Dear editor,I wondered about closing with a Tennyson quote, but I figured my sounding like a pompous git would give the editors something to sympathise with.
In your Saturday editorial (Weekend Australian, September 20-21), you claim that "there cannot be too much emphasis on Australian literature". You also write that the English Teachers Association of NSW reasonable criticism of the latest attempts to politicise the English syllabus is "in a word, nonsense."
Your editorial is, in a word, nonsense.
The literature of Australia, the nation, is two hundred years old. But all Australian writers draw on much older, more substantial traditions - principally the tradition of English literature, which is over one thousand years old. One Australian playwright you mention is David Williamson: he writes in the shadow of a much greater English playwright, William Shakespeare. You also cite Banjo Paterson, a popular bush poet; but he writes in a tradition that has been shaped by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, by Byron, by Tennyson, and by Thomas Hardy. Clearly, any emphasis on the study of Australian literature that caused these writers to be sidelined or ignored would be 'too much emphasis'.
Your peevish criticisms of the ETA are horribly misguided. It is regrettable that the ETA felt the need to use such language as 'hierarchies in generic form' when describing ministerial suggestions for the syllabus. But their criticism is sound: any course for high-school students that focuses on Australian literature purely for the fact that it is Australian, and not for the inherent qualities of the writing, will tend to either mislead the students, or put them off literature altogether. The basis for any English literature syllabus should not be a bastardised, inward-looking cultural jingoism; rather, it should be a humbling, outward-looking curiosity, that explores and discovers. In such a spirit of discovery students will find their true strength. In the words of an (English) poet, Tennyson, who you would do well to read: 'To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.'
Sunday, September 28, 2008
On sounding like a pompous git, #451: letters to the paper
The Oz had a shocking editorial last weekend about how the New South Wales English syllabus needed more Aussie literature, or something like that. Anyway, that prompted me to send in the following email to their letters page. It never got published, so here it is for posterity:
Tim, your links stink, you fink!
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