Wednesday, 29 December 2010

What it means to be working-class

I thought Lynsey Hanley, as so often, hit the nail on the head:
The iron rule of being working class in today’s Guardian. She explains that for a kid to get on and get into the sort of education -- the sort of degree in the sort of university -- that will mean you’re on a steady £30,000 at 30 is these days a hopeless prospect. Hanley puts it in a way we seldom hear:

While in government, Labour consistently missed the point about the demoralising nature of low-paid insecure work, which, unless they are superhuman (as business and government demands of them) traps people in crisis-management mode: bills, debt, childcare, housing, on a rota of uncertainty. It may well be the case that flexible jobs are better than no jobs; the question is whether children whose parents are barely getting by can see a real and concrete route to a more comfortable life.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The comics kids need

Here’s an interview with Jim Medway about his work in children’s comics:

While the core or intended audience for this radio programme was evidently comics aficionados and the interest in the first part won’t go much beyond them, later on in the interview Jim points out how lacking the market is in good print comics for children. The discussion here is more generally relevant and concerns the sort of culture kids are exposed to, an issue of broad educational and cultural concern.

Comics shops have nothing for kids -- all manga, war stuff, ninjas -- nothing about kids themselves and their worlds. He indicates his thoughts about the alternatives they could do with, and says a bit about his efforts to provide them.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Alec Clegg again

An article* by Sir Peter Newsam is one of several about Sir Alec Clegg (see posting Developing teachers: theory or example?) in an issue of Education 3-13 (2008, 36:2 pp.109-116). According to Clegg, there were two approaches to education: pot-filling and fire-lighting; a combination of both was needed but it’s clear Clegg thought that without the fire-lighting the pot-filling wouldn’t be very effective. Newsam writes:

“There was, in his [Clegg’s] view, no mystery about how ‘fire-lighting’ could improve the quality of work and behaviour in any school. And because his conclusions have so little to do with the preoccupations of today and so much to do with the distinctive quality of what was achieved in the West Riding, they need to be set out fully, so far as possible in words he used in speeches of the 1960s [thus I take it the following is a composite that Newsam has put together]:

What then are the conditions that bring about this change in the potential of the school community? First of course a teacher who has at least average concern to do his job well, is sympathetic, and loves children. This isn’t asking too much and most heads fit the description. Then, he must have an impulse to do something differently because he believes it will yield better results. This belief may be induced in a variety of ways: he may have read something, got an idea from his head or from a colleague, picked up an idea on a course, and so on. Then, what I think is perhaps one of the most important of all conditions is that what he wants to try out must give the child a deeply satisfying sense of success and achievement. After this comes the recognition of this success by other children and by teachers. This stage is the acceptance of the child as a significant person in the group in which he moves, it is something we all crave, a basic need of the human spirit. It is this which spurs the child on to greater endeavour, which with the wise guidance of a good teacher leads to further success, and this success in its turn is the impulse of the next forward step. Let us forget the child for a moment, and think now of the teacher. He has had an idea, he has tried it out, and it has seemingly worked on his pupils. His need then is often for confirmation of belief in his idea, he wants to talk it over with someone, and he too needs what the child needs, almost as much as the child needs it. He needs the recognition and approbation of those with whom he works and as it was with the child so it will be for the teacher a spur to renewed effort. In all the many examples I have seen of schools suddenly becoming alight, the original flame has been kindled by a creative subject – art or craft or expressive movement – and the conflagration has then spread. Now I know that this may have happened in this county because I have gifted colleagues in those fields who have sown the first seed, as it were, and this may be the explanation. It may be that if we had equally gifted folk dealing with mathematics the same vital seeds might have been sown. Certainly I believe this to be possible. But I, nevertheless, think that it is easier to start with the creative subjects as one’s achievement is more obvious – one looks upon what one has done and sees that it is good, and others whose approval matters see it rather more easily.”

There’s a terrific formulation by Sir Peter at the end of his article:

“There are some who strut and fret on the educational stage these days who appear to have little understanding of the range and depth of the tradition within which Alec Clegg worked and seem to envisage a curricular diet and procedures for motivating high performance more appropriate to a minor preparatory school than to the educational system of a great nation.”

*’What price hyacinths? An appreciation of the work of Sir Alec Clegg’

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Knowledge in Chinese classrooms

Jan Derry draws my attention to an excellent letter by David Lambert, Professor of Geography Education at the Institute of Education, in the Independent on Thursday, about the Chinese apparently getting it right in at least some classrooms:

I've referred more than once (e.g. at the end of this") to Jan Derry’s work on the nature of knowledge in the school curriculum, drawing on inferentialist theory. Here’s a link Jan has kindly surprised to an article that gives an idea of her thinking (it’s a prepublication version so there are no copyright problems):

Derry, Jan (2008) Abstract rationality in education: from Vygotsky to Brandom. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 27 (1). pp. 49-62.

For those who’d like to read more, here are some more of her papers:

Derry, Jan (2008) Technology-enhanced learning: a question of knowledge. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 42 (3-4). pp. 505-519.

Derry, Jan (2004) The unity of intellect and will: Vygotsky and Spinoza. Educational Review, 56 (2). pp. 113-120.

Derry, Jan (2007) Epistemology and conceptual resources for the development of learning technologies. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning , 23 (6). pp. 503-510.

Golding again

Just got John Carey’s biography, William Golding: the man who wrote Lord of the Flies. All the facts are in there about how he wrote the book and got it published. (See earlier posting.)

I suppose I shouldn’t be disappointed by this but the book is as good as it is because he had a brilliant editor at Faber. Charles Monteith persuaded Golding to cut out an atomic war at the beginning and a naval battle at the end from which the ‘trim cruiser’ that finally rescues the boys emerges.

But what’s most disappointing to me is that the Simon we have in the printed version owes his fascinating mysteriousness to ruthless excision. In the original Simon was very explicitly a Christ figure who has direct contact with something, a god, or God, or a person -- Golding tells Monteith explicitly that he needs to ‘“convey a theophany of some sort or else he [Simon] won’t be as big a figure as he ought”’, a ‘theophany’, Carey explains, being the ‘appearance, or showing forth, of a god’ (159). The reason Simon retires into a secret place is for a voice to speak to him -- it assures him for instance that Ralph will get home safely, and indeed in our text Simon does give that assurance to Ralph, though we no longer know where he has got his assurance from. ‘He also led some of the boys in Good Dances on the beach’ (154).

In the original, too, ‘Simon has an intuition that there is a “prohibition” against eating the fruit on the island.’ And he actually meets and dances in the clearing (with the butterflies) with the ‘person’ who had done the prohibiting. Then, after hearing the pig’s head speak he faints, and then on recovering has the thought that he could offer himself to the beast as a sacrifice so the others could be spared. Terrible stuff, as Monteith realised; Golding would need to to make it so that everything had a rational explanation.

So in the end, as a result of Monteith’s patient persuasion, ‘“the allegory, the theophany, is [still there as] the imaginative foundation...[but is there] like all foundations, to be concealed and built on”’ (160). ‘At one point [Monteith] crosses out more than a page in which Ralph thinks Simon has an “aura” round him and was “charged with a particular significance”’ (162).

It will be hard now for me to read the novel again without being constantly aware of its ghost predecessor, Golding’s earlier version(s), which would have been an intolerable book. But I should put those thoughts aside. Golding after all showed no unwillingness to go along with Monteith’s amendments and seems indeed to have recognised that they would make for a better book. The Waste Land, too, we recall, was as much Pound’s work as Eliot’s -- or at least Pound made it into something quite different from what it had been. Nothing wrong with literary collaborations: a work emerges and has its autonomy; once it’s accomplished and there, the author(s) too, as well as the reader, can contemplate it as something outside themselves with its own existence and the right to work its own power on its own terms; the details of how it came into being are finally irrelevant. Much as Golding is diminished in my eyes when I learn of his original conception, he’s restored by his recognition of the poetic value of what emerged.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Developing teachers: theory or example?

These thoughts are occasioned by looking at a biography of Sir Alec Clegg, the last Chief Education Officer of the West Riding of Yorkshire which was abolished in 1974 (Peter Darvill, Sir Alec Clegg: A Biographical Study, 2000).

Clegg’s philosophy in the West Riding (primary schools, principally) was to promote the arts and expression, especially dance, PE and movement, even at the expense, some thought, of the 3R’s and the academic disciplines. The book’s writer is not a philosopher or deep thinker and if there was a philosophy in a worked-out sense behind Clegg’s ‘philosophy’ this isn’t the place to find it. One’s impression is that he went by what he saw to be engaging and changing children, and he shared that approach with his colleagues and advisers.

Clegg’s approach was clearly visible in the authority’s residential courses for teachers. One of his colleagues commented -- in the true West Riding spirit -- on the difference in value between course sessions run by arts practitioners and by university academics. (As an example of the former, the first course on ‘Poetry and Children’ involved Edith Sitwell, Robert Gittings, Edmund Blunden and Kathleen Raine -- big names in poetry in what seems to have been the late 1940s or early 50s.)

‘Diana Jordan’s confidential comments on a course run by Leeds University professors at Woolley Hall on the writing of English in spring 1958 were typical of those sent to Alec Clegg on courses of this type. She wrote-
“I cannot see that these University professors can do anything but make education more and more complex….Yet, when we listen to writers and poets, masters of the art of language, talking at other courses everyone understands, everyone goes with them and is lifted to higher realms of comprehension.”’ (106)

I suspect that what ‘theory’ lay behind this reliance on poets and artists was a mixture of T.S. Eliot (‘Notes Towards a Definition of Culture’) and Herbert Read (Education through Art). I.e. the theory was probably thin, but it’s doubtful whether any adequate theory was available at the time on the teaching of writing and better the intuitions and the ‘nose’ for a good classroom of experienced teachers like Clegg’s team than half-baked theory and mechanical procedures. Ditto for the arts, though I don’t know enough about this. What you’d need would be a good theory of semiotic (symbolic) mediations plus a good psychology so you could say how movement and sketching plants and writing poetry affected, well, let’s say the structure (affective and cognitive) of the mind or psyche.

Clegg was influenced above all by classrooms he saw in which children were engaged and creative and produced expressive work of high quality. While still at Birmingham during the war he visited Steward Street School, an elementary school in depressing industrial surroundings whose headteacher, Arthur Stone, had a rare appreciation of ‘the beauty that came from these children’ through art work. Stone wrote:

'The three "R's" I decided, should become a secondary consideration, for I believed that, if I could get that confidence, that interest, that concentration from each child which arise from creative art, I had the ground well prepared then for the three "R's". It must not be thought that I undervalue in any way the importance of the three "R's". I believe, however, that there are things of much greater importance, the development of the personality of a child, his growth as a whole, demand greater attention than the “R’s”.’ (13)

I think that if I were placing such weight on the arts I would rather emphasise the effects he regards as secondary and preparatory, getting confidence, interest and concentration, the last particularly being a prerequisite for all that intellectual advance that I’d want to put first in my educational aims. However that may be, Stone’s results were evidently impressive and quite unexpected in what would have been a poor and deprived population in 1940. Clegg’s team also observed other benefits from an arts-based approach adopted by schools in two villages as a result of a course in 1948: ‘“The awakened imagination and free expression is beginning to produce a flow of language that cannot be stopped”’ (45).

Further elaborating the distinction between teachers’ courses run by educationists and those by practitioners, Clegg -- and this seems absolutely characteristic of the West Riding approach to improving education -- comes down firmly in favour of the latter:

‘In October 1945 Alec Clegg had described the sort of refresher course he envisaged -
"One type is obvious, teachers must be acquainted with the latest methods in the teaching of their subjects, arithmetic or dancing, Latin or field games. More important, however, is the need for a direct attack on their general sensibilities and breadth of outlook. This can only be effected by bringing them into contact with the best minds in the country, either in industry or music, commerce or art, agriculture or theatre. These two aims can be combined in one course by the careful selection of speakers and lecturers.”’ (31)

You improve teaching by working on the teachers' ‘general sensibilities and breadth of outlook’ -- and by implication you do the same with children. But we note that the ‘best minds’ he wants teachers to encounter are, in each pair, from (a) a branch of the productive economy and (b) one of the arts. No mathematicians, scientists or scholars. Is his an approach which, relying as it does on learning from experts’ practice, is left with no way of learning from practices that aren’t practical but mental and symbolic (i.e. that work with symbolic forms like language and number)?

It’s hard to imagine what the equivalent experience might be in a maths or history or chemistry class that could have made an impression on Clegg like the one for which his art adviser, Basil Rocke, was responsible. (Rocke had studied children’s art in Vienna under Franz Cizak and was a founder member of the Euston Road School of Painters -- such was the calibre of the people Clegg surrounded himself with. Arthur Stone, too, joined him.)

"I so well remember the shock that I had when I went into a school in which he [Rocke] had done much work with a very gifted teacher and some thirty-eight paintings of flowers done by thirty-eight children, most of them children of South Yorkshire miners. They were sensitive individual paintings of a quality which I had never seen before and I remember my unspoken astonishment as for the first time I accepted Basil's conviction "that any thirty-eight children treated as these had been treated would become what they had become and would do as they had done." Alec Clegg described the paintings as " ... the instrument of my education." (47)

This is getting too long for a blog so let me draw this to a close with three observations:

(1) By all accounts what happened in the West Riding primary schools was an extraordinary flowering, above all of that ‘beauty’ that Stone had earlier made to occur at Steward Street, and of directed and purposeful curiosity (notably deployed in the local environment, especially as nature study). Nor can there be any doubt that for children to be creative, curious and purposeful is a fine thing in itself, regardless of other educational aims. The sense that Clegg and the teachers and advisers who worked with him had was that expression in words or art or movement was a release of the self, a liberation, an unlocking, and my feeling is that that was a theory with a good basis in experience and one on which a good primary education -- or a large part of it -- could indeed be based. I would, I think (based purely on reading descriptions and seeing some of the work) want all children to have the West Riding primary school experience.

(2) But not just because it’s not obvious how the transition is to be made -- the great divide to be crossed -- from experiential, expressive, curiosity- and sensual delight-led learning into the domain of abstraction, system, concepts, that of the academic disciplines as described by Michael Young (Bringing Knowledge Back In) and Jan Derry (various articles). However, it may be that the West Riding worked out ways of doing this too, though we know that Clegg found his secondary schools far more intractable. (Part of his answer, I don’t know how successful, was to break into them by extending primary education through middle schools to age 13). The problem is that Darvill doesn’t really understand the issue and his book isn’t a systematic or comprehensive inquiry. It’s time for a good history of Clegg and his West Riding schools.

(3) I'm in something we call the London English Research Group, the aim of which is to work towards an adequate theory for English. But in the group we know that amongst our PGCE students some who who are brilliant teachers are weak in and uninterested in the theory, and vice versa. West Riding teachers were ‘liberated’ into teaching better not by acquiring a better theory but by ‘broadening their sensibilities’; US teachers are ‘liberated’ in teaching writing better by being given the chance through local Writing Projects to experience being writers themselves. So, what exactly is the role of educational theory in producing better teachers? I don’t feel I can give a clear and confident answer to that.

Clifford Hanley's grammar school boys

Amazing what leads on education books Ross McKibbin provides, considering his Classes and Cultures: England 1918-51 (Oxford: 1998) is on such a broad theme. Perhaps the most enjoyable has been, from 1960 (found it in a 1989 edition), Clifford Hanley’s The Taste of Too Much. (Years ago I’d read his Dancing in the Streets, about a Glasgow childhood.)

The writing in this book too is sharp and lively. The education interest is the depiction of the Scottish equivalent of a mixed grammar school, it culture and the conversation of its pupils. The dialogue is great throughout, especially that of the main character, Peter Haddow. Delicious also is the large hilarious rough family next door, the Dougans.

Some of the best repartee is between Peter and his teachers. Thus the PE teacher (nickname Kong) has them jumping over a horse. He picks on a flabby, unfit boy, Rule, who fails to get over or even seriously attempt it:

'Do you know why you can't do it, Rule? Funk. That's all. Funk. And what is the cure for funking a jump?' He looked round the class for support as they surrounded him, and if it was a pity that his eye had stopped at Haddow, well, even Haddow had enough wits to know the answer to that question.

'Give it up and do something else, sir,' Peter said gravely.

'Did I ask for your opinion, Haddow?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Well, I don't think much of it. Your wits are wool-gathering.' Peter hugged himself in joy at the phrase, and continued to stand with a slightly hurt, puzzled expression.

Peter and friends talk on the way home.

'You're a nut case, Haddow,' Davie said.

'Une veritable tête valise,' Peter agreed.

'What do you have to go and get Kong's back up for? "Give it up and try something else." You're just asking him...'

Here’s another piece, this time with the English teacher:

During one of his majestic strolls round the English class, Gutty Greer rested his bulk on Peter's desk.

'Now is the arum winter of our mm thingummyjig, eh, Haddow?'

'Yes, sir, definitely.'

'Shades of the hum prison-house begin to close around the mm growing whatsitsname, eh?'

'I thought it was the other way round, sir,' Peter said with excessive respect.

'You have a rare mm talent for being insolent, Haddow, without saying anything the court could pin to you. Did you mm know that?'

'I do my best, sir.'

'Rare talent, my boy. Nourish it, nourish it.' Peter looked round to see if Tom Arthur was going into his black seethe, but even Arthur's secretly fostered hate for him seemed to have withered away in the aimless purgatory that fell on the class between sitting the Highers and waiting for the results. Gutty was clearly bored himself. He made no move to shift from Peter's desk.

'You're more black a visaged than usual, Haddow,' he mused. 'Don't worry, you'll mm get your English.' Peter nodded without excitement.

‘What is it, then? The law's hum delays? The pangs of mhm despised love?'

'Ah, yes.' Peter heaved a theatrical sigh, and Gutty brightened up.

'Bliss is it in that dawn to be alive, boy, but to be mm young is um . . .'


'Serves you right, boy, nobody asked you to be young.'

'I know. I was thinking of striding over the moors with unseeing eyes, would you recommend that, sir?'

'Plenty of good um precedents, Haddow. Dying young is widely recommended too.'

'Yes, it's certainly a consummation devoutly to be wished, sir,' Peter agreed. Gutty grunted, heaved himself off the desk, cuffed Peter lightly on the back of the head and ambled down the aisle.

This reminds me vividly of the way us cocky lads talked at Bradford (Boys) Grammar School. Was there the equivalent in girls’ schools? can’t recall there being from any novels.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Comics deficit

Is anyone who reads this interested in comics and their potential?

Someone who does and who thinks kids are at present ill-served by publishers, comics shops and bookshops is Jim Medway. Here’s a new interview with him:

Golding, Lord of the Flies

There’s been a Golding stir lately: biography by John Carey, mentioned by Gabriel Josipovici as one of the last English novelists, with Muriel Spark, to maintain the Modernist refusal to write like Victorians (What Ever Happened to Modernism? and articles) -- and frequently named by people we’re interviewing about their schooling in the 50s and early 60s.

I taught Lord of the Flies in the mid-60s myself, I think for a CSE course (not Mode 3 -- this was London, a conservative exam board), didn’t like it and hadn’t re-read it since, but now I have, twice, motivated by those references. I’d also read The Inheritors, long ago (about the prose style of which the linguist Michael Halliday had illuminating things to say -- I wish he’d written more on literary texts) and had found it -- well, the word was ‘interesting’, and that’s the view I’ve held over the years about both books, that Golding in each case found an issue and did a rather schematic treatment of it: boys reverting to savagery, gentle Neanderthals supplanted by aggressive homo sapiens (I’ve probably misremembered that).

I was particularly motivated to re-read Lord of the Flies by a quotation that John Carey had used (I think in What Use Are the Arts? -- bad book but great final section where he forgets his philistine pose and hails, in traditional terms but with originality and insight, the use that literature is). It was the passage in which Simon’s body is gradually covered by the wavelets with their tiny phosphorescent creatures and carried out to sea. I had to agree that this was wonderful writing, and it wasn’t at all the sort of thing I’d noticed in the novel when I first read it.

On my first re-reading, by a third of the way through I’d decided that I still didn’t like it. There was something unpleasant -- distant and standoffish -- in the writing, particularly about the boys. I read on and became more and more impressed and was utterly gripped by the last couple of chapters. I then wondered whether there had been something wrong with my re-reading of the start of the book, so I went on and re-read it again. Fortunately I had a couple of comfortable two-hour train journeys to do it on. This time I was impressed throughout and now I realise that Lord of the Flies is, as people had been saying, a great book.

I also realised how badly I must have taught literature in my first few years of teaching, and how inadequate my literary education had been at Oxford. (And how small a part of our education our degree course contributes, compared with what we learn later in the course of reading and working.) I don’t think I had a clue what books and plays were doing.

Some observations on the book from my re-readings:

(1) Yes, it’s about a descent into savagery but if you look at the distribution of attention it’s as much about nature and cosmos -- the island and its constantly shifting states, the movements of its small creatures and its huge trees, its plants, its geology, its weather, its heat; and the planet in its setting in time and space. We almost never see the boys without seeing also the light shifting on them and making shadows, the salt drying on their limbs, the breeze disturbing their hair... The human story is just part of what’s going on, a brief and trivial interlude. Even the burning of the island at the end will not be terminal. The formation of the rocks in past eons is described. Roger throws a stone that had once -- in geological time -- ‘lain on the sands of another shore’ (Faber 1958 edition, 67). The tide that carries the corpse away is the work of ‘sun and moon... pulling’ (170). Beyond, the stars -- ‘the miraculous, throbbing stars’ (63) -- are referred to frequently, and not just as things seen in the sky.

It’s this distribution of attention, in which nature and cosmos are addressed as seriously as the human story, that gradually makes this novel, that starts off in familiar realist mode, into a different kind from, say, the excellent realist writing of a Le Carré.

It’s into nature and cosmos that the poetry in the prose goes. But not only: ‘Passions beat about Simon on the mountain-top with awful wings’ (78).

I'm not sure that larger, cosmos-wide narrative scope succeeds in placing the little local doings of the boys into a natural or planetary or cosmological perspective - sub specie aeternitatis. The boys’ doings are still the boys’s doings, human doings, and I read them as a human myself, quite differently than I do the descriptions of the breezes among the creepers or the collapse of rocks into oceans over centuries. And who does this narrator think he is to take on himself the view of someone who, as if from outside, sees both humanity and nature and regards them as somehow equivalent facets of the same story?

(2) It’s a celebration of thought, Vygotsky’s ‘higher mental functions’, an account of emergence into thought and a lament about its cost. Piggy has command of it; Simon thinks -- is actually sceptical -- but is unable to give voice to his thoughts; Ralph thinks intermittently and increasingly, gradually becoming a thinker, emerging into thought, coming to recognise its necessity and Piggy’s superiority in it and is in consequence said by Jack (or is it Roger) to be getting ‘like Piggy’ and ‘not one of us’, not spontaneous, reckless and fun-filled. ‘Again he fell into that strange mood of speculation that was so foreign to him.’ And while essential, thought is a responsibility, a burden -- like keeping the fire going and building shelters instead of playing at hunting -- ‘the world of longing and baffled common-sense’, so different from Jack’s ‘brilliant world of hunting, tactics, fierce exhilaration, skill’ (77). ‘He found himself understanding the wearisomeness of this life’ (83). Ralph’s thinking at the end is breaking down -- the boys are losing their minds -- a curtain keeps flapping in his, cutting off his train of thought.

(3) We get interiority -- Ralph’s thoughts and those of Simon (the most interesting character whose full depths never find expression). The narrator’s entry into these is sympathetic. But at the same time he’s detached and proffers an adult point of view on the proceedings: ‘This toy of voting was almost as pleasing as the conch’ (24).

(4) It’s difficult -- I still don’t have a clear mental map of the island, despite constant allusions to left, right, seaward, lagoonward etc. (Would a map have done any harm? yes, because its not-fully-explored, not-known character is important throughout.) The succession of episodes and locations is quite confusing -- I have to make a deliberate effort to keep track of it. How many boys are there? How many bigguns -- just the ones who get named or are there more?

But there are also things that never get explicitly: why does Simon go off on his own? what exactly does he know and realise? what is this wisdom that he seems to have? When Simon looks away from the pig’s head on the stick (the Lord of the Flies), ‘his gaze was held by that ancient, inescapable recognition’ (152). What did my fifth years in 1965 make of that? what did I? what do I now? I still don’t know what that recognition is.

(5) The characters: those who can think (Piggy, Simon) and are good: despised, not likeable, handicapped. Jack, Roger: evil from the start -- that’s made quite clear (‘He [Ralph] felt himself facing something ungraspable. The eyes that looked so intently at him were without humour’ -- 40). (The start of the story, that is: we all know kids who appear evil at 11 or 12 -- it doesn’t mean original sin, from birth.) The twins, Sam and Eric: good but weak. It’s a poor lookout for humanity -- nothing was done, hard to see what could have been. And it seems that’s the way it is -- in the book -- which I think was one strong reason why I so disliked it in 1965. It seemed implicitly to argue the necessity of authority -- a naval officer in white uniform -- to keep civilisation afloat and prevent the descent into savagery. ‘Samneric protested [at their capture] out of the heart of civilisation’ (198). Civilisation is what saves us, not anything more fundamental in our nature.

(6) For Josipovici, Modernism was the most recent response, out of several in the course of western history, to a sense of the loss of an old innocence and unselfconsciousness, to the ‘disenchantment’ of the world. Jack and his hunters recover or reinvent the (savage) enchanted world of myth and ritual. Ralph ‘grows up’, as out of medieval slumber into Reformation, thinks and is troubled.

And rescue is the idiotic, Home Counties banality of that naval officer.

‘Ralph shouted against the noise. “Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?”’

The latter don’t come out of the story too well, but the former, too, seem to leave much to be desired.