19 May 2014

How to do Critical Commentary for IB

The IB critical commentary paper for English tests your understanding of how writers use language to create effects on the reader. It also tests your understanding of features of genre, audience and purpose, as well as your ability to compare. The exam is two hours long.

You can learn this to help you remember:
Form (genre)

Questions to ask: what is the subject matter/theme or topic?
What is the type of writing? e.g. travel writing... is it a letter (epistolary), article, blog, website, brochure? Look at the dates, as these might inform the writing styles used, e.g. eighteenth and nineteenth century texts use more hypotaxis, rhetorical styling and longer, more self-consciously literary imagery and elegant, latinate vocabulary. But age won't be the only feature that determines the styles used. Other features are:
Writer and audience: e.g. audience is the general public, vs a close friend
e.g. Both texts deal with the same subject matter which is travel to Tonsberg, however they were created two centuries apart.  The difference in age determines the style to a certain extent: the epistolary style of Wollstonecraft's letter uses more hypertaxis, complex, latinate vocabulary and self-consciously literary reference. The aim is elegance, and perhaps to paint a picture of a culture that her reader will never explore. In contrast, the website is a sales document, structured for the reader to consume in a non-linear fashion, jumping first to the images, which dominate. Subheaders and subsections break the information into discrete categories, using short simple sentences for ease of understanding as the audience here needs to be as wide as possible. Accessibility is far more important than literary complexity. 

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