03 SES 16 B, Literary Education and Reading Publics
This presentation continues the central themes of Paper 1, but this time through investigating and presenting the voices of early career teachers. This paper provides a new perspective on the role of literary knowledge in the school curriculum in the context of an international wave of curriculum reforms increasingly designed to gear education systems towards greater economic productivity alone, rather than situating economic development within a larger democratic project. The presenters are currently part of a team on an Australian Research Council Project Investigating Literary Knowledge in the Making of English Teachers (DP160101084). The project is exploring key institutional settings, practices and policies in an investigation of early-career English teachers’ own experiences of literary education and the knowledge and values they then bring to their work as English teachers. While literature remains a central component of English education, questions about what constitutes literature and the purpose of literary study–whether it is essentially an aesthetic pursuit, an instrument for personal growth, a vehicle for instilling social justice dispositions, a component of national cultural heritage, or an elite pursuit that distracts English teachers from a proper focus on basic literacy (Peel 2000, McLean Davies 2008, 2011) - contest any assumption of a homogeneous educational field, and so questions around its educational role can be quite fundamental. Whether literature is able to be mobilised as a praxis for democracy, for example, is a key question taken up through the views of these teachers on the institutional drivers of literary knowledge. What are teachers’ understandings of the connections between the education of a public, democratic values and the place of literature in these? The oft-head argument that a literary education is an ‘education in life’ that creates empathy for the lives of others suggests a democratic sensibility, but also poses questions about whether a socially just education is best rooted in notions of ‘walking in other’s shoes’ or in more abstract questions of ethical rightness and wrongness. Most importantly, what do our teachers envisage as the reading publics that will develop from their educational work? Thematic coding will be the analytic technique for this first round of interviews which will be presented here.
McLean Davies, L. (2008) ‘Telling stories: Australian literature in a national English curriculum’, English in Australia, 43, 45-51 McLean Davies, L. (2011) ‘Magwitch madness: Archive fever and the teaching of Australian literature in subject English’, in B. Doecke, L. McLean Davies & P. Mead (eds.), Teaching Australian literature, Kent Town, SA: Wakefield Press. Peel, R. (2000) ‘Beliefs about English in England’, in R. Peel, A. Patterson & J. Gerlach, Questions of English: Ethics, Aesthetics, Rhetoric and the Formation of the Subject in England, Australia and the United States, London & New York: Routledge Falmer
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