Teaching and learning from William Blake through the lens of critical literacy
I attempt in this chapter to build on previous writing on Blake in education (Blake ed Stevens 1995; Stevens 2000, 2011, 2012; Stevens and McGuinn 2004) to further illustrate the pedagogical possibilities around his work, focusing particularly on the poem ‘London’. I also draw briefly on the insights of Blake’s near-contemporaries Coleridge and Shelley, who although very different in many key respects from Blake, seem to me to offer profound and subtle perceptions into the nature of literature in the implicit context of teaching and learning. Crucially, too, I attempt to make positive use of the much more recent phenomena of critical literacy and critical pedagogy, inspired by Freire and followers, to illustrate how Romanticism—the sprit in which Blake, Coleridge and Shelley wrote—may be given a harder, more radical and contemporary edge appropriate to today’s educational needs. To give perhaps a more vivid flavour of such things, I include also a few illustrative comments from a couple of recent occasions when I have explored ‘London’ with school students and pre-service English teachers.