DP Literature and performance is a course that brings together literary analysis, based on close reading, critical writing and discussion, with the practical, aesthetic and symbolic elements of theatre.
The ability to draw on different disciplinary knowledge, skills, and methodologies to engage with complex global challenges has become essential for success in higher education and beyond.
Unsurprisingly, this interdisciplinary course had a major impact on IB alum Smit Chitre.
In high school were you always interested in literature and the arts?
Actually, no! As a student, I entered high school rigidly interested in STEM fields. I could not have foreseen myself taking a course on Literature and Performance and I certainly could not have envisioned that course being one of the most thought-provoking and intellectually-stimulating courses that I have ever taken.
While my science courses exposed me to new information, taking Literature and Performance SL exhibited to me new modes of thought. For an IB programme that is dedicated to crafting critical and reflective thinkers—evident through the emphasis on the Learner Profile and Theory of Knowledge, as opposed to fact-banks—I cannot stress enough the importance of the Literature and Performance course.
How would you describe the important of the IB’s Literature and Performance course?
Literature and theatre are lenses with which to view and analyze, what I believe, to be one of the most important and fundamentally humanistic of disciplines: that of intellectual history/social theory. While Marx, Weber, Foucault, etc. expressed their revolutionary and critical ideas in the form of dense texts rendered largely inaccessible to the general public, the likes of Brecht, Heaney, Tolstoy, Kafka, Shakespeare conceptualized similarly impressive ideas regarding the world and society but expressed them democratically through their art: literature and theatre. These democratically-expressed ideas have moved millions of people to think about the deep questions of life and society but through an accessible anecdotal fashion.
How did Literature and Performance aid you during the college application process?
“Contrary to popular belief, he was more concerned with the left side of my transcript (the courses I took) than the right (the grades I got for each course).”
When my admissions interviewer for Harvard College worked his way through my transcript, he asked what my favorite class was I proudly said Literature and Performance. Contrary to popular belief, he was more concerned with the left side of my transcript (the courses I took) than the right (the grades I got for each course). Indeed, Harvard, much like the IB, prides itself on its interdisciplinary approach that fosters different modes of thought, as opposed to simply exposing students to a wide range of facts and information. My ability to discuss Literature and Performance, specifically my “transformation” of García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, led not only to my interviewer being impressed, but to the start of a friendship. We still discuss various novels and plays to this day, namely how they have enabled us to reconceptualize parts of our worldview.
How has this interdisciplinary class impacted your life after high school?
“Art is important. It is not simply a mirror the artist holds up to ourselves and our society, but a set of customized lenses which bring certain parts previously obscured to the fore.”
When I’m with my friends at school, we do not discuss cellular biology or astrophysics over dinner but instead chat about the Toni Morrison novel they are reading or the issue of female representation in the new Avengers movie. While this may not seem to connect explicitly to Literature and Performance, the critical-analytical lens that the course endowed me with enabled me to not only analyze literature and theatre, but also examine many other forms of art—music, visual art and film included. Additionally, at this tumultuous time in world history in which we must be educated regarding politics and history, we can look to art as a source of insight regarding the aforementioned subjects.
Art is important. It is not simply a mirror the artist holds up to ourselves and our society, but a set of customized lenses which bring certain parts previously obscured to the fore. The ability to analyze this is crucial to be an informed and critically-thinking scholar, and Literature and Performance has enabled me to develop this ability.
Smit Chitre is a junior studying social anthropology at Harvard University. He loves soccer and is passionate about global health equity.