English in the Universities

  • Carol Atherton


It is easy to see why the paradigms of disciplinary development outlined in Chapter 1 have played such an important role in accounts of the ‘rise of English’. Offering on the one hand an overarching vision of the ‘social mission’ of English studies, and on the other an abstraction extrapolated from other disciplines, they are attractive in their simplicity: their accounts of the subject’s development are neat, persuasive and easy to grasp. Nevertheless, this neatness can also be deceptive; and it is significant that many of the flaws contained in these paradigms stem from their tendency to remain at a distance from the day-to-day business of ‘doing English’. What these accounts do not engage with is precisely what is needed in order to bring the subject’s early years to life: the vexed and complex questions of what students were actually taught, who they were taught by and what they were expected to learn.


English Literature Literary Study Literary Criticism Factual Knowledge Literary History 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Jo McMurtry, English Language, English Literature: The Creation of an Academic Discipline (London: Mansell, 1985), pp. 2, 5.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Alan Bacon, ‘English Literature Becomes a University Subject: King’s College, London, as Pioneer’, Victorian Studies, 29 (1986), pp. 591–612.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Hugh James Rose, The Tendency ofPrevalent Opinions about Knowledge Considered (Cambridge: Deighton; London: Rivington, 1826), p. 11. Quoted in Bacon, ‘English Literature’, p. 594.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    See F. J. Hearnshaw, The CentenaryHistory ofKing’s College, London (London: Harrap, 1929), p. 124. Cited in Bacon, ‘English Literature’, p. 597.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Edward Copleston, review of Letter to Mr Brougham on the Subject of a London University, by Thomas Campbell, Quarterly Review, 33 (1825), p. 269. Quoted in Bacon, ‘English Literature’, p. 597.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Bacon, ‘English Literature’, p. 597.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    F. D. Maurice, ‘Introductory Lecture by the Professor of English Literature and Modern History at King’s College, London, delivered Tuesday, October 13’, Educational Magazine, n.s. 2 (1840), p. 276. Quoted in Bacon, ‘English Literature’, p. 607.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Calendar of King’s College, London (hereafter KCC) (1903–4), pp. 84–5.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Owens College Calendar (hereafter OCC) (1881–2), pp. 30–1.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    At King’s, set authors between 1880 and 1900 included Langland, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, Bacon, Hobbes, Harrington, Locke, Defoe, Newton, Hume, Hartley, Gibbon, Addison, Swift, Johnson, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, De Quincey, Carlyle and Ruskin. The only novelists listed were all from the eighteenth century: Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne and Goldsmith. At Manchester, set authors between these dates included Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, More, Clarendon, Burnet, Pope, Addison, Goldsmith, Smollett, Johnson, Gibbon, Burke and Richardson. It is significant that both lists include philosophers and historians, figures who would today be seen as peripheral to a more ‘literary’ notion of the canon.Google Scholar
  11. 34.
    Alfred Barry, ‘The Good and Evil of Examination’, Nineteenth Century, 3 (1878), pp. 656–8.Google Scholar
  12. 39.
    Terry Eagleton, The Function ofCriticism (London: Verso, [1984] 1996), p. 76.Google Scholar
  13. 40.
    John Churton Collins, ‘Can English Literature be Taught?’, Nineteenth Century, 22 (1887), pp. 644–5.Google Scholar
  14. 43.
    John Churton Collins, ‘The Universities in Contact with the People’, Nineteenth Century, 26 (1889), p. 583.Google Scholar
  15. 44.
    A. C. Bradley, Oxford Lectures on Poetry (London: Macmillan, 1941), pp. 4–5.Google Scholar
  16. 46.
    Christopher Kent, ‘The Academy’, in British Literary Magazines: The Victorian and Edwardian Age, 1837–1913, ed. Alvin Sullivan (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 1984), p. 3.Google Scholar
  17. 59.
    Dr Ellis McTaggart, speaking at a meeting on 8 December 1910. Quoted in Cambridge University Reporter (13 December 1910), p. 406.Google Scholar
  18. 76.
    Ian MacKillop, F. R. Leavis: A Life in Criticism (London: Penguin, 1995), pp. 54, 56.Google Scholar
  19. 79.
    John Gross, The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters: English Literary Life since 1800 (London: Penguin, [1969] 1991), p. 201.Google Scholar
  20. 86.
    Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Studies in Literature: Third Series (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, [1929] 1948), pp. 149–50.Google Scholar
  21. 89.
    Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, On the Art of Reading (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, [1920] 1947), p. 24.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Carol Atherton 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol Atherton

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations