Education, Literature and the Emotions: A Salute to Eleanor Dark’s Prelude to Christopher

Anne Maxwell


The current neoliberal climate has seen important changes to what is being taught to Humanities students in the Higher Education sector. With the emphasis increasingly on courses that make money and prepare students for vocations what is being lost is the kinds of reading practices and reading experiences that make for thoughtful caring citizens. Both the writer Margaret Atwood in her novel <em>Oryx and Crake</em> and the philosopher Martha Nussbaum in her <em>Not For Profit: Why Democracy needs the Humanities</em> have reflected on the ways in which the study of literature and the arts contribute to the notion of a caring society and thoughtful global citizens. Nussbaum in particular has emphasised the importance of reading and teaching literature that values  the finer emotions- those that cultivate  justice, compassion, and empathy, seeing in these the pathway to what she calls human flourishing. I argue that of Australian literary texts that aim for something similar, a stand out example is Eleanor Dark's <em>Prelude to Christopher</em>. Although written more than eighty years ago during a different phase of capitalism, the novel's passionate  critique of eugenics renders it surprisingly relevant to today's educational situation.


Compassion, eugenics, Eleanor Dark

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