13 SES 06, Educational Research, Literature, and Knowledge
The paper is framed in terms of a lead research question: ‘Why should the practice of literature be of significance for philosophy of education?’
The question is reflective of the overarching goal of the paper as well as a wide body of collaborative international work which has now for several years demonstrated the manifold ways in which engagement with literature is productive for the philosophy of education.
Firstly, the question works to appeal to the engagements between what we call on the one hand the practice of ‘literature’ and what we call on the other the practice of ‘philosophy’, which have a veritable and established pedigree. The most celebrated of these have, of course, been contestatory in nature: we think of Plato’s (mis-cited?) move to ‘expel the artists’ from his ideal vision of the City in the Republic; or Keats’ lament of the ‘charms that fly at the touch of cold philosophy’ in his ‘Lamia’. Our aim here, however, is to be especially cognisant that the interfaces of philosophy and literature are manifestly diverse and often subtle: philosophy of literature; philosophy in literature; philosophy and literature. Our lead question thus is intended to provoke contributions that will critically engage with the strengths and limitations of these respective kinds of engagement in themselves – perhaps calling into question the very idea that there is a separation between philosophy and literature (and, further, education), for example.
Our lead question is – on a second level – intended to generate explorations and appraisals of established questions at the interface of philosophy and literature from new and more self-consciously educational perspectives. These might include (but are not limited to): questions of knowledge, truth and meaning – what we do and can learn from literature; explorations of the educative value of specific genres of literature (e.g. dystopian literature and citizenship education); appraisals of literature as a form of moral education; and investigations of the broader ethical-educative value of literature.
In so doing, we aim to revitalise a philosophy of education dimension to an historically critical and presently burgeoning field of enquiry, and to enliven with the field of educational research with some important theoretical and methodological advances which challenge yet complement the predominance of social science research methodologies in educational research.
There is a third way in which our question could be taken, however – itself reflective of the rich nature of what it means to ‘philosophise’ about education. This would invite contributions that examine pragmatic and applicable models for curriculum development in philosophy and literature in schools and universities. This could include encouraging subject-specific reflections on the interface within English literature, history, geography, modern foreign languages, mathematics and the sciences. Such contributions would critically engage with the uses (and abuses) of literature (and philosophy) within in emergent fields of educational practice (and research) such as citizenship, character and moral education.
These three modalities are the framework for our theoretical discussion paper on the interface of philosophy, literature and education.
In reviewing a substantive body of classical writing, scholarship and research within and across existing interstitial meeting points, we find a surprising neglect of the educational dimensions, a lacuna especially evident in the most prominent of major collections (Carroll, and Gibson, 2016; Cascardi, 2014; Eldridge, 2013; Hagberg and Jost, 2015; Howatson, 2013; John and McIver Jopes, 2004; Rudd, 2010; Russell and Winterbottom, 2008). Philosophical treatments of children’s literature are almost entirely neglected (again, Rudd, 2010). This lacuna is all the more noteworthy, and surprising, given many features of the literary to have provoked philosophical interest have significant educational implications, and presses for more urgent, serious and directed academic attention. And not least in the way in which new technologies have impacted on and are shaping our very notions of literature adds further to the need for fresh, vibrant and philosophically engaged enquiry (Swirski, 2013). This is highly pertinent to parallel debates about the aims and purposes of educational research, including its relations with the broader social, cultural and political networks in which it has developed (McCulloch and Cowan 2017). One important element in the development of the field has been the nature, extent and limitations of interdisciplinarity in shaping perceptions of education in historical and contemporary socio-cultural and political perspective. The special relevance and potential that the critical examination of writers embody for the academic discipline of education is demonstrated in the wave of new forms of advocacy for the significance of disciplines of writing that often include an explicit link to the role within lifelong learning and non-institutional forms of education (see for example works of Collini 2016; Collini 2017; Phillips 2017; Small 2013; Levenson 2017). Our approach also seeks to offer a distinctive trajectory for our wider project by positioning literature as a ‘practice’. What we mean to suggest here is the way in which the literary constitutes a form of enquiry (or perhaps better, form of attention), which bears relation to the practices of philosophy of education. It is within this broad remit, our lead question is intended to provoke engagement on (at least) those three levels stated in our abstract of general orientation. Thus our methodology is collaborative and reflective of the rich, often un-mined possibilities of a field to be mapped, defined and analysed by extending cross-disciplinary boundaries of conceptual, philosophical and theoretical knowledge in educational research.
The paper we present here ‘Why should the practice of literature be of significance for philosophy of education?’ will in the context of EERA/ ECER help shape a coherent picture of the field of Philosophy, Literature and Education, which includes: (1) New examinations of the relations and contestations between the practice of literature and philosophy in the context of educational research. (2) Unique perspectives on existing debates in philosophy and literature by exploring their educational implications. (3) Novel appraisals of the educational practice of literature (and philosophy), through an assessing emerging trends and/or defining future possibilities. (4) Provide a justification for the cultural/ research value of philosophy of education; (5) Extend the EERA/ ECER networks to other organisations, for example, and notably, those working in Aesthetics, as well as Philosophy and Literature. Cognisant of the ECER theme of inclusion we are especially aware and wish to promote/ provoke discussion of lesser heard voices including (1) Perspectives such as critical theory, including feminist, postcolonial, and related frameworks, which challenge the institutional hegemony of dominant educational and cultural systems as exchange systems perpetuating inequalities of power and sustaining systemic inequalities. (2) Explorations of how literary and cultural conceptions of text and freedom of expression can be used to inform and provide fresh perspectives on contemporary educational issues and educational policy, including politically challenging voices for established educational institutions and practices. (3) Explorations of those genres of literature which give voice to children and to authors specialising in children’s literature. (4) International perspectives, particularly those which provide voice to lesser heard literary and narrative voices, including the Commonwealth, and Southern hemisphere literature.
Authors, various titles, dates Carroll, N. and Gibson, J. (eds.) (2016) The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Literature. London: Routledge. Cascardi, A.J. (2014) The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Collini, S (2016) Common Writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press Collini, S (2017) Speaking of Universities. London: Verso Eldridge, R. (ed.) (2013) Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Goodson, I. F., & Sikes, P. (2001) Life history research in educational settings: Learning from lives. Buckingham and Philadelphia: Open University Press. Goodson, A. Antikainen, A., Sikes, P. & Andrews, M. (Eds.) (2017) The Routledge International Handbook on Narrative and Life History. London, New York: Routledge. Goodson, A. Antikainen, A., Sikes, P. & Andrews, M. (Eds.) (2017) The Routledge International Handbook on Narrative and Life History. London, New York: Routledge. Hagberg, G.L. and Jost, W. (eds.) (2015) A Companion to the Philosophy of Literature. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell. Howatson, M.C. (ed.) (2013) The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. John, E. and McIver Jopes, D. (eds.) (2004) Philosophy of Literature: Contemporary and Classic Readings – An Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell. Levenson, M. (2017). The Humanities and Everyday Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. McCulloch, G. and Cowan, S. (2017) A Social History of Educational Studies and Research. London: Routledge. Nussbaum, M. (2010) Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Phillips, A. (2017). In Writing. London: Penguin. Rudd, D. (ed.) (2010) The Routledge Companion to Children's Literature. London: Routledge. Russell, D.A. and Winterbottom, M. (eds.) (2008) Classical Literary Criticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Swirski, P. (2013) From Literature to Biterature: Lem, Turing, Darwin, and Explorations in Computer Literature, Philosophy of Mind, and Cultural Evolution. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s. Small, H (2013). The Value of the Humanities. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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