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Reel Schools

Schooling and the Nation in Australian Cinema

Josephine May

Reel Schools takes a fresh look at the history of Australian schooling through the lens of Australian cinema from the silent era until 2010. In exploring the relationship between cinematic representation and educational history, Josephine May shows how numerous Australian feature and documentary films offer access to powerful vernacular imaginings about school education in Australia.
May argues that the cinematic school is a pervasive metaphor for the Australian nation. She demonstrates that, while Australian films about schooling have consistently commented on the relationship of schooling to the Australian class structure, they also increasingly explored gender, race and ethnicity at school, especially after the 1970s. From then on the egalitarian dream of school education and the nation’s capacity to generate meaningful futures for the young became increasingly contested.


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Table of Contents


Preface and Acknowledgements vii List of Figures ix CHAPTER 1 Introduction: The Cinematic Vernacular of Australian Schooling 1 CHAPTER 2 The Silent Era: ‘A School of Sentiment’ 15 CHAPTER 3 High Tide of Nationalist Portrayal 1930s–1960s 45 CHAPTER 4 Nation and the Girls’ Boarding School in the 1970s 73 CHAPTER 5 Nation and the Boys’ School in the 1970s 95 CHAPTER 6 State High School Blues in the Early 1980s 119 CHAPTER 7 The School Film in the Late 1980s 149 CHAPTER 8 Multicultural Nation at School in the 1980s–1990s 183 CHAPTER 9 Private School Fantasies in the 2000s 217 CHAPTER 10 Conclusion 243 Bibliography & Filmography 249 Index 273

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