English and the knowledge question

Brenton Doecke, Philip Mead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


This essay poses the question of the role that literary knowledge plays in subject English. It thus engages with current debates, largely prompted by Michael Young’s call to ‘bring knowledge back in’, about the need to restore academic knowledge as the basis of the school curriculum. We take issue with Young’s understanding of knowledge, arguing that it privileges propositional knowledge at the expense of the interpretive activities typically associated with literary studies, and thus fails to provide a valid framework for supporting students as they read and engage with literary texts. We focus on two moments in the history of subject English, namely the Newbolt Report (1921) and John Dixon’s Growth Through English (1967), showing how they embody understandings of the nature of ‘knowledge’ and ‘experience’ as they are mediated by language that provide a significant counterpoint to Young’s arguments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-264
Number of pages16
JournalPedagogy, Culture and Society
Issue number2
Early online date21 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2018


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