English and Geography: Common Ground?

By:
Ms. Sasha Matthewman,
Dr. John William Morgan
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What does a sense of space and place bring to the interpretation of a literary text such as Pigs by Les Murray? What does an English subject perspective add to work in Geography on documentary texts such as the recent BBC wildlife series Planet Earth?

The workshop is an outcome of our collaboration as teacher educators involved in the initial training of English and geography teachers. We start with Planet Earth because we want to highlight a popular text worth viewing from different subject perspectives. For geography teachers, Planet Earth provides a visual resource ideally suited to introducing students to aspects of the physical geography of the planet and raising issues about people’s relationship to the natural world. The potential for using Planet Earth in the English classroom is perhaps less obvious. However, the programme raises all sorts of questions about genre, narrative and the construction of media texts. In many ways it reflects the type of interdisciplinary understanding required to address ecological issues. Specifically, we have tried to see what happens when different disciplinary mindsets are brought to bear on cultural texts. Gillian Beer (1996) sums up very well what we have in mind:

“Encounter, whether between peoples, between disciplines, or answering a ring at the bell, braces attention. It does not guarantee understanding; it may emphasize first (or only) what’s incommensurate. But it brings into active play unexamined assumptions and so may allow interpreters, if not always the principals, to tap into unexpressed incentives. Exchange, dialogue, misprision, fugitive understanding, are all crucial within disciplinary encounters as well as between peoples” (p.2)

In this workshop we want to explore some of the relationships between two subjects taught in schools, and see what emerges from the encounter.


Keywords: Geography, English, Ecocriticism, Interdisciplinarity, Teacher education
Stream: Education and Social Welfare
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: Writing the City


Ms. Sasha Matthewman

Lecturer in Education, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol
Bristol, UK

Sasha Matthewman is Lecturer in Education at the University of Bristol where she leads the initial teacher training programme for English and teaches on the MSc in Education, Technology and Society. She was the coordinator of the English team on the ESRC funded InterActive Education Project (University of
Bristol 2000- 2003). Her research interests are in literacy and technology and English and the environment.

Dr. John William Morgan

Senior Researcher, Futurelab
Bristol, UK

John Morgan is Senior Researcher at Futurelab, Bristol where he is director of Enquiring Minds, a project which seeks to rethink the curriculum to take account of pupils’ interests as researchers. Until last year, he ran the University of Bristol’s initial teacher training course for geography. His interests are in critical pedagogy and social and cultural geography. He is co-author of Teaching School Subjects: Geography 11-19.

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