Out now - English after Brexit - EA Fellows reflect on Brexit plus Peter Robinson's Balkan Diary

Posted by hl11 at Aug 03, 2016 11:20 AM |
The latest in our Issues in English occasional series

Few words can have achieved global English currency as rapidly and as decisively as ‘Brexit’. Yet its meaning changed fundamentally overnight between 23rd and 24th June.

Before the referendum, it had meant ‘the possibility of leaving the European Union’, by inexact analogy with the originating term ‘Grexit’, coined in February 2012 as shorthand for the possibility that Greece might default on its debts and be forced out of the EU.

As soon as the referendum result was announced, however, ‘Brexit’ took on a new and more complex meaning. Since then it has signified the fact of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, with all the implications (foreseen and otherwise) of that decision.

During the campaigning before the 23rd June, the potential impact of Brexit (old meaning) on education had received scant attention in the media. As soon as the word had been reconfigured, however, the sense of shock and disquiet among the EA’s Trustees quickly resolved itself into the question, ‘How will this affect English?’ And since the EA represents the professional activity of English at all levels and in all its aspects, it was decided to canvass the opinions of its Fellows.

As Chair of the Fellowship Committee, Adrian Barlow asked those for whom ‘English’ is essential to their personal and professional lives, how they reacted to the present discontents that the Brexit vote had exposed, and how they saw it affecting themselves, their colleagues and their students.

The responses were all received within three weeks of the referendum result, and we believe they convey a powerful and illuminating sense of the shock of the outcome and of the urgency of finding ways forward to protect and revalue the aspects of our discipline that are too easily taken for granted: its Europeanness, for instance, and the need both to teach the importance of creative engagement and criticism and to warn of the fragility of language.

The responses printed in Part 1 are presented in alphabetical order by author, but it is appropriate that the first response should stress the responsibility of teachers – ‘I think we can now say, in the aftermath of the EU referendum, that we have to teach the change that we wish to see in the world [….] We owe it to our students, and to future generations, to do this’  – while the last concludes that ‘This is a moment […] actively to contest the merest hints of insularity, and to pursue new commitments to European communal identity. The English Association itself might work to affirm and to develop its affiliations with partner organisations in all European countries.’

Part 2 contains a single personal essay reflecting on the events and anxieties of the three weeks during which the responses in Part 1 had been gathered. Peter Robinson’s ‘Balkan Diary’ is the testimony of a working academic, poet and editor, travelling about his business in eastern Europe and at home at a time when sudden and turbulent events have posed fundamental questions for English after Brexit.

ISBN 978-0-900232-32-9  46 pages  £4.00

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