The significance of emotion in English literature teaching: from Newbolt to today

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


In this chapter, we explore the enduring significance of emotion in English as a school subject, tracing its influence back to the Newbolt Report’s proposal that education should be divided into ‘the training of the will (morals), the intellect (science) and the emotions (through expression or creative art)’ (Board of Education 1921: 9). We explore the way in which the Newbolt Report considers the ‘humanising influence’ (1921: 57) of English to be inextricable from the experience of literary emotion, outlined in its emphasis on the ‘training’ of emotions leading to ‘the full development of mind and character’ (1921: 181), and consequently a view of the emotional experience of English as life-enhancing and morally improving. We explore some of the ways in which these views have subsequently been echoed, amplified and sometimes contested in debates around the value of ‘emotion’ both within a theory of literature and in English teaching as actualised in schools. In the second part of the chapter, we draw both on recent work in the cognitive sciences and literary linguistics and on an empirical study of the views English teachers hold regarding the value and significance of students’ emotional responses to texts in order to investigate the ways in some of the claims of the Report regarding emotion in English teaching still hold a century after its publication.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe New Newbolt Report: One Hundred Years of the Teaching of English in England
EditorsAndrew Green
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2021


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