Rereading ‘personal response’: A reflection on the contribution of Annette Patterson
English in Australia
Australian Association for the Teaching of English Inc
Place of Publication
School of Education
Perhaps we don't speak often enough of courage in the context of academic scholarship; and perhaps that is because we so rarely witness it. While the ideal of the academic researcher as a seeker of truth, an iconoclast working at the cutting edge of knowledge, is familiar and often invoked, the reality is that a great deal of published research reproduces prevailing paradigms of thought, or at least remains situated within them. There are few real breakouts. As a postgraduate student studying poststructural theory in the late 1980s, I imagined myself a radical - a common enough conceit of new researchers. In truth, I was a conformist working within a paradigm established by remote continental theorists. Perhaps the paradigm itself was radical (though even that seems less certain now); but my contribution to it was not. I came to realise these things during my PhD research, after meeting and learning from some genuine thinkers. They included Bronwyn Mellor, Ian Hunter and Annette Patterson. It was from them that I learned what it means to follow an idea based on reason and evidence rather than fashionable consensus - and what courage that requires. Looking back now on the contribution of Annette Patterson, to whom this issue of English in Australia is dedicated, I am reminded not only of her intelligence and her capacity for independent thought and inquiry, but also of her courage in questioning some powerful orthodoxies in English education.