Contingencies of Meaning Making: English Teaching and Literary Sociability

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This paper draws on interviews conducted as part of the Australian Research Council funded Discovery project Investigating Literary Knowledge in the Making of English Teachers. Those interviews inquire into the role of literary knowing in the professional learning of early career English teachers, focusing specifically on their experiences as they make the transition, via teacher education programmes, from university students of English to school teachers. We have also been interested in how key institutional settings, practices and policies might have shaped their experiences of literary education at tertiary level; the knowledge and values they bring to their work as English teachers; and the professional learning they undergo in their first years of teaching. The aim of this article is to present an exploration of ‘literary sociability’, a working concept of the project for identifying and exploring ways of literary meaning making that might have particular relevance and use for understanding early career English teachers’ experiences across the settings of their education and work.

This article about the English classroom and literary engagement arises out of the project Investigating Literary Knowledge in the Making of English Teachers, funded by the Australian Research Council (2016–2019). Our specific interests in this project are in questions of literary meaning making and the experience of early career English teachers as they make the transition from being graduates to teachers of English and literature within our contemporary Australian pedagogical and policy context. This environment is currently characterised by a pronounced emphasis on improving students’ ‘literacy’ skills (that is language for functional purposes) rather than on the role that literature might play in their education (Van de Ven and Doecke 4) prompting us to investigate the salience of graduates’ literary knowledge when they enter the English teaching profession. The broader project asks these questions: How do we understand literary knowledge and what is its role within subject English? What…

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Published 29 October 2020 in Volume 35 No. 2. Subjects: English literature - Study & teaching, Literary studies, Literary sociability, Assessment practices and policies, Education and Pedagogy, Australian curriculum.

Cite as: Mead, Philip and Brenton Doecke and Larissa McLean Davies. ‘Contingencies of Meaning Making: English Teaching and Literary Sociability.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 35, no. 2, 2020, doi: 10.20314/als.00225a9681.