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The rhetorical construction of the nation in education: the case of Flanders

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This paper examines what can be learnt from 'new rhetoric' (focusing on the work of the American rhetorician Kenneth Burke [1897-1993]) about (national) identity and discusses how nationalism can be taught from such a rhetorical perspective. Despite the 'deconstruction' of nation(alism) as a grand narrative, there is a new tendency towards emphasizing national identity, caused by trends such as globalization and multiculturalism. In the language and literature teaching curriculum, this paradoxical situation often causes frictions for teachers who very often are expected to teach standard language and national literature. The hypothesis is that rhetoric is a tool to deal with these tensions in the curriculum. This paper focuses on Flanders as a case-study. Together with pre-service teachers it analysed the rhetorical construction of Flanders from a dramatistic perspective. It is argued that Burke's concepts are useful tools to make students 'symbol-wise': to understand the way national symbols work, and to develop critical engagement with, as well as on behalf of, those symbols.

Keywords: Belgium; Flanders; literature; nationalism; rhetoric; teacher training

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Educational Studies, Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium 2: Department of Educational Studies, Ghent University,

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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