Changing principles and recommended practice in the teaching of fiction in elementary and secondary schools from 1902 to the present day with special reference to the age-group 11-13.
thesisposted on 19.11.2015, 09:15 by Dennis Charles. Hamley
The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate the changing place of fiction in schools in this century. Sources include Board, Ministry and DES publications, articles, surveys, English method books and specialist works on fiction in schools. First, nineteenth-century attitudes to vernacular literature in schools are surveyed. Concepts of "Culture" and "Growth" are considered in the larger contexts of the rise of English studies, liberal education and development of progressive viewpoints. The perceived needs both to "humanize" the newly-emergent literate classes and shield them from corruption are noted, to account for widespread distrust of fiction in schools because of its links with popular culture and consequent moral and aesthetic ambiguity. After 1902, resolution of the conflict between the cognitive and affective and concern to restrict fiction in schools to the accepted "cultural heritage" are seen as main anxieties of traditional teachers. Progressive educators recommend catholicity in fiction and consequently grapple with its moral and aesthetic ambiguities. The socio-critical stance of the Cambridge School, progressive educators' emphasis on personal growth and the movement towards general secondary education combine to alter the debate's direction. The importance of A.J. Jenkinson's work (1941) is shown to spring from his fusion of the moral criteria of the Cambridge School and social criteria derived from the progressives. This new formulation, together with post-war calls for a common culture, leads to revaluation of the cultural heritage and emergence of a specialist children's fiction. Its closeness to popular culture now becomes fiction's strength. Such concerns as catholicity in reading, moral and social perspectives, authorial responsibility, the centrality or otherwise of the text, changes in methodology receive detailed critical attention as children's fiction becomes an accepted part of the cultural heritage and a principle literary genre in the school.