The concept of a canon and its impact upon the teaching and examining of English literature
This thesis sets out to investigate the concept of a canon, and its impact upon the teaching and examining of English Literature in this country. It focuses on the relationships linking the concept of a canon, conceptualizations of canonicity and their practical consequences: four propositions are raised concerning those relationships. The thesis seeks to identify the ethical implications of the rival moral anthropologies which are involved in those relationships, and applies an axiological critique to the praxiological issues and pedagogical aspects of canonicity when related to notions of the 'critical' in literary theory, social theory and critical pedagogy. Since canonicity, culture and literature are considered inextricably linked, and theory recognised as 'a miscellaneous genre' (Culler 1988:87), theories of language, history, mind and culture are perceived as potentially illuminative accounts of signification. The philosophy of the aesthetic as an autonomous realm, purposively instrumental in equating a 'correct' reading of literary hermeneutics with its 'correct' counterpart in establishment axiology, is seen as problematic, and central to the thesis. The thesis is presented in three parts: Part One: Setting the Scene Part Two: The Conceptual Domain Part Three: Evaluation: Effects, Consequences and Implications. The findings are offered as a tentative explanation of the consequences of canonicity. They suggest that current conceptualizations of canonicity encourage and enable a cultural-restorationist approach, wherein a prescriptive rather than an emancipatory pedagogy is enacted in the teaching and examining of English Literature within contemporary compulsory schooling in this country.