University of Tasmania
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Poetry and Tasmanian institutions of learning 1840-1950

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posted on 2023-05-26, 06:18 authored by Ralph SpauldingRalph Spaulding
This thesis examines the teaching of poetry in Tasmanian institutions of learning from 1840 to 1950. It identifies the poetry taught in government primary schools from 1840, the poetry prescribed for secondary public examinations from 1861, and that taught at the university from 1891. It examines the nature of this poetry and methods of its teaching and assessment, and considers changes that occurred in the pedagogical value and function of poetry during this period. The poetry taught in Tasmania's primary schools during the nineteenth century was included in school readers published in Britain and Ireland. This poetry reflected the religious and moral values of the British and Foreign School Society and the National Commissioners of Ireland, and the ideals of patriotism and imperialism promoted by the British government. The thesis demonstrates the extent to which these values and ideals influenced the selection of poetry, including Australian poetry, for school readers published specifically for Tasmanian primary schools in the first decades of the twentieth century. The poetry taught and examined at secondary and tertiary levels in Tasmania during the nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth century conformed to British Public School and University syllabus requirements. The poems studied at these levels were from the classical English canon of poetry, and this canon remained largely unchanged until the 1940s when the University of Tasmania's Department of English initiated its pioneering course in Australian literature. By analysing courses of study, school inspection reports, and methods of teacher training, the thesis demonstrates that poetry in the primary school served initially as a means of teaching reading, speaking and recitation skills an, d of inculcating society's values and beliefs. Poetry was not studied as a form of literature to be appreciated and enjoyed until the early twentieth century. This change in the function of poetry challenged both the traditional canons of primary school poetry and the methods of its teaching. Similar developments occurred in senior secondary and university English studies. Initially, poetry was a useful source for the study of grammar, etymology and figurative language, before being valued and studied as a form of literature in its own right. The thesis considers the extent to which teachers were challenged by classroom methods designed to stimulate and measure students' personal and critical appreciation of poetry during the 1930s and 40s. It examines the tensions between the traditional moral and linguistic approaches to the teaching of poetry and the emerging application of Romantic ideologies that focussed on personal and creative responses to literature, and demonstrates that these tensions were not resolved within the timeframe of the study.


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