Option 1: Non-fiction

Option 1: The study of prose other than fiction leading to various forms of student writing

This first suggested option invites you to focus on non-fiction prose texts, which are often sadly under-represented in the programmes put together by schools.

Remember that Higher Level students who study the course in English must include at least one work from each genre, which makes the study of a non-fiction work mandatory. Part 4 is a good place in which to fulfil this requirement, not least because, as the extended section of the title suggests, inviting students to explore the work/s at least in part through writing of their own, can work really well. More information about how to incorporate student writing will be addressed elsewhere.

What kinds of non-fiction texts might be suitable?

Because of the fact that you are given 'free choice' in Part 4 to select works from anywhere, it is up to you to make a decision about suitable works. Do note that your choices might be of complete texts, or - if you prefer, a range of texts from different authors could comprise a single work, For instance, you might choose essays, letters or speeches by different authors. Some suggested writers are listed below. Clicking on the links will take you to pages that provide resources specific to the teaching of each genre.

1. Speeches ​ by Martin Luther King, American Presidents - particularly John F Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Nobel Prize Winners and other historical figures.

2. Essays ​ by Virginia Woolf, Montaigne, George Orwell, Christopher Hitchens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Clive James, David Sedaris, James Baldwin

3. Letters by F Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, William Faulkner, Graham Greene, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, Francis Bacon


What about complete works?

The most popular works allow for some really interesting 'real life' exploration, as well as providing ample opportunity for students to engage with their content and style in ways other than the purely formal or analytical.

Autobiography and Travel Writing tend to be the most commonly taught, some good examples of which are as follows:

1. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote tells the story of a multiple murder that took place in 1959. Capote travelled to the place in which the crime happened, along with his friend - the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Eventually, the two suspects, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith were convicted of the crime and executed. Aside from telling the story in a particularly gripping way, the work is imaginatively structured, as well as beautifully written, and raises some very interesting questions about the relationships between fiction and non-fiction accounts, journalism and verisimilitude. There are also 3 very good film versions of the work; the first was made in 1967 by Richard Brooks, two others focus more on the figure of Capote himself and the way he went about writing the story. Capote was made in 2005 and stars Philip Seymour Hoffman (for which he won an Oscar) and Infamous (2006) with Toby Jones in the title role. Either one or more of the film versions would enable you to make some very interesting additional exploration of the difference between literary and film narrative, very much in the spirit of Option 3: Literature and Film

2. Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje is a particularly vivid account of the Canadian author's return visit to his native Sri Lanka. The descriptions of character and place are quite striking, and narrative disruption in the form of magical-realist elements, as well as the use of form and structure to engage with the idea of historical account and the unreliability of memory can provoke wonderfully rich discussion, as well as plenty of potential creative work. The students in your class will all have experience of travel, and many of cultural differences and what it means to live away from home. This can make the idea of responding to the text through creative writing a particularly pertinent one.

3. An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan portrays the author's experience of being kidnapped by Shi'ite Militia in Beirut in 1986 and being held hostage, often in solitary confinement for a period of 5 years. This is a frequently harrowing, but deeply moving memoir and deals with some raw essentials of human experience under the most extreme circumstances. The narrative is vivid, figurative and highly detailed - provoking a degree of empathy with the author that is quite extraordinary. Aside from providing opportunity to explore a wide range of thematic ideas to do with isolation, imaginative freedom and human cruelty, friendship and love, the prose is particularly concentrate; sections of it read almost like poetry so that once again, you can encourage various kinds of creative responses.

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