chapter  7
11 Pages

Dialoguing identities and transnationalising the space of the Australian literature classroom

WithMonika Wagner, Mary Purcell

Drawing on the work of Spivak and Bakhtin, we are problematizing the space of teaching in English classrooms in Australia in order to reconceptualise the classroom space for transnational exchanges. This enables us to move beyond traditional understandings of English classrooms as sites for engaging in the literary canon that is typically conceived as embodying national identity. In opening up this space we intend to give voice to the positions unrecognised within what is commonly considered the ‘canon’. Changing the nature of the dialogical space forces us to consider the normativity of our usual judgements around text selection and use within the English classroom. We read three contemporary Australian texts that can be said to open a space of radical difference to consider how students engage in epistemic work by submitting to texts and to the possibility of ethical transformation. Bakhtin and Spivak both suggest an ethical focus to reading and engaging with text. Spivak’s ideas challenge epistemic violence, foreground agency, and problematise representation. A Bakhtinian reading of text, on the other hand, foregrounds answerability, the necessity of the simultaneity of I/Other to enable cross-cultural understanding and understanding of the self. Thus they are potentially empowering for literature educators and students wishing to engage ethically with their situatedness in a world in which so many voices are silenced and so many injustices invisible. Spivak and Bakhtin give us methodologies and rationales for rendering visible the clash of epistemes implicit within these transnational spaces. By challenging the exclusions implicit within hegemonic constructs, we consider teaching through the lens of social responsibility in our work with text, teachers and young people.