English, national identity and cultural heritage
|• Why is English involved with ‘national identity’? |
|• Where does your national identity come from? |
|• How does your national identity affect you? |
|• What is ‘cultural heritage’, and what has it got to do with English? |
|• How are English and national identity changing? |
English has been understood by many as the study of the ‘national’ literature or even of the ‘spirit’ of Englishness. Less grandly, Brian Cox (a key figure in the development of English as a subject since the 1960s) wrote that ‘English is intimately involved with questions about our national identity, indeed with the whole future ethos of British society. The teaching of English…affects the individual and social identity of us all’. In ‘English’, ideas about nation, language and culture meet, mix and become indistinguishable from each other. But how and why is English related to these ideas about national identity? This chapter explores the complicated interaction between English and ideas about how people understand themselves in a wider world of states, countries, ethnicities and peoples.