ERIC Number: ED337769
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991-Mar-23
Reference Count: N/A
Recovering the Work of Students and Teachers in Nineteenth-Century Composition Books.
Welsch, Kathleen A.
A close reading of two nineteenth-century composition textbook prefaces reveals that teachers of that period attempted to rename and refocus the content and practice of composition to meet the imagined needs of real students, who were also frustrated and struggling. From the perspective of a twentieth-century composition teacher, William Swinton's "School Manual of English Composition" offers a constraining series of rigidly structured principles and assignments. A close reading of the preface, however, indicates that the author saw his textbook as different from traditional writing instruction. While the assignments in the book also seem overly restrictive, they offer the students the opportunity to write from the start instead of first learning the principles of rhetoric. George Quackenbos'"Advanced Course of Composition and Rhetoric: A Series of Practical Lessons" offers a clear representation of how nineteenth-century composition and rhetoric are imagined as "mental discipline." While Quackenbos aligns himself with the rhetorical tradition by gleaning material from textbooks regarded as standards, he resists traditional practice and offers students a set of guidelines for composition. Although the assignment language in the textbook sounds formal and stiff, it reveals a strategy for writing familiar to contemporary composition teachers. By not conflating the nineteenth- and twentieth-century positions into a generalized conception of composition, by allowing them to speak to and inform each other, composition teachers can form a renewed understanding and appreciation of their own work and the work of nineteenth-century students and teachers. (RS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers; Historical Materials
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Composition Theory; Nineteenth Century; Writing Models
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (42nd, Boston, MA, March 21-23, 1991).