Losing Their Faculties?

By Ross, Paul | IPA Review, January 1, 1995 | Go to article overview

Losing Their Faculties?


Ross, Paul, IPA Review


AT Melbourne University the film Mad Max is being studied in first-year English. Crocodile Dundee and Strictly Ballroom appear in Level II Australian Cultural Studies at Adelaide. Hardly representing the high intellectual attainments of the Australian film business, they reflect the confused state of much Australian tertiary Arts education - as well as the unavailability of Priscilla when these courses were being sewn together. The stupefying of the young isn't something that only happens in loony American west-coast academies.

The things those urbane academics, the owners of those irritating voices who hog Radio National, do for their salaries are fascinating. The university handbooks, the stubby best-sellers which puff courses and tout for customers using the language of Australia Council press releases, tell part of the horror story.

Warning: This nonsense comes with the imprimatur of the universities involved for, as the University of NSW states in its handbook:

"Schools and faculties will monitor course content (including titles), teaching methods, assessment procedures, written material (including study guides, and handbook and Calendar entries) and audiovisual material to ensure that they are not discriminatory or offensive and that they encourage and facilitate full participation in education by disadvantaged people."

Shake a modern BA and these are the sort of subjects which will fall out: Women in the Modern World; Gender and Frontier; Sexuality and Power; Society and Desire; Gender and Work; Postures or People: Sexual Roles in the Classics; Deity and Mother Earth; Women and Science; Performing Bodies; and The Australian Male Author--Patrick White. Consider please, these sort of course offerings didn't just happen; they were conjured up by this country's best and brightest. It is on student performance in handling such stuff that degrees are awarded.

Griffith University is a typically true believer in Equity, has an anti-smoking policy, is against sexual harassment and for equal opportunity. Students may study Creative Advertising or get to grips with Literature and Colonialism: "...with particular attention to questions of literary form, gender and ethnicity." If that's coo starchy then more relaxed is the course on Politics and Fiction, which "...includes a research essay and a take-home examination." Remember when Australians used to snigger at McDonald's Hamburger University? Of even more substance is Class Power and Society: "drawing on theories of class, deviance and the family this subject focuses on relations of class power in Australia and the world; crimes of the powerful and the powerless and the position of women."

'Feminism' and inverted commas are much used by the tenured bubbleheads. "Lesbian feminist criticism; gender and narrative; and feminism and psychoanalysis", comes from La Trobe. Several Sydney courses seem designed for the career-minded: Feminist Theology may open doors with the ABC's Compass production team, or Gender in Australian History a tertiary tutoring vacancy.

The Body in History is up for grabs at Queensland which also does an interesting history course, Celebration or Plague? Sex and Sexuality. This studies the "dynamics of sex, sexuality and gender in Europe and America over the past 500 years, applying this understanding

sic

to Mardi Gras, AIDS, and modern concepts of sexuality." If students feel the need of a frock to go with that the Department of Art History does have a course on Dress: Historical and Cultural Perspectives: "The garment as cult object, revival and definition of fashion, ritual clothing, subculture dress and interpretation of dress in works of art." Queensland, in the "me too" world of higher education, also has a "policy statement on equal opportunity and affirmative action".

FRIGHTFUL: La Trobe's offerings in Cinema Studies may have more appalling appeal. Consider "narrativity and masculinity" or "the different faces of the monstrous-feminine; horror and the aesthetics of fright". …

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