This is how Róisín Ingle describes revisiting Exploring English 3 in her foreword to this third and final reissue in Gill Books series of school books edited by Augustine Martin.
Martin revolutionised the teaching of English in the 1960s. In the introduction, he outlined his approach, ‘We are not attempting to train a race of literary critics but a generation of young people who will read sensitively for the pleasure of reading.’
Whether he succeeded or not depended on the individual experiences of students. Some will recall being forced to learn line by line for examinations, so the poems ‘no longer challenged the imagination but tyrannised the memory’, while, for others, the poems were a gateway to a lifetime of reading and enjoyment of literature.
On the English school curriculum from 1967 until 1991, Exploring English 3 will resonate with thousands of former students. Poems that didn’t make sense in school days suddenly mean something with the passing of years and the gathering of life experience. As Róisín Ingle says in the introduction, ‘Apart from school-day nostalgia, this is perhaps the best reason to revisit these works, to discover not just what they said to you then, but what they say to you now.’
Poems include Shakespeare’s ‘Shall I Compare Thee’, Edmund Spenser’s ‘The Faerie Queene’, Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘The Deserted Village’, William Wordsworth’s ‘The Daffodils’, Robert Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken’, Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do not go Gentle into that Good Night’, Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’, WB Yeats’ ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’, Patrick Kavanagh’s ‘A Christmas Childhood’, and Donagh MacDonagh’s ‘Dublin Made Me’.
Exploring English 3 is published by Gill Books on 14 September 2012, priced at €14.99.
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