A. A. Phillips as Critic


  • Brian Kiernan


As for   untold thousands of other secondary school students, my first encounter with   the name A. A. Phillips came through textbooks with such titles as Presenting   Ideas, In Fealty to Apollo, An Australian Muster; and Thinkers At Work-the   title of the last in red letters on a green cloth cover, or at least this is   the image memory brings to mind, and with it other associations. Writers of   textbooks must be among the least lionised of authors, and here I should like   to take the opportunity of acknowledging one student's gratitude to A.A. As   one who had difficulty with such elementary exercises in logic as   Pythagoras's Theorem, rote memory of which was necessary in the public   examinations, I was excluded from the science stream. Even the low level of   mathematics we 'humanities' students had to achieve seemed impossibly   demanding. Algebra and geometry were taught, as were the classics to Tom   Tulliver, with never a hint as to their place in the scheme of things.   Language, or at least English, conveyed the pleasures of literature and the   fascination of history; but these were regarded as peripheral pursuits, even   feminine distractions, compared with the hard, central, masculine disciplines   of a mathematical kind.