they make?

To initiate discussion of these ideas, and even as a way to begin the whole study of Part 1 Works in Translation is to give students an extract from the text they are about to study in the original language and ask them if there is anything they can say about it - words they might know, sentences they can make an attempt at deciphering, or even a response to its structure or appearance on the page. The next stage will be to compare it with 2-3 translations as a way to open up discussion about the kinds of issues mentioned above. The following example illustrates this idea through reference to an extract from a poem by Baudelaire:

Original verse

From Paysage

Je verrai les printemps, les étés, les automnes;

Et quandviendral'hiver aux neiges monotones,

Je fermerai partout portières et volets

Pour bâtir dans la nuit mes féeriques palais.

Translation 1Translation 2

From A Landscape

Seasons will pass 'till Autumn fades the rose;

And when comes Winter with his weary snows,

I'll shut the doors and window-casements tight,

And build my faery palace in the night.

From Landscape

I shall see the springtimes, the summers, the autumns;

And when winter comes with its monotonous snow,

I shall close all the shutters and draw all the drapes

So I can build at night my fairy palaces.

Here is one student's comparative analysis to the two translations, in light of the prompts raised earlier:

​ The first translation, 'A Landscape', explains the change of season and time passing using emotive language - the idea that Autumn, personified, 'fades the rose' with time; this gives Autumn an active, living presence. 'Landscape' takes a more literal approach, using a list to present the sense of time passing through the different seasons, whilst 'A Landscape' takes on more figurative presentation of summer seemingly dying as Autumn moves in.

The main difference between second lines of the two translations is in their presentation of Winter. The first version personifies Winter as a male character with 'his weary snows', which suggests that the weather is spiteful - produced out of Winter's malice. With the word 'monotonous' the second version suggests that this winter is also unwanted, however it is presented with less of a 'character' and the relationship between the speaker and nature therefore seems more distant or detached.

The third line of these extracts take a similar stance on the translation; both have the effect of suggesting that the speaker is shutting him or herself away and the use of the personal pronoun 'I' gives the speaker a degree of assertiveness and authority. The action of shutting either the doors or the shutters, and closing the 'window casements' and 'drapes' is presented as one that is deliberate and controlled.

Differences in the last two lines of the two translations lie, once again, in the choice to make the word 'palaces' plural in the second poem, in contrast to the first which depicts a singular 'faery palace'. The spelling of 'faery' as opposed to 'fairy' suggests a sense of something more archaic and gives the translation a more traditional feel, although a similar effect is achieved in the second version with the inverted syntax.

Another significant difference between the two versions has to do with the metre and rhyme schemes. The first version sticks to the original poem's rhyming pattern of couplets and quatrains in 'rose' with 'snows' and 'tight' with 'night'. The second poem on the other hand translates the words more literally and therefore departs from the rhyme scheme.

In my opinion, whilst the second provides a more 'accurate' translation in terms of word choice, the first is a more truthful representation of its dream-like atmosphere and the speaker's sense of isolation.

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Works in Translation - Second Semester Junior Year - Texts Studied: 



I.  A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen


   IO Topics


    Topics are suggested but not limited to the following:


Group 5:  1:  Ibsen's biography  2:  Realism movement in literature  3:  Norwegian socio-economic class structure in 1870's  


Group 6:  1:  Traditional roles of men & women in Norway  2:  Women's suffrage / feminism in Norway (compare/contrast with USA)  3:  The original stage production & interpretations of the play



II.  One Day in the Life of Ivan Deniosovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn  


    About the Author


     Film Adaptation 


     Interview with Solzhenitsyn 


   IO Topics


   Topics are suggested but not limited to the following:


   Group 1:   1:  Solzhenitsyn's life  2:  Stalinist Russia  3:  Crime & Punishment:  The Penal System in Soviet Russia  


   Group 2:  1:  Life in the Gulags  2:  Artists, Writers & Painters in the Soviet Union  3:  The Red Scare, An American Perspective.



III.  Paradise of the Blind - by Duong Thu Huong 


 Group 3:  1:  Duong Thu Huong's life  2:  Confucian culture / ancestor worship  3:  Ho Chi Minh/Viet Minh govenment/Land Reform Campaign


Group 4:  1: Vietnamese economic culture (1960's-70's) "bribery and barter"  2:  Food and Rituals  3:  Vietnamese language (translation difficulties) 


Works in Translation - Second Semester Junior Year


Weighting: 25%

(25 marks) SL and HL

Courtesy: Language A : literature guide (IB) OCC

The Written Assignment is worth 25% of the IB mark and consists of 4 stages.

It is to be based on a work in translation studied in Part 1.

The IB assessed components are a literary essay and reflective statement.
These two assignments will be written in class and externally assessed by the IB. 

Work Submitted to IB: 
Literary essay – 1,200 – 1,500 words
Relevant reflective statement – 300 – 400 words

To produce an analytical, literary essay on a topic generated by the student and developed from one of the pieces of supervised writing. 

A combined mark out of 25 to be awarded for the reflective statement and the literary essay, based on five assessment criteria. 

The Written Assignment will be ongoing throughout the 2nd semester of the grade 11 year. It is a four-stage process consisting of both oral and written tasks.

The Four Stages of the Written Assignment 

Stage 1: The Interactive Oral

The Interactive Oral is a class discussion lead by a group of students that focuses on important contextual elements that have influenced the writing of one of the works studied in this part.

Some important elements to remember about the Interactive Oral are: 
  • It is focused around class discussion in which all students and the teacher participate.
  • Each student will be responsible for initiating some part of the discussion in at least one of the interactive orals for one work.
  • The discussion should address the following cultural and contextual considerations:
    • In what ways do time and place matter to this work?
    • What was easy to understand and what was difficult to understand in relation to social and cultural context and issues?
    • What connections did you find between issues in the work and you own culture(s) and experience?
    • What aspects of technique are interesting in the work?
  • At least one oral must be completed in relation to each work studied in Part 1.
  • Minimum time for discussion of each work studied is 30 minutes.
Stage 2: The Reflective Statement
The Reflective Statement is a short piece of writing that all students must complete. It explores how the interactive oral helped in their understanding of the work under consideration. One reflective statement will be submitted to the IB. Since three works are studied in this part of the course there will be at least three interactive orals and therefore at least three reflective statements. The student must submit the reflective statement that is based on the same work as their final literary essay.

Some important elements to remember about the Reflective Statement are:
  • It is a short writing exercise completed as soon as possible following the interactive oral. 
  • Each student must provide a reflection on each of the interactive orals. 
  • The reflective statement on the same work as the student’s final assignment is submitted for assessment. 
  • The reflective statement must be based on the following question: 
    • How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?
  • Length: 300-400 words. 
  • Assessment: A mark out of 3 is awarded using assessment criterion A.
Stage 3: Supervised Writing 
The supervised writing exercises take place once the study of each work is completed. By the end of this unit of study the students will have three pieces of supervised writing - one for each work. The students generate a piece of writing based on one of three or four teacher created prompts that focus on important elements of the work under consideration. The pieces of supervised writing are not submitted to the IB but must be kept on file at the school until final graduation. The IB may ask to see a student's supervised writing if questions of authenticity are raised. Therefore, it is vital that there is a connection between the supervised writing and the final literary essay.

Some important elements to remember about the Supervised Writing are:
  • From this writing the student should develop a topic and the final essay. 
  • The ultimate goal of this stage is for the student to produce good essays with an appropriate topic. 
  • Students are required to respond to each one of the works studied in a written exercise undertaken during class time. 
  • Time for each piece of writing is between 40-50 minutes. 
  • The writing must be continuous prose. (There is no set format, but the writing must be in full sentences). 
  • At the end of the lesson the writing must be handed to the teacher and an unedited copy will be kept on file until graduation. 
  • The student will be given 3 to 4 prompts for each work studied and must respond to one. 
  • The student will choose one of these pieces of Supervised Writing and develop that into the essay required for submission. 
  • There must be an apparent connection between the Supervised Writing and the final essay.
  • Length: No specified length.
  • Assessment: supervised writing is not awarded a mark but may be used to authenticate the student’s work. 
Stage 4: Production of the Essay

The final product of the Written Assignment process is to develop a literary essay on ONE of the works studied in this part. The essay must be written in stages with the teacher conferencing with the students after reading the first draft. The essay, along with the relevant reflective statement, will be submitted to the IB to be externally assessed. 

Some important elements to remember about the Literary Essay are: 
  • The essay is developed from one of the pieces of supervised writing. 
  • The essay is to be completed in class, with guidance from the teacher. 
  • In class, the student must work with the teacher: 
    • For guidance on the development of the essay topic.
    • To discuss the connection between the supervised writing and the essay.
    • To ensure that the topic is suitable to the length and focus of the task.
  • The teacher will also read the first draft of the essay and provide feedback through a conference in class. There is to be no editing or corrections on the actual essay. 
  • After receiving feedback the student must complete the written assignment without further assistance. 
  • Length: 1,200-1,500 words. 

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