A very long engagement

English and the moving image

Authored by: Andrew Burn

The Routledge International Handbook of English, Language and Literacy Teaching

Print publication date:  February  2010
Online publication date:  February  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415469036
eBook ISBN: 9780203863091
Adobe ISBN: 9781135183141


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The place of the moving image in English has a long but vexed history. It appears first as part of what F.R. Leavis and his colleagues saw as the unwelcome intrusion of the mass media into the cultural world of the young, another barbarism threatening the civilization whose guardian, guarantor and representative Leavis took to be the literary culture of the ‘Great Tradition’ (Leavis, 1948). The same deep mistrust of film and cinema, along with visual media in general, was expressed in the early 1960s by David Holbrook:

… the word is out of date. It is a visual age, so we must have strip cartoons, films, filmstrips, charts, visual aids. Language is superannuated… .

Some teachers fall for the argument… .

We must never give way: we are teachers of the responsiveness of the word.

… The new illiteracy of the cinema, television, comic strip, film-strip and popular picture paper they accept as the dawn of a new era.

(Holbrook, 1961 [1967]: 36–7)

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