Individual Oral Presentation

In my presentation, I argued that Siddhartha's letting go of his life at the river should be read allegorically, as a reference to his whole life, whereby he lets go of the riches of being a Brahman to seek enlightenment. However, I argue that it should be read further than an allegory, as there is very much allusion to Biblical themes and motifs relating to Christian rituals. As such, I suggest that the message in the novel Siddhartha was intensified by Christian imagery, which goes well beyond the commonalities between religions, to construct Siddhartha as a Christ-like figure, who sacrifices himself for the setting free of all. Just as Christ performs the ultimate sacrifice, Siddhartha seems to perform the ultimate ablution, whereby he enters the depths of the water to be renewed, rejuvenated, even resurrected in "a new body". Thus, Hesse seems to suggest that dethroning ourselves and plunging into the depths of the water to be renewed is a common message of the major religions - one which may be worth preserving in the modern era.

It was certainly a surprise that I could remember so much of my IOP, considering I delivered it 2 years ago. The actual IOP should have been 10-15 minutes, so I spoke a lot more quickly and with fewer redundant comments after much practice. In my actual presentation, I also delivered handouts and had props to pretend I was Hesse, so this reconstruction is perhaps limited - my hope however is that IB students will be inspired and gain some ideas from this.

1) Niche

Finding your niche is vital!

Especially for the IOP, in which you need to present in front of your classmates, it is really important that you present on a topic that you really know a lot about. If everyone presented in the exact same style about the exact same content, this would be really boring - and your grades would reflect this. Instead, you want to make yourself stand out. To do this, focus on a particular reading that you are really an expert on. Ideally, you would know more about this niche than all your classmates.

For instance, I presented my IOP on Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse and argued that for Hesse, the Buddhist worldview that he was very knowledgeable on was intimately connected to his Christian worldview. Interestingly, he notes that the Buddhist and Indian traditions greatly influenced his own religious worldview and practices. Given this, as well as Hesse’s background - both from a Protestant missionary family and having entered an Evangelical seminary - it seemed unsurprising that Biblical references and themes are prevalent throughout Siddhartha, which is a literary work on the life of the Buddha.

Using my religious knowledge, which was (and is) my niche, I argued that through portraying Siddhartha as a Christ-like figure, especially through diction and the symbolism of water, Hesse seems to be supporting cross-fertilisation between different religious traditions to encounter the Divine. Through using powerful Biblical themes and even direct allusions to portray Siddhartha’s life literarily, Hesse seems to portray the powerful role of both religions in his own life. In this sense, Biblical allusions seem to extend beyond mere remnants of Hesse’s time. It is as though Hesse is saying that Buddhism and Christianity have strong similarities, both in symbolism and in history - so much so that Biblical allusions can be used to portray aspects Buddha’s life. It is as though her were saying that there are aspects of truth in each religious tradition.

2) NO Script

Thou Shalt Not Use a Script

Trust me - if you know your material well enough (i.e. you actually read the text and choose something that you have some “expertise” in), simply making your presentation will be all it takes. Ideally, you need not memorise or make a script because you would have so much knowledge on the topic that it would just be like talking. Maybe practise over once or twice, but I don’t feel you need to do more than that. As a good IB friend of mine once said, “Just wing the IOP”.

3) Theatre

Be a little theatrical

The IOP isn’t a traditional presentation - at least, it’s not supposed to be a boring lecture like you might see in some universities. You are being assessed on how well you present as well, so make the IOP a work of art, as it were, in its own right.

But this doesn’t mean you have to take Theatre HL to do well at an IOP. When I did my IOP for instance, I used a costume that I “creatively” made by “suiting up” but putting my shirt on the opposite way so my collar was in front rather than behind. As a result, I made a priest costume, and acted out a part as though I were Hermann Hesse when he was training to be an Evangelical pastor in seminary. My IOP was delivered as though I were Hermann Hesse, contemplating Siddhartha’s life, and its similarities with Christian narratives.

I saw several other examples of good, theatrical IOPs. One of these was in a pair - one person acted as the author and the other acted as a prosecutor - as though the author were being put on trial. I also saw several good IOPs in which one signifiant part of the novel was acted out, then interpreted.

Some amount of theatre shows your teacher that you’ve put in that extra little bit of effort, and also shows that you have really made the interpretation personal.