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Idiom Vol 53 No1

Student writing: The essay, 2016 and beyond

Chair: Paul Martin
Panel members: Briony Schroor and Peter Rose

Montaigne, in the sixteenth century, invented the word, ‘essai’ as a literary term and wrote in order to test his response to different subjects and situations. His essays reveal a ‘modest, truthful humorous and objective person, clear sighted, unprejudiced and a great conversationalist’ ( J.M. Cohen). Geordie Williamson, in his introduction to The Best Australian Essays 2015, says the essays he likes best ‘are those which swerve across the mid-point of the author’s argument like a drunken driver over broken white lines, climb their ideas like a fakir up a magic rope, roll delirious inside their own thoughts, pitch and yaw: You know what I mean.’

This panel explored what teachers and students expect of the essay, indeed writing itself, in an era in which anyone with a Facebook page or Tumblr blog can and does write about those issues which move them. Teaching students to be ‘authentic’ in their ‘essay’ writing is an urgent matter for classroom teachers.


The essay—beyond the formula

Briony Schroor

Briony Schroor is the Leader of the the English Domain at Nossal High School, an academically selective high school. She has a PhD in feminist theory and classical Greek literature. She has taught English and Literature in both Australia and England for the past eighteen years. She says she is always interested in what students have to say but is increasingly concerned about the formulaic ways in which they are encouraged to say it. Briony can be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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The kids are all right: Allowing ‘the kids’ to find themselves in diverse texts

Chair: Jan May
Panel members: Louis Hanson and Will Kostakis

This panel asked the question: do the texts students study actually reflect what is happening in their own lives? Whose ‘voices’ dominate in these texts? And what are the implications for text selections that educational bureaucracies such as VCAA and teachers make?

The panel explored the need for students to read about characters who mirror themselves—characters who suffer from anxiety or depression, characters who are struggling with their sexual identities and characters who are from non-majority ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds


Seeing yourself: How the English texts we choose can change lives

Will Kostakis

After dabbling in celebrity journalism and reality TV, Will Kostakis now writes for young adults, publishing his first novel Loathing Lola when he was nineteen. His other novels are The First Third and The Sidekicks.

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Ways into William: Still quoting Shakespeare

Chair: Margaret Saltau
Panel members: Christine Lambrianidis and Fiona Spitzkowsky

The epitome of ‘a dead white male’ or ‘the inventor of the human’?

Shakespeare is a staple of our English and Literature classrooms. But what does Shakespeare’s legacy mean for our students and our teaching? Is Shakespeare still edgy, or on the edge of relevance for today’s students? How, after all this time and countless readings, can we read Shakespeare with fresh eyes and encourage students to develop new interpretations?

This panel explored ‘Ways into William’ about the place and purpose, and most importantly, the teaching of Shakespeare in the 21st century.

Christine Lambrianidis is the Head of English at Point Cook Senior Secondary College. She is also an emerging playwright, authoring The Woman in His Mind and The Debt (formerly entitled The Greeks). She is currently completing a practice-based PhD in Theatre and Performance at Monash University, investigating new forms of tragedy. She has published on The Conversation website and in Neos Kosmos on the relevance of Greek tragedy today.

Fiona Spitzkowsky is a Melbourne based writer, producer and director. She has worked with Attic Erratic, the Emerging Writers’ Festival, and the Festival of Live Arts at Arts House and is a member of the Voiceworks Editorial Committee. She has a Masters of Writing, Publishing and Editing from the University of Melbourne, and is completing a thesis on the ethics and practicalities of presenting madness on stage. She is currently undertaking a Hot Desk Fellowship at The Wheeler Centre exploring the form of silence in playwriting. As a director, Fiona has focused on reinterpreting classics such as Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew and (Lady) Macbeth through a feminist lens. Her plays include Without Sex, Traffick and Scratch which she read at the This is Not Art Festival in Newcastle as well as appearing on a panel addressing mental illness in the arts.

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