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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2010

E 387M • History of English Studies/Writing the History of English Studies

Unique Days Time Location Instructor


Course Description

Meeting time, location: (Official course schedule)

This seminar traces the history of English studies in Great Britain and America. The tension within English departments between those who devote themselves primarily to rhetoric and/or composition and those who devote themselves to literature can be traced to the split between rhetorical and literary theory that developed between 1700 and 1900. This division will be the central theme we explore.

In so doing, we will confront and attempt to answer problematic questions: How do various theorists define the terms "rhetoric," " composition," “linguistics,” “classics,” and “literature”? How do conceptions of these disciplines change over time? To what extent are these disciplines distinct at any period? How do we define these disciplines today? How (and why) do we make distinctions among them? As these questions suggest, studying these histories is not just a way to satisfy our historical curiosity (although these histories are both interesting and curious)—such study should help us to understand better what it is we're doing and why.

To assess the adequacy of prevailing histories of disciplines, and to account for the conflicts among them, we will read theoretical pieces that discuss problems in historiography.

Seminar members should be encouraged by the significant work still to be done in the history of these disciplines. Members are especially encouraged to work with archival materials.

Whether their primary interest is in rhetoric and writing, in "literary" studies, in communication studies, in classics, or in education more generally, participants should find our investigations a compelling way to be self-reflexive about their own critical theories and practices.


Readings will be finalized according to the research needs and professional interests of seminar members.

Texts (In the past I've used the texts below; I've not yet decided which of the many relevant books recently published to add and which of the books below to drop):

James Berlin, Writing Instruction in Nineteenth-Century Colleges

James Berlin, Rhetoric and Reality: Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1900-1925

John Brereton, The Origins of Composition Studies in the American College, 1875-1925

Peter Elbow, What is English?

Gerald Graff, Professing Literature: An Institutional History

Gerald Graff and Michael Warner, The Origins of Literary Studies in America

Susan Miller, Textual Carnivals

Thomas P. Miller, The Formation of College English

David M Saunders, The Profession of English Letters

Robert Scholes, The Rise and Fall of English: Restructuring English as a Discipline

Evan Watkins, Work Time: English Departments and the Circulation of Cultural Value

Association of Departments of English. Checklist and Guide for Reviewing Departments of English

All books will be also be on reserve

Packet of readings (excerpts include Thomas Benson, Speech Communication in the Twentieth Century; Herman Cohen, History of Speech Communication; Council of UCD, Classics Departments in British Universities; Vivien Law, History of Linguistics in Europe; Josephine Guy & Ian Small, Politics and Value in English Studies; J.D. Palmer, The Rise of English Studies; Balz Engler and Renate Haas, eds., European English Studies: Contributions towards the History of a Discipline)


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