We have aimed, here, to write a polemical but at the same time often practically oriented book intended for English teachers, lecturers in university departments of education and student teachers of English at all levels, developing and adapting a fundamentally Romantic notion of the subject English. In one sense this is a rediscovery, a restoration perhaps, of the root traditions of the subject as a counter to recurring reductive and mechanistic tendencies in school-based English. In another sense, though, we present what we hope is a robust response to the urgent challenges of the new millennium in the context of such areas as the intercultural connections and responsibilities of English teaching, ICT possibilities, extending literacies, and the place of the arts in the curriculum.
In a telling phrase, the writer David Almond has described the essence of good writing - and, by implication, of the subject English itself - as practical magic. In this book we examine both parts of the definition, recognising the inherent tensions between them, but also their complementary nature if English teaching is to develop imaginatively. Similarly, we look at notions of subjectivity - the traditions of individual responses to language or literary stimuli at the centre of English - and objectivity - the demonstrable need to improve standards of basic and critical literacy. Again, we shall seek to establish a new synthesis, based on reflection and speculation derived from our own and others' empirical research.
Each chapter is structured along broadly similar lines, to include substantial and provocative quotations from writers, artists and thinkers in the English Romantic tradition and responses from key figures in the modern context of educational thought and practice. There is substantial exploration and development of the principal areas raised, reflecting on and illuminating the key issues, tensions and opportunities, together with some indication of the arising practical possibilities based on research among teachers, student teachers and pupils of English. The focus here is on the implications of the presented ideas, as outlined, on the potential for subsequent classroom practice.