The Rise and Fall of English: Reconstructing English as a Discipline

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9780300080841: The Rise and Fall of English: Reconstructing English as a Discipline
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In this lucid book an eminent scholar, teacher, and author takes a critical look at the nature and direction of English studies in America. Robert Scholes offers a thoughtful and witty intervention in current debates about educational and cultural values and goals, showing how English came to occupy its present place in our educational system, diagnosing the educational illness he perceives in today’s English departments, and recommending theoretical and practical changes in the field of English studies. Scholes’s position defies neat labels―it is a deeply conservative expression of the wish to preserve the best in the English tradition of verbal and textual studies, yet it is a radical argument for reconstruction of the discipline of English.

The book begins by examining the history of the rapid rise of English at two American universities―Yale and Brown―at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Scholes argues that the subsequent fall of English―discernible today in college English departments across the United States―is the result of both cultural shifts and changes within the field of English itself. He calls for a fundamental reorientation of the discipline―away from political or highly theoretical issues, away from a specific canon of texts, and toward a canon of methods, to be used in the process of learning how to situate, compose, and read a text. He offers an eloquent proposal for a discipline based on rhetoric and the teaching of reading and writing over a broad range of literatures, a discipline that includes literariness but is not limited to it.

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English majors and literary critics take note! Here is an energetic exegesis of the rise and fall of the oft deplored, slightly suspect academic discipline "English." Critical of literary theory occupying center stage in the teaching of university English, Professor Robert Scholes adopts "a militant middle position on many of the questions that currently vex English studies." In our already imperiled, latter 20th century, what might those vexations, be? Lack of teaching the "truth," the waiving of the responsibilities in the higher halls of academe to teach composition, a "devotion to the morality of the marketplace and the aesthetics of fashion ... " to name a few. These constitute vital arguments, indeed, for a reinvigoration of the field.

Five chapters make up this lucid text, beginning with a historic overview. In 1701, there were no English professors. Pontificating rectors held the power and prestige; raw and recent Harvard graduates did the dirty work of teaching composition. "This division of labor, as may have occurred to you, is still with us," notes Scholes, whose intent is to trace this classic division and offer up a plan to unite them. Each chapter addresses a particular detail in the evolution of the discipline and concludes with a personal addendum, an "assignment," in which Scholes drops the scholarly persona, adopts the "I," and inserts personal reflections based on his experience in academia. He ponders, for example, why English departments are regarded as responsible for teaching all possible kinds of writing, from the scientific and technical to the literary. His conclusion: "The useful, the practical, and even the intelligible were relegated to composition so that literature could stand as the complex embodiment of cultural ideals.... Teachers of literature became the priests ... while teachers of composition were the nuns, barred from the priesthood, doing the shitwork of the field."

The Rise and Fall of English represents a powerful marriage of the past, providing a fascinating, if sweeping portrait of early American higher education, in brash juxtaposition with current attacks on the humanities. It's a deep read, although Scholes serves up his scholarship with wit and passion, to a readership possessed both of affection and affinity for the field.

About the Author:

Robert Scholes is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities at Brown University. Also by Robert Scholes: Protocols of Reading, Semiotics and Interpretation, Structuralism in Literature, and Textual Power: Literary Theory and the Teaching of English.

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Book Description Yale University Press, United States, 2000. Paperback. Condition: New. Revised ed.. Language: English. Brand new Book. In this lucid book an eminent scholar, teacher, and author takes a critical look at the nature and direction of English studies in America. Robert Scholes offers a thoughtful and witty intervention in current debates about educational and cultural values and goals, showing how English came to occupy its present place in our educational system, diagnosing the educational illness he perceives in today's English departments, and recommending theoretical and practical changes in the field of English studies. Scholes's position defies neat labels-it is a deeply conservative expression of the wish to preserve the best in the English tradition of verbal and textual studies, yet it is a radical argument for reconstruction of the discipline of English. The book begins by examining the history of the rapid rise of English at two American universities-Yale and Brown-at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Scholes argues that the subsequent fall of English-discernible today in college English departments across the United States-is the result of both cultural shifts and changes within the field of English itself. He calls for a fundamental reorientation of the discipline-away from political or highly theoretical issues, away from a specific canon of texts, and toward a canon of methods, to be used in the process of learning how to situate, compose, and read a text. He offers an eloquent proposal for a discipline based on rhetoric and the teaching of reading and writing over a broad range of literatures, a discipline that includes literariness but is not limited to it. Seller Inventory # AAS9780300080841

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Book Description Yale University Press, United States, 2000. Paperback. Condition: New. Revised ed.. Language: English. Brand new Book. In this lucid book an eminent scholar, teacher, and author takes a critical look at the nature and direction of English studies in America. Robert Scholes offers a thoughtful and witty intervention in current debates about educational and cultural values and goals, showing how English came to occupy its present place in our educational system, diagnosing the educational illness he perceives in today's English departments, and recommending theoretical and practical changes in the field of English studies. Scholes's position defies neat labels-it is a deeply conservative expression of the wish to preserve the best in the English tradition of verbal and textual studies, yet it is a radical argument for reconstruction of the discipline of English. The book begins by examining the history of the rapid rise of English at two American universities-Yale and Brown-at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Scholes argues that the subsequent fall of English-discernible today in college English departments across the United States-is the result of both cultural shifts and changes within the field of English itself. He calls for a fundamental reorientation of the discipline-away from political or highly theoretical issues, away from a specific canon of texts, and toward a canon of methods, to be used in the process of learning how to situate, compose, and read a text. He offers an eloquent proposal for a discipline based on rhetoric and the teaching of reading and writing over a broad range of literatures, a discipline that includes literariness but is not limited to it. Seller Inventory # AAS9780300080841

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Book Description Yale University Press, United States, 2000. Paperback. Condition: New. Revised ed.. Language: English. Brand new Book. In this lucid book an eminent scholar, teacher, and author takes a critical look at the nature and direction of English studies in America. Robert Scholes offers a thoughtful and witty intervention in current debates about educational and cultural values and goals, showing how English came to occupy its present place in our educational system, diagnosing the educational illness he perceives in today's English departments, and recommending theoretical and practical changes in the field of English studies. Scholes's position defies neat labels-it is a deeply conservative expression of the wish to preserve the best in the English tradition of verbal and textual studies, yet it is a radical argument for reconstruction of the discipline of English. The book begins by examining the history of the rapid rise of English at two American universities-Yale and Brown-at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Scholes argues that the subsequent fall of English-discernible today in college English departments across the United States-is the result of both cultural shifts and changes within the field of English itself. He calls for a fundamental reorientation of the discipline-away from political or highly theoretical issues, away from a specific canon of texts, and toward a canon of methods, to be used in the process of learning how to situate, compose, and read a text. He offers an eloquent proposal for a discipline based on rhetoric and the teaching of reading and writing over a broad range of literatures, a discipline that includes literariness but is not limited to it. Seller Inventory # BTE9780300080841

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