Required Reading: Literature in Australian schools since 1945
Monash University Publishing, $39.95 pb, 368 pp, 9781925495577
At the heart of Required Reading is a database called ALIAS (Analysis of Literature in Australian Schools). It includes all the reading material prescribed for senior secondary English and Literature courses in most of the states from 1945 to 2005. Like all electronic databases, ALIAS comprises a structured collection of items to view, navigate, and search. To make meaning from these items they need to be framed in narrative terms. This is precisely what the chapters in this book achieve in the most interesting ways.
The editors of Required Reading invited leading authors in the fields of English and literary studies to use ALIAS to track and understand postwar changes in senior secondary school English and literature courses. By selecting, juxtaposing, and connecting items in the database, the contributors have created narratives about the texts set as literature in senior classrooms. The narratives are invested with the authors’ knowledge of curriculum histories, theories and practices of teaching, and histories of literary criticism and theory. The book represents the first large-scale study of what was set on English syllabuses in Australia and in which disciplinary, institutional, socio-historical, and pedagogical contexts.