Parochial Canons

Teaching Australian Literature in Western Australia


  • Claire Jones University of Western Australia
  • Trish Dowsett Edith Cowan University


In recent years, various studies have drawn attention to a lack of Australian literature being taught in secondary classrooms in Australia, with these findings often attributed to teachers’ minimal experience of Australian texts during their senior secondary and tertiary education. This paper draws on a state-wide study of texts studied in Year 12 English and Literature classrooms in Western Australia in 2018, which revealed that Australian works, and particularly Western Australian texts, were popular inclusions for study. The externally examined English course in WA not having a prescribed text list, yet this condition of text list expansion does not necessarily ensure that a wider variety of texts will be studied in schools. This paper explores some possible explanations for this situation by referring to sites of sociability and to the work of John Guillory on canonicity and cultural capital (1993), to consider the impact of a parochial canon on Western Australian English subjects.

Author Biographies

Claire Jones, University of Western Australia

Claire Jones is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia and leads The Big Picture Project, an investigation into the discipline of English at both secondary and tertiary levels in Western Australia. This project is a collaboration with the English Teachers Association of Western Australia. Claire has also worked at Curtin University within English and Cultural Studies and at Notre Dame University in the School of Arts and Sciences.

Trish Dowsett, Edith Cowan University

Trish Dowsett is a Lecturer in Secondary English at the School of Education at Edith Cowan University. Awarded a PhD from the University of Western Australia for The History of Curricular Control: Literary Education in Western Australia, 1912-2012 (2016), she has since researched the senior secondary English text lists in Australia and co-edited Required Reading: Literature in Australian Schools since 1945 (2017). Trish has written for English in Australia, Insight Publications and Reading Australia. She joined ECU having been a Research Fellow at the Australian Council for Educational Research.