Maxine McKew and Larissa McLean Davies are featured on The Garret. They discuss the importance of teaching Australian literature in schools, and what this mean for our students, our teachers, and of course, our writers.
My focus for the project is building a comparative writing unit based around the idea of intertextuality and intersectionality.
This focus came about as a result of seeing a tendency amongst my students to firstly think of texts as existing in a bit of a bubble, and secondly to rely on a rigid structure in exploring their ideas. While they can capably analyse broader themes and how they interlink with an author’s motivations and context, what I would like to see is their pushing further into recognising how and where a text sits in the landscape of literature.
Specifically, the unit would aim towards broadening their view of what Western literature looks like beyond the canon that so readily comes to mind, while simultaneously encouraging student autonomy in the direction of their writing. To this end, my research will be based upon Maxine Beneba Clarke’s The Hate Raceand Foreign Soil, Emily Bitto’s The Strays, and Alice Pung’s Laurinda. Suggested supplementary texts currently include Looking for Alibrandi, Marlena Marchetta; Growing Up Asian in Australia, ed. Alice Pung; The Colour Purple, Alice Walker; Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson; and the Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Sisters Publishing, Meanjin, and Helen Garner archives at the University of Melbourne.
Growing up with a ‘different’ surname, it wasn’t until I read Australian migrant literature at school where I felt that I could place myself as ‘Australian’. I want to look at how we construct ‘Australian-ness’ and, through Maxine Beneba Clarke’s The Hate Race and Foreign Soil, Claire G Coleman’s Terra Nullius,as well as Germaine Greer’s work, I want to provide students an opportunity to explore and reflect on the construction of being Australian to consider the following concept for Literature: Is the dynamism behind the Australian identity, informed by multiculturalism and diversity, an ideology to celebrate as a society? I hope to provide my students with an engaging unit that uses texts that fight for a space in the discourse of identity to leave them either on the journey to, or arrived at, their understanding of what makes them Australian.
~Antony Monteleone, Secondary English Teacher-Researcher on Pilot Study
I am interested in researching how to teach students to read diverse literary voices sensitively and appreciatively. Poet and polemicist Audre Lorde wrote, ‘Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic.’ Fuelled by this imperative, I intend to explore what a contemporary Australian écriture feminine might be. To answer this question, I will focus upon Ellen Van Neerven’s innovative short-story collection, Heat and Light, and compare it with Maxine Benebe-Clarke’s polyvocal Foreign Soil and Ceridwen Dovey’s genre-bending Only the Animals. With access to the University of Melbourne Archives, I would investigate how diverse, feminist short-story writers are (under)represented and reviewed in Australian journals.I see this opportunity as a chance to gain depth and rigour in my own understanding of these texts and their place in Australian literature, which is seldom possible (but sorely craved) during the rush and routine of classroom teaching.
~ Amy Brown, Secondary English Teacher-Researcher on Pilot Study
The ‘teacher as researcher’ opportunity appealed to me as a way to revisit and reignite the research skills I developed during my Arts Degree in Literary Studies. As an early career teacher, I see immense value in this project as a both a catalyst for professional development and to collaborate with colleagues from across Victoria to share insights on both educational practices and the value of literature. ‘The Fictive Self’ – to borrow a phrase from the author Michelle De Kretser – encapsulates my ideas regarding this project. I am interested in the ways fiction and the lives of fictional characters resonates with audiences. Cate Kennedy’s anthology, “Like a House on Fire”, presents characters in an array of situations that mirror contemporary life. My aim is to link these stories to mediums such as podcasts, literary journals and ‘zines’ to create a unit of work where print and digital medias are linked to real world contexts through the publication of a class literary magazine or the production of a class ‘literati’ podcast.
~Cameron Smith, Secondary English Teacher-Researcher on Pilot Study
The main focus for my research will be ‘How can I introduce diverse voices into the junior English classroom?’. My reasoning for this focus is to ensure that the texts used in the English curriculum are representative of the student cohort that we teach. I am particularly interested in finding texts that are culturally diverse, as well as bringing more female voices into the classroom. For this reason, I am looking at using Alice Pung’s Laurindafor the basis of my research. After reading the novel, I was excited about how my students would engage with the text, as well as it being the ideal springboard to explore my proposed research question.