Futures for English
English has always been subject to a number of competing agendas, with the result that its purpose within the school curriculum has often been open to contention. From its inception, English has been seen by governments and employers as the subject that teaches literacy and prepares students for the work force. By contrast, other advocates of English have argued its importance in cultivating character and citizenship in students. Yet others have argued the importance of the role that English plays in stimulating the growth of the imagination and enabling students to appreciate the value of literary language. This issue positions English in conversation with Sylvia Wynter, the Black American literary theorist and her concept of ‘homo narrans.’ Homo Narrans is the idea that we became who we are as a species in part through storytelling. Storytelling has also held a central place in the thinking of influential advocates of English, such as Harold Rosen, John Dixon and James Britton, and so this issue will be raising old issues and looking at them with fresh eyes. Wynter’s emphasis on the importance of storytelling speaks to the heart of English where the stories we centre, affirm, and retell have significant impact on who we become as individuals and as a collective.
We are not only interested in the role that storytelling might play as a component of the English curriculum, but in the way we might re-envision what we do as English teachers through the stories we tell about our work. We wish to revisit what English teachers do by exploring the potential of storytelling to open up new dimensions of our work, not only considering how it is conducted at present but speculating about the dimensions that it might embrace in the future. What stories are we telling about English? How can we think about the subject in contemporary times? What is being foregrounded? What is being left behind? What are the priorities and challenges for teaching English and texts now? What role is English teaching likely to play in the future?
For this upcoming special issue the editors Larissa McLean Davies, Lucy Buzacott, Sarah E. Truman and Kelli McGraw are calling for papers that explore a number of overlapping fields, including but not limited to:
- How is subject English being conceptualised in contemporary times?
- Is English curriculum sufficiently diverse to respond to the needs of students and the semiotic practices in which they engage?
- What are the political pressures imposed on subject English? Do English teachers need to become more political in order to grapple with those pressures?
- Is the future likely to be one in which English teaching in its current form still has a place?
- What might speculative and/or dystopian fictions-futures say about the future? Does such fiction provide a vehicle for rethinking what we do as educators?
- What impact has performance data had on subject English?
- What can the past tell us about futures for English? How might dialogue with the archives enable us to imagine the future?
- Is the literary canon still central to subject English? Do we need to rethink the role that reading literary works might play within English?
- Is it possible to unsettle the Anglophone nature of subject English? Is there room for other languages within the English classroom? Can we begin to think about language education without falling back on notions of standard English or English as ‘mother tongue’?
- How are new technologies impacting on subject English?
Full scholarly papers of between 4000 and 6000 words (including references) should be submitted to https://english-in-australia.scholasticahq.com/ by 14 June 2019.
Guidelines for contributors and information about English in Australia can be found at
All manuscripts are subject to double blind peer review.
Questions about this CFP can be directed to the Special Edition Editors:
A/Prof Larissa McLean Davies
Dr Lucy Buzacott
Dr Sarah E. Truman
Dr Kelli McGraw