Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 10:14 am by Cristina in , , ,    No comments
Several British newspapers discuss Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove's resolution that the English Literature syllabus taught in schools should only include works by English writers, not the English language, therefore apparently 'banning' American works. Writing for the Daily Mail, A.N. Wilson agrees with this idea:
Every British child, regardless of ethnicity or background, ought to feel that a heritage that includes Shakespeare, Dickens, Jane Austen, the Brontës, Thomas Hardy and the great Romantic poets is theirs. [...]
She might be ‘depressed’ by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shakespeare, Hardy, Dickens and the Brontës.
If that is true, then she is in the wrong job.
We simply wonder what those Daily Mailers would think were, say, the Americans to 'ban' British literature from their schools. Oh, we are fairly sure we would see and article or two about it.

The Mirror recommends 10 British books 'your teen should be reading', such as
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
A passionate exploration of love that will strike a chord in every teenager’s heart.
Emily Brontë’s novel is in a class of its own in all sorts of ways, not least in its depiction of the Yorkshire moors – where Cathy and Heathcliff’s love was fixed in the mind of a generation by Kate Bush’s 1978 anthemic homage, written when she herself was just 18. (Giles Foden)
Interestingly, Joseph Conrad, despite being of Polish origins, is considered English.

Michael Gove himself writes in The Telegraph about never 'dreaming' of doing that.
Last year the Department for Education set out new requirements around which exam boards would frame their specifications. The new subject content for all GCSEs is broader and deeper than before – reflecting a higher level of ambition for children. In English literature, we emphasised that students must read a wide range of texts. We also set out a core that had to be covered – specifically a whole Shakespeare play, poetry from 1789 including the romantics, a 19th-century novel and some fiction or drama written in the British Isles since 1914.
Beyond this, exam boards have the freedom to design specifications so that they are stretching and interesting, and include any number of other texts from which teachers can then choose.
A specification that allows for Keats and Heaney, Shakespeare and Miller, the Brontës and Pinter was welcomed by teachers, who recognise that English literature has an unparalleled range of writers who can inspire young minds. And what has been sad about English literature GCSE in the past has been how few of those writers have been studied.
In one year recently, 280,000 candidates studied just one novel for the AQA GCSE. The overwhelming majority of them (more than 190,000) studied Of Mice and Men. Most of the remaining AQA pupils studied other 20th-century texts including works such as Lord of the Flies. The numbers studying novels written before 1900 – Pride and Prejudice, Far from the Madding Crowd and Wuthering Heights – were tiny in comparison, around 1 per cent of the total. The situation is no different in drama, or when one looks at other exam boards. [...]
There are, in reality, four exam boards that can offer GCSE English literature and there are no rules requiring them to exclude or marginalise any writer. If they wish to include Steinbeck – whether it’s Of Mice and Men or The Grapes of Wrath – no one would be more delighted than me, because I want children to read more widely and range more freely intellectually in every subject. In English literature, I want young people to encounter as many books as possible from different cultures. I want pupils to grow up able to empathise with Jane Eyre as well as Lennie, to admire Elizabeth Bennet as much as Scout Finch.
Samantha Ellis looks into evil characters examined more compassionately in The Independent.
And I love the way that Jean Rhys's 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea, a compelling prequel to Jane Eyre, gives the madwoman in the attic a story and a voice. Rhys's heroine is a passionate, traumatised woman, dragged from her home in Jamaica, a paradise scented with cinnamon, vetivert and frangipani, to cold, hard England, where she is driven mad by the pressure to conform. Rhys grew up on the island of Dominica, and lived this story. She wanted to rip apart Rochester's dominant, white, male, European narrative to show that, as her heroine puts it, "there is always the other side". There's something endearing about her making a woman like herself the heroine; don't we all want to be the star? Rhys offers us just this possibility. She inserts herself into the story, making Jane Eyre a book she can see herself in, and maybe, as fan fiction goes mainstream, many of us read like this now. Perhaps we feel that anyone can read any story and dive in and re-imagine it any which way. The best perspective-flips can be exhilarating; if the story can change so radically, then surely anything is possible and maybe we can even escape the real-life roles we're trapped in. [...]
And luckily, too, not all perspective-flips lionise one character at another's expense. Sometimes they reveal that heroine and villainess aren't so different. So, Shared Experience's famous stage adaptation of Jane Eyre cast Bertha as Jane's shadow, constantly trying to shove Jane aside as she moans, writhes and grabs at Rochester. It's only by repressing her violence and sensuality that Jane can be so serene, so composed. The two women are villains, heroines – and perhaps we're all much more complicated than we like to think.
London Korean Links quotes the writer Gong Ji-young saying:
By the age of 13 she had read all the “World Classics” – western literature translated from the Japanese. One of these classics was Jane Eyre. “I had always wanted to be a heroine in a novel, but I wasn’t demure like those heroines,” she confessed. The Brontë novel gave Gong a model for a strong heroine who had to grapple with difficult social issues – and someone who wasn’t demure. (Philip Gowman)
Rosie's Period Journal reviews Jane Eyre 1983. The Brontë Parsonage Facebook page shows an 1829 pencil drawing by Charlotte Brontë. The Shticks has something to say about Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights 2009.


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