ERIC Number: ED348685
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1992-Mar
Reference Count: N/A
Members of Literary Societies Are Exempt from Rhetorical Exercises: Claiming Literary Societies for the History of Rhetoric and Composition.
Weidner, Heidemarie Z.
Literary societies, while dying or already defunct in Eastern U.S. schools, still played significant roles in 19th-century frontier colleges like Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, and it is the thesis of the paper that a systematic investigation of the document left by these societies, although largely neglected by historians, will have important implications for the understanding of 19th century rhetoric and composition instruction. Involving most of the students at any one college, the societies (of which the first is usually thought to be the Spy Club at Harvard, founded in 1719) usually met once a week for the purpose of orations, declamations, essays, debates, parliamentary practice, and the edition of a student paper. At Butler, belonging to a literary society was an integral part of being a student. Three typical society activities--literary exercises, the critic's report, and the literary paper--demonstrate that societies complemented regular rhetorical education and offered students the opportunity of individual growth, peer support, and training for public life. The progress 19th-century women made toward equality in higher education can often be measured by their involvement in literary societies. At Butler, unlike other universities at the time, women were able to speak in class, read their own essays, and perform on a public platform. However, no opportunity to practice for public occasions existed until the women formed their own literary society. Generally said to have been in decline, nineteenth-century rhetoric emerges from a study of literary societies as central to education and society. (RS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research; Historical Materials
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Butler University IN; Literary Societies; Nineteenth Century; Nineteenth Century Rhetoric
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (43rd, Cincinnati, OH, March 19-21, 1992).