By Carol Atherton
Outlining the controversies that experience surrounded the educational self-discipline of English Literature considering the fact that its institutionalization within the overdue 19th century, this crucial booklet attracts on various archival assets. It addresses concerns which are vital to the identification of educational English - how the topic got here into life, and what makes it a consultant self-discipline of data - in a way that illuminates some of the crises that experience affected the improvement of contemporary English reviews. Atherton additionally addresses modern arguments in regards to the instructing of literary feedback, together with an exam of the reforms to A-Level literature.
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Extra info for Defining Literary Criticism: Scholarship, Authority and the Possession of Literary Knowledge, 1880-2002
56 The importance of Classics: The literary tradition These suspicions about the academic validity of the study of English literature were also apparent at Cambridge, where once again they crystallised around the inauguration of a professorship, the King Edward VII Professorship of English Literature. This Professorship was established in 1910 as the result of a donation from the newspaper magnate Sir Harold Harmsworth (later Viscount Rothermere), and its holder was intended – according to Harmsworth’s stipulation – ‘to deliver courses on English Literature from the age of Chaucer onwards, and otherwise to promote, so far as may be in his power, the study in the University of the subject of English Literature’.
In doing this, I will focus on five English universities, selected to represent both the ancient universities and the nineteenth-century foundations that were seen as the natural home of the ‘poor man’s Classics’: Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Nottingham and King’s College, London. Such an endeavour is itself, of course, fraught with problems. A complete picture of the experience of studying English at any place and time (of the way in which English is ‘actualised’ by both teachers and learners) is gained only through an awareness of the interactions between staff, students and texts, and the philosophies that govern them – an awareness that not even the most detailed of archival sources can provide.
The emphasis of verifiable, factual knowledge helped English to ward off the accusations of subjectivity and ‘gossipiness’ that were often mounted by its detractors. E. A. Freeman, Regius Professor of History at the University of Oxford, commented in 1887 that the study of literature was ‘all very well in its own way, perhaps amusing, perhaps even instructive, but [. ] not quite of that solid character which we were used to look for in any branch of a University course’. 27 Literary history and biography were eminently examinable subjects, especially in the rather crude forms in which the early degree courses often interpreted them: questions asking students to put lists of texts in chronological order allowed no room for the kind of vagueness that English was frequently accused of showing.
Defining Literary Criticism: Scholarship, Authority and the Possession of Literary Knowledge, 1880-2002 by Carol Atherton