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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Historical perspective for a literature curriculum Coburn, Marnie Alice


This study investigates the relationship between history and literature in the English curriculum of the school. The investigation moves in two directions, one leading to an examination of the boundary between English and history to see if the barrier between these two humanistic studies can be lowered. The other leads to an analysis of the prescribed texts to determine the times in literary history from which the selections in these texts were taken and the effects the times are likely to have on students’ understanding of their own culture. The teaching of historical literature contributes to students’ enjoyment of literature. For the purpose of this study this hypothesis limits the definition of "historical" literature to imaginative writing describing historical events, attitudes, and characters; expository accounts of exploration; and to literature written before this century. "Enjoyment" refers to immediate pleasure and also to enduring insights; that is, to a sense of heritage, understanding of desirable and possible values, and recognizing the attitudes to recurring themes expressed at different points in time. In this thesis I have examined the purpose of general education and then the contributions of English literature to the curriculum of general education. When I realized the effects of fragmentation of learning on general education and on English teaching, I began to consider how this trend toward subdividing knowledge could be reversed. The common interest of English and history in human beings suggested that their contiguity could be exploited and I have therefore written at length on the relationships between them. The correlation of these subjects in the classroom has rewards as well as perils, as I have pointed out, but by relating my personal experience I have shown that it can be done by one teacher in normal teaching conditions. The concluding parts of the thesis deal with the extension of selections into the past and offer annotated bibliographies. Rather than a "proof" or a "disproof," this thesis is designed to give a new and interesting approach to old ideas.

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