The Evolution of College English: Literacy Studies from the Puritans to the Postmoderns (Pitt Comp Literacy Culture)
Thomas P. Miller
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Thomas P. Miller defines college English studies as literacy studies and examines how it has evolved in tandem with broader developments in literacy and the literate. He maps out “four corners” of English departments: literature, language studies, teacher education, and writing studies. Miller identifies their development with broader changes in the technologies and economies of literacy that have redefined what students write and read, which careers they enter, and how literature represents their experiences and aspirations.
Miller locates the origins of college English studies in the colonial transition from a religious to an oratorical conception of literature. A belletristic model of literature emerged in the nineteenth century in response to the spread of the “penny” press and state-mandated schooling. Since literary studies became a common school subject, professors of literature have distanced themselves from teachers of literacy. In the Progressive era, that distinction came to structure scholarly organizations such as the MLA, while NCTE was established to develop more broadly based teacher coalitions. In the twentieth century New Criticism came to provide the operating assumptions for the rise of English departments, until those assumptions became critically overloaded with the crash of majors and jobs that began in 1970s and continues today.
For models that will help the discipline respond to such challenges, Miller looks to comprehensive departments of English that value studies of teaching, writing, and language as well as literature. According to Miller, departments in more broadly based institutions have the potential to redress the historical alienation of English departments from their institutional base in work with literacy. Such departments have a potentially quite expansive articulation apparatus. Many are engaged with writing at work in public life, with schools and public agencies, with access issues, and with media, ethnic, and cultural studies. With the privatization of higher education, such pragmatic engagements become vital to sustaining a civic vision of English studies and the humanities generally.
(297–98). Such changes led to public calls to repeal the law because “so many Latin grammar schools” prevented students from attaining “such a degree of English learning as is necessary to retain the freedom of the state” (qtd. in Teaford 35). Teaford contrasts the declining support for classical languages with the rising numbers of “writing schools,” which taught many of the same subjects to the same aged students, but with a practical emphasis on learning to write (7–14). Inside the academy,
preaching and began touring the country to lecture (qtd. in Kuklick 81). Threequarters of Emerson’s essays were Wrst delivered as lectures, according to Zboray. Lyceums and mutual education groups enabled teachers to publicize their learning and network with touring scholars and writers. Mutual education groups such as literary societies were often aligned with the teachers’ institutes that were helping to give teaching a semblance of professionalism. In the weeks between terms, a teachers’
consumers of knowledge composed elsewhere. English teachers have sometimes been generations ahead of English professors in elite institutions, as Lucille Schultz has examined in her account of how nineteenth-century teachers developed process-oriented models to teach writing while professors perpetuated the formalism of “currenttraditional” rhetoric. A more richly conceptualized view of pedagogy is provided by the works of Salvatori and Carr, Carr, and Schultz. Such archival research is vital if
de texte” (55). As Wellek notes in his attempt to repudiate such claims, the charge that New Criticism made a science of literature is ironic, for Tate and others viewed “scientism” as “a spiritual disorder” (Tate, “Present Function” 469). However, Tate and other New Critics did deWne the object of study as “the speciWc objectivity” of the literary work, “an objectivity that the subject matter, abstracted from the form, wholly lacks” (Tate, “Miss Emily” 14). By deWning their studies in such
attempts was published by the Progressive Educational Association in the same year as Dewey’s Experience and Education and Brooks and Warren’s Understanding Poetry. Louise Rosenblatt’s Literature as Exploration was one of the most promising eVorts to bridge the concerns of New Critics and Progressives. Her interdisciplinary approach to literary studies drew from Dewey’s Art as Experience as well as Richards’s Practical Criticism. In a foreword to the Wfth edition (published by MLA in 1995), Wayne