Identity Politics and Educational Media in an Age of Diversity
Edited By Peter Carrier
Part II. Educational Media
Part II Educational Media The Use of Literature in the Formation of French National Identity in School Teaching during the Twentieth Century Anne-Marie Chartier A recollection from a former pupil: ‘The trunk was filled to the brim with copy- books and books from Sainte-Agathe. Arithmetic, literature, workbooks, who knows what. With tenderness rather than curiosity, I began to rummage through the whole lot, rereading the dictations I still knew by heart, we had copied them out so many times! Rousseau’s “The Aqueduct”, P.-L. Courrier’s “An Adven- ture in Calabria”, “A Letter from George Sand to her son”…’ Then suddenly fiction bursts in on the scene, for the copybook with dictations contains an unpublished text, the diary in which the deceased hero reveals his secret. There is no reason not to trust here the flawless memory of Alain-Fournier writing Le Grand Meaulnes. The novel was published in 1913 but the plot is set in the 1890s. In that final decade of the century, pupils in the cours supérieur primaire (post-primary school education), who were preparing for either the concours d’entrée (the competitive entrance examination) to the école normale (teachers’ training college at the time), or the brevet (post-primary school final examination) at the age of fifteen, were reading ‘literature’ in order to know their authors and literary schools, whereas their memory of literary texts was built up thanks to dictées, dictated passages they would have indeed ‘copied… out so many times’. Future teachers’ introduction to literature was...
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