Carnivalesque canons: "Professors" and text selection in secondary English syllabuses in Western Australia, 1945-1975
Required Reading: Literature in Australian Schools since 1945
Monash University Publishing
School of Education
In Australia during the 1940s and 1950s, Professors of English shaped the direction of their disciplines and subjects, in part through the prescription of their own textbooks on tertiary and secondary syllabus lists. This enabled them to disseminate the ideas contained within their textbooks as well as their personal literary interests. The conspicuous inclusion of professors’ books over the three decades since 1945 highlights the intimacy and intricacy of many curriculum decisions made in the teaching of English at both the tertiary and secondary levels of education. In this chapter I tell a story of English in Western Australia, 1945–75, using the ALIAS database to examine common perceptions about professorial authority for the purpose of more closely scrutinising curricular control in senior secondary English. As public intellectuals and figures of authority in growing Australian cities, professors guided the form and content of their subject by nature of their authority over the examinations and syllabuses. This situation was exacerbated in the case of the Professor of English who was in charge of a subject with wide ramifications in secondary schools because it was studied by all candidates for the public examinations. In Western Australia between 1945 and 1975, William Allan Edwards, known as Allan Edwards, was Professor of English at the University of Western Australia (UWA). During this period, UWA was the state’s only university, thus authorising Edwards’s professorial role and asserting his position as public intellectual and Chief Examiner for over three decades. For this reason, I discuss the history of English in Western Australia in terms of biography because Edwards, like Walter Murdoch before him, was appointed as the sole director of English syllabuses and examinations in the state and it follows that it was his educational and cultural experiences that shaped the version of English that developed during this period.
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