Language A: Literature (English & Modern Greek )

[In Language A: Literature] Students will focus exclusively on literary texts, adopting a variety of approaches to textual criticism. Students explore the nature of literature, the aesthetic function of literary language and textuality, and the relationship between literature and the world.

Course Description

The focus of Language A: Literature (English and Modern Greek) is the study, appreciation, critical analysis and evaluation of literature as a creative form. Over the two years of the course, students read selected literary works representing different genres (drama, poetry, novels, short stories, non-fiction and new textualities), times (from 8th Century BCE to the present) and places (the course includes texts from a variety of countries). Through the study and discussion of these works, students become acquainted with the concepts and critical approaches associated with literary analysis and their practical application, as well as the contexts within which texts are created and received. Activities such as oral presentations, different kinds of essay writing and creative assignments, both in the classroom and for homework, afford students opportunities to examine, interpret, critically evaluate and develop independent opinions about the way in which writers use language to create meaning.

Course Aims

The course is designed to introduce students to a wide range of literature from different times, places, styles and genres, and to develop an understanding of literary traditions, approaches to literary criticism and the methods that these are based upon. One of the most important aims of the course is to cultivate each student’s distinctive style of written and verbal expression, and to foster the skills needed to communicate and support their critical responses to literary works in a coherent and compelling manner. Students are encouraged to consider not only what makes each writer unique in terms of ideas and style, but to also reflect upon the connections between different literary works and the contexts within which they were fashioned, and how these contribute to the construction of a multiplicity of meanings. The course expands students’ awareness of viewpoints grounded in cultural contexts other than their own and how what they encounter in their reading relates to their understanding of the world around them.

Course Outline

The Language A: Literature syllabus is composed of thirteen literary works at Higher Level and nine at Standard Level. Study of the different works during the two-year course is undertaken through the consideration of the interaction between three areas of exploration (Readers, writers and texts; Time and space; Intertextuality) and seven key concepts (identity, culture, creativity, communication, perspective, transformation and representation). Students retain a record of their work throughout the course in the learner portfolio; a space for each student to reflect upon the literary works studied, the areas of exploration and the central concepts.

By the completion of the first year of the course, students should be able to recognize and work with concepts and terminology particular to the analysis of different kinds of literature; to close read, analyse and evaluate the ideas and features of a literary work; to formulate a well-supported personal opinion about a work; to draw connections between works; to critically consider the relationship between text and context; to structure responses to a work into coherent written or spoken form; to support points about a work with appropriate references; and to cite primary and secondary sources correctly. The first year of the course provides students with the grounding necessary for the second year, where they will be working in a more intensive, sophisticated and in depth manner, adding to and refining the skills developed in the first year.

The following information concerning the three areas of exploration and the learner portfolio is taken from the IBO’s Language A: literature guide (2019):

Readers, writers and texts

This area of exploration introduces students to the nature of literature and its study. The investigation students will undertake involves close attention to the details of texts in a variety of literary forms to learn about the choices made by authors and the ways in which meaning is created. At the same time, study will focus on the role readers themselves play in generating meaning as students move from a personal response to an understanding and interpretation that is influenced by the community of readers of which they are a part.

Guiding conceptual questions:

  • Why and how do we study literature?
  • How are we affected by literary texts in various ways?
  • In what ways is meaning constructed, negotiated, expressed and interpreted?
  • How does language use vary among literary forms?
  • How does the structure or style of a literary text affect meaning?
  • How do literary texts offer insights and challenges?

Time and space

This area of exploration focuses on the idea that literary texts are neither created nor received in a vacuum. It explores the variety of cultural contexts in which literary texts are written and read across time and space as well as the ways literature itself—in its content—mirrors the world at large. Students will examine how cultural conditions can shape the production of a literary text, how a literary text can reflect or refract cultural conditions, and the ways culture and identity influence reception.

Guiding conceptual questions:

  • How important is cultural or historical context to the production and reception of a literary text?
  • How do we approach literary texts from different times and cultures to our own?
  • To what extent do literary texts offer insight into another culture?
  • How does the meaning and impact of a literary text change over time?
  • How do literary texts reflect, represent or form a part of cultural practices?
  • How does language represent social distinctions and identities?

Intertextuality: connecting texts

This area of exploration focuses on intertextual concerns or the connections between and among diverse literary texts, traditions, creators and ideas.

Guiding conceptual questions:

  • How do literary texts adhere to and deviate from conventions associated with literary forms?
  • How do conventions and systems of reference evolve over time?
  • In what ways can diverse literary texts share points of similarity?
  • How valid is the notion of a “classic” literary text?
  • How can literary texts offer multiple perspectives of a single issue, topic or theme?
  • In what ways can comparison and interpretation be transformative?

The learner portfolio

The learner portfolio is a central element of the Language A: literature course and is mandatory for all students. It is an individual collection of student work compiled during the two years of the course.

The work carried out for the learner portfolio forms the basis of preparation for the assessment, although the portfolio itself will not be directly assessed or moderated by the IB. However, it is a fundamental element of the course, providing evidence of the student’s work and a reflection of his or her preparation for the assessment components….In the learner portfolio, students will be expected to reflect on their responses to the works being studied in the corresponding area of exploration. They will also be expected to establish connections between these works and previous ones they have read...

Course Assessment

Students are formally assessed by the IB through two examination papers sat at the finish of the course (externally assessed by the IBO), an individual oral presentation delivered in-school (internally assessed by the teacher and externally moderated by the IBO) and, for Higher level students only, a literary essay completed in-school (externally assessed by the IBO).

Assessment component


Paper 1: Guided literary analysis

(1 hr 15 min for Standard level – 2 hrs 15 min for Higher level)

The paper consists of two passages from two different literary forms, each accompanied by a question. Students write an analysis of one passage at Standard level and both passages at Higher level


(Standard & Higher level)

Paper 2: Comparative essay (1 hr 45 min)

The paper consists of four general questions. In response to one question, students write a comparative essay based on two works studied in the course.

35% (Standard level)

25% (Higher level)

Individual oral (15 min)

Supported by an extract from one work written originally in the language studied and one from a work studied in translation, students will offer a prepared response of 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of questions by the teacher, to the following prompt:

Examine the ways in which the global issue of your choice is presented through the content and form of two of the works that you have studied.

30% (Standard level)

20% (Higher level)

Higher level (HL) essay

Students submit an essay on one literary text or work studied during the course.

The essay must be 1,200–1,500 words in length.

20% (Higher level only)