Text selection and the teaching of ‘difficult’ texts in subject English

Year: 2019

Author: McLean, Davies, Larissa, Gannaway, Jessica, Buzacott, Lucy, Truman, Sarah, E.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The way in which students understand the world through literature has a significant impact on Australia’s global identity and perceived values. Therefore, it is no surprise that issues of text selection are regularly debated within the Australian media. Concerns around the appropriateness of texts, the need for ‘trigger warnings’ on literature (Cook 2017) and issues of national identity, cultural capital and the literary canon (McLean Davies 2014; Guillory 1993) converge in debates around the texts set for study in secondary English classrooms.

Drawing on current research projects around literature and knowledge regarding the value and purpose of literary study, this paper will consider how secondary English teachers negotiate the complex external and internal forces that impact on text selection practices in their classrooms. It will offer new insights into how teachers manage the expectations and demands of curriculum, students, parents and schools when selecting literary texts for study and what these decisions mean for Australian literary culture and national identity.


Cook, H. (2017). Too many 'depressing messages' in VCE books drives push for trigger warnings. The Age. April 28 2017.

Guillory, J. (1993). Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

McLean Davies, L. (2014). You are what you read: Text selection and cultural capital in the (globalising) English classroom. In International Perspectives on Teaching English in a Globalized World. London: Routledge.