Novel Theorising: Lessons from School-Like Literature


  • Julian Stern York St John University
  • Catherine Samiei York St John University


Educational alternatives, progressive education, alternative education, difference, educational theory, educational philosophy


Literature provides a unique creative space for theorising education, and in particular for describing in appropriately richly ambiguous ways the complexity of education lived out in contemporary schooling. This is an exploration of three novels by Golding, Tolkien, and Barrie. These novels are represented as examples of school-like literature illustrating contrasting theories of education. Dyadic models of schooling are exemplified by Golding’s Lord of the Flies; cyclical models of schooling are exemplified by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy exemplifies both models, providing both a critique and a defence of childhood as needing to be controlled and childhood as a kind of apprenticeship in adulthood.


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