It’s the same old story for English reading lists

Contemporary prose, poetry and drama are in short supply in exam courses – is it time for that to change?

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I still have vivid memories of my encounters with classic literature at school: of Wilfred Owen’s unflinching account of a mustard gas attack, of Macbeth’s opaque language slowly unfurling into resonant meaning and of the oppressive sense of impending tragedy in Jude the Obscure.

What is striking now, when reading reports on the English courses Scotland’s pupils took in 2016-17, is how many texts popular in my day – a quarter of a century ago – continue to dominate classrooms today: Lord of the Flies, The Great Gatsby, 1984, Of Mice and Men and Sunset Song, to name a few. Despite their classic ...

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