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The presentation of education in the literature of the modernist period: 1890 – 1939

The presentation of education in the literature of the modernist period: 1890 – 1939

Jenkins, Gwyn (2018) The presentation of education in the literature of the modernist period: 1890 – 1939. PhD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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James Joyce, T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf created educative works in a marketplace crowded with works of fiction about education, and with works that enabled newly-educated readers to gain a literary and classical education regardless of class. Demand within the publishing industry for school stories and for series of classics and translations of classics voiced a generalised regard for learning as a good in its own right. These modernists occupied and refashioned this landscape by producing works which offered readers what they wanted whilst at the same time querying the tenets of the school system, contributing to ongoing dialogue about education and its new keystone, English, through the educative work they composed. Their works made use of allusions which are significantly more alienating to a twenty-first century readership than to their contemporary readership, which was educated within a more literary framework in which the classical curriculum was evolving and expanding into an English-based and more diverse curriculum. The manner in which the works were structured recreated the sense of discovery and challenge experienced by pupils, students and autodidacts, rather than relying on conventional and popular clichés, destabilising fictive voices to wake the reader up, acknowledging different kinds of learning styles and engaging them in analytical play with multiple points of access and recognition. While the enchantment of linear narratives is as readily conjured by these writers as their Victorian predecessors, this is seldom permitted to continue for long, as the real world breaks through the daydream and learning begins. An educative methodology in the work which rewards curiosity with a mixture of new understanding and new avenues to explore borrows from an Arnoldian notion of perfection in culture in which education becomes not so much a finite commodity to be acquired but a dynamic process of continual flourishing.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Education, scholarship, modernist literature, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf,
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS)
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2021 17:19

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