Rachel Buurma & Laura Heffernan: "A New Archive for Disciplinary History"
Professor Buurma and Professor Heffernan's presentation is drawn from an in-progress book project, “A New Syllabus for English Studies,” supported by an ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship. “A New Syllabus for English Studies” offers a new archive for disciplinary history: the heterogeneous documents produced in the English literature classroom over the course of the long twentieth century.
This presentation summarizes the book’s earliest chapters, looking at London extension school teaching between 1875 and the end of World War I. Drawing on syllabi, administrative documents, personal letters, and teaching notes, we profile the practices and methods of extension school tutorials for working class adults before turning to look more closely at two such courses: the Modern English Literature class T. S. Eliot conducted at Southall between 1916 and 1919 and the Art of Reading class taught by early modernist Caroline Spurgeon in Bedford Square in 1916. We describe how Eliot and Spurgeon presented literary history as the collaborative work of minor writers, and valued texts not for aesthetic wholeness but for their referential and uneven connections to the world. Their pedagogical historicism, we argue, was representative not only of the extension school, but of English studies as a discipline.
Rachel Sagner Buurma is Associate Professor of English Literature at Swarthmore College. She is finishing a book on the social life of Victorian reviewing, starting a project on the research practices of Victorian novelists, and is a project lead for the Early Novels Database.
Laura Heffernan is Assistant Professor of English at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. She is co-editor of Laura Riding’s Contemporaries and Snobs (University of Alabama, 2014) and has published articles on modernist critics T.E. Hulme, John Rodker, and Rebecca West.