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Preparing for the graduate of 2015. Proceedings of the 17th Annual Teaching Learning Forum

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Books -- History -- Study and teaching (Higher), Cultural studies, Publishers and publishing -- Study and teaching (Higher)


Book history is a field of study concerned with 'the influence of manuscript or printed materials on the development and transmission of culture', typically concentrating on six related topics: 'authorship, book selling, printing, publishing, distribution, and reading' (West, 2003). This article evaluates the teaching of book history in English and Cultural Studies units at the University of Western Australia (UWA), which ceased offering a stand-alone unit on the subject in the late 1980s. Since then, book history is only ever addressed in English and Cultural Studies units as an ancillary to other themes and theoretical inclinations, in particular text based formalist criticism. As this approach is typical of Australian universities, the findings of this paper have implications outside of UWA. It is the intention of this article to establish current practices associated with the teaching of book history at the tertiary level. Furthermore, this article demonstrates some of the pedagogical advantages of incorporating book history into the English curriculum, before suggesting that contextualist literary theory, of which book history is an example, is better suited than formalist literary theory to contemporary ideas about good teaching practice, as well as meeting expectations about the generic skills students should possess upon completion of a university course. In an effort to support these claims, staff were surveyed and follow up interviews were conducted. Overall, the findings suggest that staff practice contextualist criticism and raise issues of book history (especially in their lectures), but they rarely identify these practices to their students, thereby depriving both parties of a potentially valuable teaching and learning opportunity.


Copyright 2008 Per Henningsgaard. The author assigns to the TL Forum and not for profit educational institutions a non-exclusive licence to reproduce this article for personal use or for institutional teaching and learning purposes, in any format (including website mirrors), provided that the article is used and cited in accordance with the usual academic conventions.

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