English Teaching And The Moving Image
Dr Roger Dalrymple
Buckinghamshire Chilterns University
|Review published||6 March 2006|
Andrew Goodwyn’s forward-looking book sets out a strong case for the fuller incorporation of media education in English teaching. Taking as its starting point the stipulation of Curriculum 2000 that the study of English should include scrutiny of moving-image texts, Goodwyn argues cogently how we might make use of moving-image work to broaden the discipline’s engagement with non-written texts and to capitalise upon students’ aptitudes for reading a visual culture with which they are constantly (and often creatively) engaged. Central to Goodwyn’s case is the notion that the ‘multiple literacies’ of the twenty-first century make increasingly untenable a conception of English studies as centred only upon the written, paper-based text. Students, he observes, arrive at our classrooms with many of their imaginative and aesthetic perceptions shaped by a ubiquitous culture of moving images: the tacit knowledge they employ in reading these visual texts might be drawn out, articulated and developed and in turn related meaningfully to the study of written texts.
After a lucid introduction exploring the varied conceptions English teachers have traditionally held of their role (some of these being more congenial to media education than others), Goodwyn sets out just how the ‘multiple literacies’ of today’s English students might be harnessed and developed in line with the discipline’s enduring values of textual and cultural analysis. There follows a series of chapters rich and detailed in their practical suggestions. Chapter Two explores film adaptations of texts and calls for a move beyond the practice of presenting adaptations to students as a purely supplementary activity to study of the written text. The ‘film of the book syndrome’, Goodwyn claims, reinforces the perceived primacy of the written text, arguably closing off opportunities for students to explore concepts of narrative reinvention and engagement and to consider the filmed adaptation as a textual artefact in its own right. Chapter Three explores how students can be encouraged to draw upon their extensive tacit knowledge of the conventions and grammar of film to develop conceptual and analytical skills for engaging with this medium – a case-study centred upon the 1989 version of Danny the Champion of the World demonstrates just how much illuminating work can be done on such key concepts as point of view, narrative positioning and perspective (concepts of equal relevance to the written text). Chapter Four likewise suggests activities in which students might analyse the major genres of television – another medium with which students are highly conversant and about which they hold a good deal of tacit knowledge. Chapter Five is replete with suggestions for practical work, arguing that student understanding of the underpinning conventions and grammar of moving-image media can be most fully progressed by such activities as case-study, simulation and analysis of short, focused sequences of moving image material.
All of these suggestions align comfortably with a student-centred and active model of pedagogy and imply that the fuller incorporation of media education into English studies might realise a more applied and practical dimension to the subject than has traditionally been the case. Accordingly, the final two chapters look forward to imagine a future in which digital technology enables an ever more participative and active student engagement with the study of moving-image texts. Here Goodwyn argues that the bringing together of media education and English studies, together with all of the innovation and change that implies, is a matter of some urgency if the classroom experience of English students is to remain relevant and continuous with their experience of the wider world: ‘if any of the arguments and predictions of the multi-literacy lobby are even half-way right, then schools absolutely must change’ (135).The book’s ultimate contention is the radical one that study of the moving-image needs to become central to English teaching over the course of the next few decades – a recommendation, the author acknowledges, that holds extensive implications for curriculum and staff development. While some readers may feel resistant to the displacement of print literacy that such a shift implies, there is a persuasive force in the book’s suggestion that moving-image education is too often presented as a supplementary rather than substantive form of textual analysis, thereby limiting its own inherent potential to enhance student learning and development. Similarly, if the book’s argument sometimes appears to exaggerate print-literacy as a constraining hegemony – the term ‘web page’ is taken to evince the ‘mental strait-jackets’ in which we are swaddled by print culture (p.119)—Goodwyn’s many case-studies and practical suggestions amply demonstrate that the study of texts (written or visual) stands to be greatly enhanced by developing the relationship between English teaching and the moving image.