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Title: Constructions of Shakespeare in the secondary school curriculum
Author: Coles, Jane
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis explores the ways in which Shakespeare is constructed historically, culturally and pedagogically as a compulsory component of the English National Curriculum. Employing a case study framework enables the investigation to encompass a dual purpose, both exploratory and illustrative, raising open questions about ways in which four different teachers construct Shakespeare discursively and pedagogically in the classroom, yet also testing out theoretical claims made by proponents of ‘active Shakespeare’. The study is situated in a wider historical and ideological framework, including an overview of educational policy since 1921 and the ways in which Shakespeare has been claimed to be of benefit in mass schooling. This research takes a multiple-case design, spanning four classrooms across two London comprehensive schools. Direct classroom observation of the teaching and reception of a set Shakespeare play, semi-structured interviews with teachers and students, and documentary data including student essays are analysed thematically, drawing on social constructivism as an epistemological perspective. This thesis concludes that National Curriculum policy encourages the construction of Shakespeare as dislocated knowledge, removed from meaningful cultural processes. For many students in this case study the reading of a set Shakespeare play has been a disabling rather than a liberating experience. This thesis argues that in the context of assessment- driven critical practice, reading a Shakespeare play is likely to be reconstituted as a passive process, where meaning must be mediated by the teacher, and students’ own experiences and cultural knowledge become irrelevant. Ultimately, even in classrooms where teachers attempt to construct Shakespeare pedagogically as ‘active’, the process of reading may remain a passive one, where Shakespeare’s iconic status and the authority of the text thus remain largely intact.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available