Questions of English: Ethics, Aesthetics, Rhetoric, and the Formation of the Subject in England, Australia, and the United States

Questions of English: Ethics, Aesthetics, Rhetoric, and the Formation of the Subject in England, Australia, and the United States

Questions of English: Ethics, Aesthetics, Rhetoric, and the Formation of the Subject in England, Australia, and the United States

Questions of English: Ethics, Aesthetics, Rhetoric, and the Formation of the Subject in England, Australia, and the United States

Synopsis

The impact and content of English as a subject on the curriculum is once more the subject of lively debate. Questions of English sets out to map the development of English as a subject and how it has come to encompass the diversity of ideas that currently characterise it.Drawing on a combination of historical analysis and recent research findings Robin Peel, Annette Patterson and Jeanne Gerlach bring together and compare important new insights on curriculum development and teaching practice from England, Australia and the United States. They also discuss the development of teacher training, highlighting the variety of ways in which teachers build their own beliefs and knowledge about English.

Excerpt

In my first lecture before you, in January 1913, I quoted to you the artist in Don Quixote who, being asked what animal he was painting, answered diffidently ‘That is as it may turn out’.

‘On a School of English’ in On the Art of Reading

by Sir Arthur Quiller Couch (1920)

This elusive figure, haunting the outskirts of Oxford for centuries, captures well the ambiguous stance which won Arnold himself a long-term influence: half Oxford academic, half romantic exile, he is not compromised by the fleshly institution (nor it by him) yet orbits around it as a necessary centre of gravity.

Baldick (1983:48) describing The Scholar Gypsy

The questions

This is a book about English specialists, many of whom are troubled by notions of working within fixed frames or boundaries, and almost all of whom are operating within ‘fleshly institutions’. In the following chapters we explore the relationship between the questions and beliefs that are currently being voiced in Australia, England and the United States and the material and historical factors which have helped shape them. We hope to demonstrate the historical antecedents of the views expressed not in order to ‘explain’ them but rather to consider the ways in which beliefs are formed and the questions which seem to dominate contemporary discussion. Through this process we are able to identify the kinds of questions which are exercising English specialists.

In so doing we are also and inevitably asking questions of English. It is important that such questions are asked by those who are ‘inside’ as we are living through a period when such questions have become very narrowly focussed by those who are outside. We are not, however, intending to devote any significant space to the familiar question ‘What is English?’. This is the one question that those inside English, particularly in higher education, frequently do ask, and it is beginning to look increasingly narcissistic.

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