Pedagogy, prejudice, and pleasure: extramural instruction in English literature, 1885-1910
Lawrie, Alexandra Patricia Duff
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This thesis considers the teaching of English literature within extramural organisations for adults in England between 1885 and 1910. This challenges the assumption that the beginnings of English as a tertiary-level academic subject can be traced back only as far as the foundation of the Oxford English School at the end of the nineteenth century; in fact extramural English courses had been flourishing for decades before this, and these reached their zenith in the final years before it was introduced at Oxbridge. Oxford created an Honours School of English in 1894, and the Cambridge English Tripos was established in 1917; in ideological terms, such developments were of course crucial, yet it has too often been the case that the extramural literary teaching being conducted contemporaneously has been sidelined in studies of the period. My first chapter will consider the development of English in various institutional and non-institutional environments before 1885, including Edinburgh University, Dissenting Academies, and Mechanics’ Institutes. Thereafter I will explore the campaign, led by University Extension lecturer John Churton Collins, to incorporate English literature as an honours degree at Oxford. Focusing on the period between 1885 and 1891, this second chapter will assess the veracity of some of Collins’s most vehement claims regarding the apparently low critical and pedagogical standards in existence at the time, which he felt could only be improved if Oxford would agree to institutionalise the subject, and thereby raise the standard of teaching more generally. Collins’s campaign enjoyed more success when he drew attention to the scholarly teaching available within the University Extension Movement; my third chapter is underpinned by research and analysis of previously unexplored material at the archives of London University, such as syllabuses, examination papers, and lecturers’ reports. I examine the way in which English literature, the most popular subject among Extension students, was actually being taught outside the universities while still excluded from Oxbridge. Thereafter my penultimate chapter focuses on an extramural reading group formed by Cambridge Extension lecturer Richard G. Moulton. This section considers Moulton’s formulation of an innovative mode of literary interpretation, tailored specifically to suit the abilities of extramural students, and which also lent itself particularly to the study of novels. Uncollected T. P.’s Weekly articles written by Arnold Bennett highlight the emphasis that he placed on pleasure, rather than scholarship. My final chapter considers Bennett’s self-imposed demarcation from the more serious extramural pedagogues of literature, such as Collins and Moulton, and his extraordinary impact on Edwardian reading habits. A brief coda will compare the findings of the 1921 “Newbolt Report” with my own assessment of fin-de-siècle extramural education.