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The “Effanineffable” Weakness of Poetry: The Duality of Bringing Poetry into the Teacher Training Classroom

Chapter in book
Authors Johan Alfredsson
Published in Poetry and Pedagogy across the Lifespan. Disciplines, Classrooms, Contexts / edited by Sandra Lee Kleppe, Angela Sorby.
Pages 237-253
ISBN 978-3-319-90433-7
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Place of publication Basingstoke
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion
Pages 237-253
Language en
Keywords Poetry Pedagogy Teacher Education Gert Biesta Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak The Duality of Poetry Subjectification Thomas Stearns Eliot
Subject categories Philosophy, General Literature Studies


Research shows that teachers and teacher students believe that poetry is important within the school system, but still shun it. The main reason is the widespread notion that poetry is difficult. And indeed, poetry can be just that, but it can also be fun and easy – this is the basic duality of poetry. As a university teacher of literature, I come across this shunning on a regular basis. However, it resembles another conflict that is just as frequent amongst teacher trainees: the one between the university classroom, and the classroom where the students will eventually be teaching. Through sets of thinking that embrace patience and risk, as opposed to reliability and guarantees (exemplified by Gert Biesta’s G.C. Spivak’s theories), these two conflicts could be dealt with simultaneously. The same goes for pedagogy: when choosing pedagogical material that address this duality of poetry, two things tend to happen in the classroom: a) poetry becomes fun (and a bit less difficult); b) poetry helps the students see the difference – and the relation – between the two classrooms. In this chapter I argue that this happens due to the analogy between the duality of poetry and that of teacher training.

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