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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 20. 1972

What's Needed?

What's Needed?

It would be profitable to restructure the entire English syllabus to fit in more with the needs and wants of the people undertaking the course. With the new paper system a tremendous opportunity has been given for some imaginative replanning of courses around definite aims rather than around apologies and justifications as at present. These courses could be moulded to complement and reinforce those of other disciplines in order that the student, if he wishes, can restrict his study to his own particular into interest. For instance, it is ludicrous to have a historical com as is the 'B' course without linking it to those who are majoring in English.

PhD cartoon

As far as I can see three English courses are required. Each of these is capable of being moulded and adapted, and would encompass most relevant interests.

1Study of Style and Technique. This course would replace the present pot exercises. It could centre around a single work, of relevance to nowadays, which would be analysed in the light of traditions, foreign influences, social undercurrents, the author's life, its inner form appeal, stylistic features, and impact of the public - in short what makes it tick. On the other hand the course could consider several works, exploring dominant motifs, unifying factors and divergent trends. Such a course should not be restricted to books but should include drama technique and film analysis (as Philip Mann has introduced already), and could lead to journalism or creative writing.
2Historical Survey. This course could cover similar ground to the present 'B' course except that the emphasis should be on the relation of the books studied to the ideas of the society in which they were written. To do this satisfactorily it would be impossible to devote much time to detailed textual study. It would also to be necessary to consider non-literary works where these have a direct hearing on the works under study. The course should give an understanding of social history through literature.
2Study of Contemporary Ideas. This course should be the most widely reaching' and popular. It would also be capable of the greatest flexibility to suit fads of lecturers and students. At the moment one of the biggest moans about the English syllabus is that no modern books are studied. Professor Mackenzie attempts to counter these criticisms by stating that a serious student would be able bo find the ageless quality of literature and let that sustain him into the present. "The knowledge you gain of the achievements of great writers of the past and the responsibility which they showed to their own times begins to shape itself as a way of meeting comparable problems in our own age." The truth is that English lecturers have a demilitarized zone beyond which they will fling the occasional missile but which they must regard as alien, or even hostile, territory. The demilitarized zone is the area between the 1930 and 1940 parallels, and contains such writers as Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Huxley, cummings etc. They are exceedingly suspicious of these people, but occasionally dare to extend the sweating palm of reconciliation. There are also a few of their airmen downed in enemy territory, whom they have vowed to rescue come thunder or damnation. These include such stalwarts as Bellow, Lowell, Muir, Beckett, and the N.Z. impresarios.

Varsity cartoon