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Lecture details the constitutions effect on the English language

By Jessica Griffin
On April 17, 2014

On April 16, the spring 2014 visiting Neag professor Michael Gardiner gave a talk about the state of English literature and its relationship to history and the constitution. Gardiner is a professor of English and comparative literary studies at the University of Warwick and has a considerable education in English. In addition to this, he is author of six books involving English literature, has diverse research interests such as the Euro-Japanese exchange and the quest for Scottish independence.
The focus of his speech was the influence of constitution and the state of society on English, as a language, a discipline and a form of literature. He spoke extensively about the history of credit and the Financial Revolution in England, as well as wartime influences during World War II. In terms of constitution, he emphasized the uniqueness of the British Constitution in that it is not written down anywhere. This allows a certain amount of fluidity to the way that British law can be structured, which is unavailable to nations with written constitutions.
"The difference is the written-ness and so the historical accountability of these claims," Garner said. Thus, during a time when France was being torn apart by the French Revolution, some literature in England represented the sentiment of appreciation for the flexibility of constitution in England. Gardiner also touched on the influence of modern events on imagery in literature- a prime example being country landscapes being prevalent during World War II.
The second part of Gardiner's discussion addressed education and the discipline of English. In Scotland, a college education is currently free, and although this may change, for now it is very distinctive in the current atmosphere of increasing tuition and student loans in many nations. He discussed the difficulties English students face in today's society, one that is less accepting of humanities students. According to Gardiner, criticisms made of students of English included that there is little tangibly produced by their education. Gardiner argued, however, that the study of English "is production itself," in that, it produces a new perspective in the person of study. He points out that it is difficult, however, to reconcile this quest for knowledge with the prospect of thousands of dollars of debt combined with difficult job prospects. Gardiner's discussion raised the question of the current state of studying humanities in a university setting, and whether or not there are fewer and fewer humanities students as tuition and fees rise.
 


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