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ERIC Number: EJ959648
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Nov
Pages: 26
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0994
Joseph V. Denney, the Land-Grant Mission, and Rhetorical Education at Ohio State: An Institutional History
Mendenhall, Annie S.
College English, v74 n2 p131-156 Nov 2011
This essay provides an account of The Ohio State University's (OSU) rhetoric department during the tenure of Joseph Villiers Denney, arguing that he appropriated and repurposed national trends in education and rhetoric in ways that complicate the narrative of rhetoric and composition's decline in the late nineteenth century. In this essay, the author provides an account of Denney's fourteen-year tenure as head of Ohio State's Department of Rhetoric and his later work as chair of the English department and dean of the College of Arts, Philosophy, and Science. Using a variety of archival evidence, including course catalogues, annual reports, faculty meeting minutes, and Denney's writings, she details how Denney's attitudes about rhetoric underpinned his department's curriculum. Throughout this essay, the author examines the ways that the rhetoric department at Ohio State navigated shifts in educational structures and definitions of rhetoric and English studies around the turn of the twentieth century. She begins by describing a set of tensions between practical and liberal education that informed curriculum development at many land-grant institutions, and Ohio State specifically. She explains how these tensions created a space in which Denney could develop a rhetoric program that attempted to appeal to both the practical values of the applied science programs and the academic values in the emerging university. The success of this curricular division led to the expansion of the department's faculty and course work and the creation of a graduate focus in rhetoric. To conclude, the author discusses how the decision to remerge the Department of Rhetoric with the Department of English Literature at Ohio State complicates the narrative of "the end of rhetoric" given by Kitzhaber, Robert Connors, James Berlin, Maureen Daly Goggin, and others. Typically, this narrative asserts that because rhetoric could not establish itself as a science, it became a remedial course in the new research-model university. However, Ohio State's history, which has been ignored or overlooked in nearly every history of the field, complicates the narrative of the supposed incompatibility of research and rhetoric in the early twentieth century. Rather, it suggests that the problem was not that rhetoric and composition collapsed into one remedial entity, but rather that rhetoric and literary criticism were conflated in ways that made the work of the English and rhetoric departments--courses, faculty assignments, and funding allocations--overlap and thus compete. Rhetoric did not so much disappear as assume other names: criticism and composition. (Contains 16 notes.)
National Council of Teachers of English. 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096. Tel: 877-369-6283; Tel: 217-328-3870; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Ohio
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A