Literary Politics: The Politics of Literature and the Literature of Politics (BOK)
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This collection begins from the assumption that the boundaries of English Literature as a subject area in schools and universities are necessarily political and arena for constant renegotiation and debate. The academic Literature syllabus has never been a stable phenomenon, but has been constantly subject to to interventions, whether these are explicitly political or not. The essays here identify and debate competing definitions of 'English Studies' as an academic subject, and celebrate the diversity of contemporary literary studies, and demonstrate the ways in which a range of literary texts can be understood as politically engaged, sometimes in unexpected ways. The contributions span a variety of different texts and historical periods, but each of them addresses a moment in which the interface between literature and a political context is particularly apparent. They range across the wide landscape of current undergraduate provision in university English departments and extend into the school curriculum and children's fiction. From the co-option of Shakespeare by the British National Party to the apparent conservatism of the inter-war novel and the poetry that emerged from the UK Miner's Strike, the collection of papers addresses key areas across the curriculum in schools and colleges, in a chronology that ranges from the Renaissance to the contemporary. There are also contributions from academics directly engaged with the configuration of Literature as a subject in secondary schools and universities. The collection as a whole is a intervention into current debates within literary critical theory, and education, and a reflection on the state of 'Literature' as a subject in Cameron's coalition Britain and in Gove's new world of education. Together, the papers testify to the great variety of work on the politics of teaching literature and of literary criticism in the context of the challenges of the twenty-first century.