English Paper 2 (H) 2018: The perfect follow-up to yesterday’s excellent Paper 1

Reaction to English Paper 2 (Higher Level) from Jim Lusby, English teacher at The Institute of Education.

A literature paper that acknowledges that Leaving Certificate students are mature thinkers, with considerable knowledge of life, as well of the academic courses they have studied. This paper demonstrated that although there may be fake news, there are no fake stories. Every story has its own significance.

The questions in all sections encouraged candidates to reflect maturely on the issues explored in the texts they have studied – ‘the human condition’, as portrayed in Shakespeare’s King Lear, ‘the darker aspects’ of Robert Frost’s vision, the relevance to ‘contemporary Ireland’ in the poetry of Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, the concept of socially unacceptable behaviour in Comparative Study. This made for a challenging, but hugely stimulating examination.

In taking this approach, the examiners firmly attest the relevance of literature in today’s world, by insisting on the inextricable link between our experiences in life and the stories we tell about these experiences. It is the perfect follow-up to yesterday’s excellent Paper I.

There were no unpleasant surprises and no unfairness to detract from the paper’s focus in asserting the importance of literature. The expected poets were set, the expected modes in Comparative Study were examined, and the selected areas for the Single Text rewarded the well-prepared candidate. All questions were admirably precise and detailed.

I have only one quibble in what was otherwise a faultless paper. Because there are almost 40 prescribed texts in Comparative Study, from which candidates select three, the more precise and detailed the questions are in this section, the more they run the risk of favouring some texts over others. Perhaps it is time, again, to re-think the approach to comparative literature.