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Interested Disinterest: The Development of the Literature Study Guide

Bjerke, Mildrid Helen Ahlberg (2015) Interested Disinterest: The Development of the Literature Study Guide. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

The present doctoral thesis takes as its object the literature study guide for A-level, a genre which has not previously received scholarly attention. The thesis brings out the unexpected ways in which this at first sight insignificant genre expresses a fundamental ‘disciplinary anxiety’. The literature study guide is typically unheeded by literary scholars and educators because its instrumentalism – which seems to follow from external political influence – is at odds with literary values. However, this thesis shows that the study guide not only mirrors the clash between neoliberal and humanist values, but also reflects an analogous conflict within the discipline of English literature concerning the institutionalisation of disinterested ideals. In this thesis, the discussion of the tense dialectic within the study guide – its interested disinterest – is conducted in three thematic, but inevitably overlapping, parts. The first considers the study guide’s instrumentalism, viewing it as an expression of what is referred to as the neoliberal ethos, as well as investigating the overly facile conception of literary realism which informs the genre’s plot-driven structure. The second part takes disinterest as its theme, demonstrating the study guide’s membership in that tradition through its kinship with Matthew Arnold’s A Bible Reading for Schools (1872). It argues, moreover, that the genre finds further motivation in the demands of practical criticism. The final part explores the diachronic development of the balance between interest and disinterest within the study guide, and argues for a reconfiguration of the concept of disinterest such that it might accommodate a more inclusive, and less conflicted, literary pedagogy. The study guide provides a space for reflection upon the discipline’s implicit values and intuitions of purpose. It is argued that such a reflection leaves us better equipped to tackle ongoing challenges to the discipline.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Literature study guides; neoliberalism; liberal humanist aesthetics; disinterest; the discipline of English literary studies; literary pedagogy; humanities debate
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.675102
Depositing User: Mildrid Helen Ahlberg Bjerke
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2015 16:10
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/11179

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