POETRY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE AND CULTURAL IMBALANCES. A postcolonial approach to the current situation in Spain and France

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Alonso, Maria Luisa  ORCID logo  https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9078-6339

This research explores the availability and potential educational uses of different forms of poetry that can be read using a postcolonial approach. The focus is on contemporary France and Spain, two contexts where people with different cultural heritages coexist and need to negotiate cultural imbalances inherited from colonial and neo-colonial domination. This research highlights poetry’s overlooked suitability to engage young people in the expression of cultural difference in a progressively globalized world where cultivating cross-cultural understanding and tolerance needs to be at the top of our agendas. For this reason, the dissertation includes an analysis of poems (currently available for young people) aiming to foreground the possibilities of a postcolonial reading. I also studied similarities and divergences between the French and Spanish scenarios based on evidence gathered during a survey of the Spanish and French fields of poetry for young people and from interviews with informed agents. The survey of the field consists of the exploration of textbooks and anthologies but also the examination of poetry circulating through on-line channels. The interviews were undertaken with selected French and Spanish representatives of people currently involved in the production and dissemination of poetry for young people. I observed that the number of poems showing connections to a postcolonial legacy was scant in the French school material and even more in the Spanish books that I examined. I also confirmed that little attention was given to oral ways to deliver poetry especially showing little regard for the oral literary practices and traditions of non-European French and Spanish speaking communities. The Spanish lack of attention to these traditions is more salient. This contrasts with observations about non-school contexts. Spanish and French young people can nowadays easily engage with varied cultural traditions in poetry which circulate in poetry events and social media. Interviewees confirmed these observations but also raised issues about Spanish and French poetry education that need to be dealt with so as to improve school attention to mixed cultural heritages in poetry. The main contribution to knowledge of this thesis consists in identifying the underused and unexplored educational potential of French and Spanish poetry currently available for young people that can be fruitfully approached using postcolonial lenses. The evaluation of the information gathered in this research reveals that dominant French and Spanish approaches to poetry and limited poetry repertoires hinder the visibility of some contemporary forms of poetry and restrain the effectiveness of some poetry already present in mainstream poetry corpora. However, the comparison of scenarios shows that France offers more accessible and relevant ‘places of enunciation ’ than Spain does for poets to address young people. For instance, comparing contexts, French young people have easier access and more support than Spanish youth to engage with poets’ expressions of being culturally displaced.

Whitley, David
Nikolajeva, Maria
Poetry for young people, Poetry performance and education, Postcolonial approaches to poetry teaching, Interculturality and the arts, Cultural difference in literature for young people, Spanish poetry teaching, French poetry teaching, Non-European French poetry, Non-European Spanish poetry, International cooperation in poetry teaching, Comparative education and literature
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
CEDIES (Luxembourg Ministry of Education)