This year I contributed to our on-going series of ‘Sixth Form Lectures’. These are talks given by members of the Literature department that engage texts and issues covered on A Level and IB programmes. We aim to introduce approaches to texts that complement those at Level 3, whilst perhaps differing from them.
My first lecture was concerned with Othello, specifically in connection with ‘love through the ages.’ My focus here was in relating level 3 assessment objectives A02 (questions of form) to A04 (questions of context). I began by reading ideas of the ‘excess’ of love in the play, relating this to established contextual readings (Greenblatt’s Renaissance Self-Fashioning most obviously). I then related this to a reading of ‘excess’ in the construction of language, arguing that notions of romantic excess and lack of self-control were bound up with ideas of linguistic-self-definition and conflicts over meaning both in the play, and in critical responses to it. Within this argument I also attempted to engage questions of ‘speech’, relating my discussions to framing of the play within one specific IB module.
My second lecture looked at Child Language Development in terms of the English Language A Level. Here my task was, in the first instance, to confirm the standard model offered, and to some extent offer a justification of it. By the standard model, I mean one that offers a developmental narrative that moves from Skinner to Chomsky and then to constructivism. I then questioned this, specifically in terms of problems with constructivism’s appeals to ‘context’. I recommended a range of texts on the subject, most importantly, perhaps, Deconstructing Developmental Psychology by Erica Burman.