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'What role should Australian literature play in the school curriculum? What principles should guide our selection of Australian texts? To what extent should concepts of the nation and a national identity frame the study of Australian writing? What do we imagine Australian literature to be? How do English teachers go about engaging their students in reading Australian texts?
This volume brings together teachers, teacher educators, creative writers and literary scholars in a joint inquiry that takes a fresh look at what it means to teach Australian literature. The immediate occasion for the publication of these essays is the implementation of The Australian Curriculum: English, which several contributors subject to critical scrutiny. In doing so, they question the way that literature teaching is currently being constructed by standards-based reforms, not only in Australia but elsewhere.
The essays assembled in this volume transcend the divisions that have sometimes marred debates about the place of Australian literature in the school curriculum. They all recognise the complexity of what secondary English teachers do in their efforts to engage young people in a rich and meaningful curriculum. They also highlight the need for both secondary and tertiary educators to cultivate an awareness of the cultural and intellectual traditions that mediate their professional practice and to encourage a critically responsive pedagogy.' (Publisher's blurb)
* Contents derived from the Kent Town,Norwood, Payneham & St Peters area,Adelaide - North / North East,Adelaide,South Australia,:Wakefield Press,Australian Association for the Teaching of English,2011 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
In the preface, Cal Durrant writes of his hope that 'through reading and thinking about this book, teachers can help inspire a new generation of Australian students to let their imaginations swim towrads that 'Floating Library' of Australian literature...' (ix)
'On August 21, 2011 the Melbourne Age reported that the University of Melbourne wasn't offering any formal undergraduate studies in Australian literature. In 'Uni brought to book for snub to local literature,' journalist Nicole Brady reported on a 'DIY' course in Australian literature organised by third-year Arts student Stephanie Guest in response to the absence of official undergraduate offerings in 2011. Guest's student-run seminar series took place in Melbourne's historic Law Quad on Friday afternoons, and hosted a number of writers, including Elliot Pearlman, who all came along to talk about their craft. Apparently, Guest became aware of an enthusiasm for and commitment to a national literature while on an exchange to Argentina, as a student of Spanish. This caused her to reflect on her own sparse knowledge of Australian literature, mostly gained at high school through the study of 'very dusty' texts about mateship, world wars and white men. Inspired by the ways literature in Spanish provides insights into the nuances of Argentinean culture, Guest keenly felt the absence of her national literary cultural capital, and resolved to remedy this situation when she returned to Australia. Disappointed, but not unfazed when she found that no formal course was available to her, Guest sought out like-minded peers, and set about contacting local writers.' (Authors introduction, 1)
'Australian literature is like literature in general, only more so: what characterises all reading and writing is embodied with special intensity in this case. Why? Because when you read or write in an Australian context, your imagination is unavoidably and utterly itinerant.' (Author's introduction, 16)
'Recently I listened to an Indigenous educator respond to the draft Australian Curriculum and it would be hard to have been in that audience and not be infected by the sheer relief expressed, that at last the knowledges of Indigenous peoples will be brought into the curriculum in a consistent and self-conscious manner. This at least is the potential of the curriculum, as this educator saw it. While most of us at the forum were expressing disappointment about what we saw before us as an atomised, technicist approach to English in the consultation draft, with its attendant matrix of strands, standards and levels, here was a firm reminder of the nature of 'standpoint'. Despite many of the criticisms voiced about the Australian curriculum, and the sense of opportunity lost for an imaginative national discussion about what we value as important learning, I've heard no one question the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives...' (From author's introduction, 31)
'I would like to explore some aspects of the experience of literary knowledge, amongst and between teachers and students, as reported in the 2010 Australian Learning & Teaching Council (ALTC)-funded project Australian Literature Teaching Survey. This exploration is framed by the contexts of that survey, particularly the history of 'English' in Australian education and its evolution, in the second half of the twentieth century, to include the study of Australian literature (see Dale, 1997; Reid, 1988) and recent responses to a federal government led proposal for a national or 'Australian' curriculum (K-12), which includes Australian literature within the proposed English strand. These reflections on the issues and questions that came out of the work of the ALTC report are influenced by my understanding of the disciplinary history of tertiary literary studies and of literary education at the secondary level, as well as by my own experiences of teaching literature within those educational and institutional contexts. These reflections are also informed by studies of English pedagogy that aim to pay attention to the lifeworlds of students and teachers and their experiences in the classroom (like Doecke and Parr, 2008).' (Author's introduction, 52)
'My first class in teaching Indigenous literature was beset with a challenge: 'Why are you quoting that songline on overhead?! An Aboriginal student asked me, deeply offended, when I introduced a pre-scripted lecture on Aboriginal 'text'. 'It is not to be taken away from its context. It is sung, not written; it is performed with dancing and has a meaning that you would not understand!' My bravado failed and I gave her the stage. She was right. I had unwittingly performed a 'colonial' act of misappropriation. The pressures of early career academic life were my rather feeble excuse - at the last minute I had been asked to take over the unit from a retiring colleague on top of my normal teaching load, was finishing, at night, my PhD on Australian novel to film adaptation, and was processing all sorts of new realities. I'd been instructed by this colleague to show an 'example' of a songline as an introduction to a unit called 'Australian Society, Aboriginal Voices'.' (Author's introduction, 70)
'There are those of us who are trying to rethink the place of Australian literature in our lives, as readers and writers, students and teachers, and as participants in this society and culture. It's happening from different angles: in the academy, in literary studies, cultural studies, and Australian studies, including Australian history, at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and in research frameworks; in secondary and primary education, locally and nationally; and in the public domain. It's also happening internationally, through translation, and in the many different spaces where Australian literature might have meaning. Meaning, of course, is a first question and the meanings of both 'Australian' and 'literature' are fluid and routinely contested. Coupling the terms only increased the questioning, raising the stakes to beg the question of whether it is meaningful or necessary to talk about Australian literature at all. What is it? Does it exist? Does it matter anymore, or any differently from any other kind of literature, simply because we happen to be in Australia? Does it have a privileged claim on our attention, or, if it does, is that suspect? Each part of the coupling comes with hefty baggage. 'Australian' brings the national, the nation and the nationalistic, identity and belonging, history and culture, citizenship and inclusion/exclusion. 'Literature' brings not only the literary, but also language, and literacy, questions of reading and writing, and teaching and learning in relation to reading and writing. In particular it brings, for my purposes here, those approaches and practices known as 'creative writing' that in recent decades have entered subject English and more broadly the business of how literature is made is made in our society. 'Creative writing' is an infelicitous term, perhaps, but one we're stuck with, understood as something with many manifestations, widespread popularity and its own complex institutional history. Discussion of these things - creative writing and Australian literature in the curricular context - joins with larger debates about our education and contemporary culture that tend, paradoxically, to adopt a rhetoric of embattlement while taking for granted the importance of both related fields. It is surprising that, in a neoliberal, technocratic, metric-managed world, reading, writing and creativity should retain such power and loom so large.' (Author's abstract)
'Remember the days of the old school yard? I do. More precisely, I remember much of what took place in my senior English classroom. More than a quarter of a century later, I can still recall the excitement I felt in reading particular books and authors for the first time. What I do not recall, however, is an instance of the nationality of an author influencing my engagement with their writing. For example, thinking back on why I enjoyed reading My Brother Jack, I recollect I found George Johnston's central character David Meredith appealing, but not as a representation of what it is to be an Australian. The Australia of My Brother Jack is certainly not the Australia I knew in the early 1980s, and David Meredith's experiences seemed as foreign to me then as the poets-of-origin of the clipper ships which so fascinated him. I was drawn to Meredith because of his determination to be free and - if I am honest - I hoped that I might one day end up partnered with my Cressida Morley. Is there anything exclusively Australian about David Meredith's yearning for freedom? I don't think so, not least because my reading of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tennyson's 'Ulysses' in that same school year suggested parallels in the motivations of all three characters.' (From author's preface, 108)
'...Magwitch madness...has been inspired by Derrida's notion of 'archive fever' - the 'compulsive, repetitive and nostalgic desire for the archive, an irrepressible desire to return to the origin' (Derrida, 1998, p. 9). Like the convict Magwitch in Charles Dickens's novel, who is relocated to Australia, but remains imaginatively and materially linked to the centre of the Empire through his patronage of the boy Philip Pirrip (Pip), contemporary manifestations of Magwitch madness, whether they be in curriculum documents, media debates, text selection or pedagogical practices, are distinguished by a nostalgia for classic texts...and metaphorical and virtual proximity to the cultural capital that these classic works represent.
In this chapter, I will examine some contemporary manifestation of Magwitch madness in Some Australasian texts set for study in senior English. Thorough this analysis, I will pursue the connection between these texts and a more systemic manifestation of this condition in the recent debate around the teaching of Australian literature and in the Australian Curriculum: English. In the final section of this chapter, I will explore the implications of Magwitch madness for classroom practice, by drawing on data collected in four diverse Victorian secondary schools in 2010 as part of the project National Stories: Teaching Australian Literature in Secondary English. Through the examination of these various and inter-connected expressions of antipodean archive fever in text, curriculum and practice, this chapter will map some of the complexities and challenges of teaching Australian literature in twenty-first century classrooms.' (From author's introduction, 130, 131-132)
The primary aim of the authors in writing this chapter 'is to illustrate how some aspects of any national literary conversation play out in the complex social and cultural setting of a school literature classroom.' (From authors introduction, p 154)
Jan Baily writes on her experiences of teaching Australian literature to international students. Her teaching experience led her to conclude that ‘Australian texts can enrich the literary experience of our international students’ culturally, aesthetically and linguistically, and can help move them toward a more varied understanding of their unique experience in Australia, and in the world generally’. (p. 193)
'In some respects, the aims of the National Curriculum Board's Shape of the Australian Curriculum : English (May 2009) could not have been more utopian: to 'help individuals participate in society', to enable 'young people to improve their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their communities and their nation', and so on. By the time we get to ACARA's The Australian Curriculum: English (2010), these values are explicitly tied to personal modes of self-governance and self-restraint (where students 'recognise and regulate their emotions', 'develop personal and social competence as they learn to manage themselves', etc.) and to the more explicit task of 'nation-building', although the links between the study of English and these various values and ideologies remain vague and gestural. Nevertheless, self-improvement, self-regulation and social cohesion are among the primary ideals of these documents, which identify literary studies in particular (now working in tandem with literacy and English language study) as a key discipline through while they might be realised.' (Author's introduction, 231)
'In 1984 John Docker published a very funny account of the division between Leavisites and New Critics in the English departments at Melbourne and Sydney universities. The title of his book, In a Critical Condition: Reading Australian Literature seemed to hint that Australian literature was on its deathbed. But, in fact, participants in debates about teaching Australian literatures have tended to take for granted that the study of literature itself is an essential part of a secondary school education, and a legitimate part of a tertiary education for those wishing to become teachers; the debate arises from different ideas about what should be taught and how. The title of this essay, however, hints at a new level of concern about the state of teaching of Australian literatures. This concern arises from the fact that schools and universities have been shaped by dramatically intensified demands that outcomes be quantified, and quality evaluated. It is the premise of this essay that these demands have had, and will have, a far greater effect on the teaching of literature than disciplinary debates in literary studies, broadly conceived. Thus, this essay seeks to move work and workplace cultures to the centre of the discussion.' (Authors' introduction, 246)
'This essay is structured around quotations taken from early issues of English in Australia, the journal of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE), when that journal played a significant role in the formation of a professional discourse for English teachers at a time of rapid expansion of secondary education during the post-war years. We enter into a dialogue with contributors to these early issues in order to test the currency of their values and beliefs today. What is their attitude towards the teaching of literature in Australia? What are their views specifically with regard to the place of Australian writing in the secondary English curriculum? Does English still have anything in common with what contributors to these early issues understood the subject to be? We are posing these questions, not out of some musty interest in the ghosts of debates past, but in an effort to create a perspective on the present, and to think outside the mental cage of standards-based reforms and construction of subject English that is currently being foisted on the profession by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).' (Authors' introduction, p. 266)
'Bonnie Cassidy argues that when teachers are 'faced with the problem of how to read and discuss poetry in Australia...thought and time might be better spent on encouraging confidence in poetry as a relevant medium and substance of our times. Specifically, ...to look at young Australian to enact this regeneration - and schools as the site in which that process will take place, grounding the work of universities.' Cassidy also states in this chapter she will interpret the role that poetry might play in The Australian Curriculum: English, including some of the challenges that the Curriculum poses for a revision of approaches to poetry in schools.' (294)
'This essay is haunted by a poem. Reflecting on my experiences of reading and writing as a student and academic, Sylvia Plath's 'Lady Lazarus' makes its presence felt in that 'metaphysical meeting space'. At the heart of the poem is the monosyllable 'charge' and Plath's risky choice to repeat it four times in five lean lines. The repetition insists on the pursuit of generating charge, in all the complex connotations of that word, within the 'geometry of connections' generated by reading. (Author's introduction, 307)
‘The literature written for young people can be a vehicle for mediating change in mainstream attitudes, or it can confirm existing values. As with all literature, it carries ideologies. In this chapter, I will focus on the picture book, which constructs its meanings through dual visual and written texts. In particular, I will analyse selected, recent award-winning Australian picture books for their representations of ‘Australianness’.’ (From author’s introduction, p. 352)
'In one of a series of articles in the New York Review of Books...the historian and Harvard Librarian Robert Darnton concludes a passage on the great American research libraries by writing that
students today still respect their libraries, but reading rooms are nearly empty on some campuses...Modern or postmodern students do most of their research at computers in their rooms. To them, knowledge comes online, not in libraries. They know that libraries could never contain it all within their wall, because information is endless, extending everywhere on the Internet, and to find it one needs a search engine, not a card catalog.
('The Library in the New Age', New York Review of Books, 12 June 2008)
In this paper I ask what this shift in learning practices means for the teaching of Australian literature. I take it as a given that education will increasingly be electronic and that students both in universities and in schools will increasingly read books on tablets or eReaders...'(From author's introduction, 369)