English Department of the Spirit by John Harris

English Department of the Spirit by John Harris


Author: John Harris
Publisher: Repository Press
Published: September, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-920104-36-1
Pages: 240

Price $6.00




This book is a comprehensive and detailed history of the generic English Department, beginning with the Elizabethan pre-school and grammar school. It shows how the study of the bible and various religious texts gave way to the study of humanistic, classical and literary texts as a politically discreet, socially acceptable method of teaching literacy in English. As literature in English, and as books, magazines and newspapers, became more varied and popular, the theory that to teach literature was to teach literacy was formalized in the writings of Matthew Arnold and the curricula of the first modern universities: Glasgow in Scotland, Harvard in the US, and the extension departments of the English universities. Starting early in the twentieth century this theory — the humanistic defense of the study of literature, was questioned, and the practice of teaching literacy through literature was gradually abandoned. Contemporary “theory” questioned the whole idea of literature, shrinking English Studies and making room for a “compositionist” Department teaching composition and creative writing.



Keith Harrison 

Thanks for sending me a copy of The Department, a particularized history cum autobiography tied together with considerable wit.  For a long while I had trouble reading your words off my computer screen after spending many days putting mine on—and my Scottish heritage did not allow me to print your pages.  Finally, though, I got swept along.


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