Daily Archives: July 27, 2007

The crisis in the study of literature in the school system

The August Meeting of the 17 Group

— Pat Buckridge on the crisis in the study of literature in the school system.

Wednesday, the 1st of August at 7pm
in unit 6 at 20 Drury St. West End.

Pat teaches literature at Griffith University and has published extensively on literature and on Australian and Queensland culture, including Australian and Queensland literature. He has provided this summary of his talk:

“I argue, first, that the rumoured crisis in the study of literature in Queensland secondary schools is real, and deeply entrenched.

Such claims are routinely dismissed by pointing to the works of literature that do, undeniably, appear in syllabus booklists; but these are gradually diminishing in number, range and diversity, under the influence of so-called ‘Critical Literacy’ approaches which, as an article of faith, deny the distinctive value and interest of classic literature, focusing on the ideological functions of all cultural texts and discourses, and seeking to expose these functions by methods of linguistic and discursive analysis.

I argue that the cultural loss incurred in this process is a serious one, entailing – for a whole generation of students – a failure to achieve affective, imaginative and intellectual contact with the human past; or – putting it less neutrally – a misguided, ideologically driven refusal by teachers and education administrators to offer students unimpeded access to that huge body of writing, the literature of the past, which is the unique record of past human experience and consciousness.

The free-standing human value of that record needs to be insisted upon, irrespective of the various ‘uses’ – political, ideological, ethical – to which it might be put in different historical and social circumstances. It’s an issue, I suggest, of heritage conservation, closely analogous in some respects with the conservation and maintenance of environmental assets like Antarctica, or of cultural assets like the Taj Mahal.

Thinking about literary education in ‘heritage’ terms is not new, but it’s also not recent, at least in Queensland; and perhaps it’s time to revisit an old idea for what it might have to offer as a response to an intractable contemporary problem.

I’ll be suggesting that a ‘conservation rationale’ might indeed have some useful pedagogical and curricular implications for the study of English in our schools. “

Bring all eating drinking talking friends of any reasonable politico-cultural persuasion.

Don’t take the non-Trotsky convention too seriously.

Dan O’Neill