Composing Legacies

Testimonial Rhetoric in Nineteenth-Century Composition

by Christopher Carter (Author) Russel K. Durst (Author)
Monographs XII, 182 Pages

Table Of Content


←viii | ix→

I am grateful to the University of Cincinnati Libraries for adding the Lucille M. Schultz Archive of Nineteenth-Century Composition to their repositories, and for making the materials available online for continuing research. Particular thanks go to Nathan Tallman and James Van Mil for overseeing the process of digitization. I am also grateful to Beth Carter for the love and encouragement through every stage of the project; to our sons, Benjamin and Jonah, for motivating our work; and to Bella for reminding us to play.

—Chris Carter

I thank my department head, Leah Stewart, for supporting me with an academic leave to work on this book project, and to the UC Libraries for their invaluable help in digitizing the Schultz Archive. I want to acknowledge my friend Peter Smagorinsky for his astute feedback on an early draft of my grammar chapter. I am always grateful for the love and support of my adult children Alexander, Isaac, Jacob & Lori, and grandson Ian. And most of all, I wish to thank Kathy Wekselman, the love of my life, for the pleasure of living and working alongside her.

—Russel Durst ←ix | x→

I wish to acknowledge Lucille Schultz for her work compiling the texts in the Schultz Archive, as well as the works, scholars, and students from which my chapter was crafted. I would also like to thank my family, particularly Kristy, Avery, and Gibson, for their continued support and the joy they bring. Additionally, I want to express my gratitude to Chris Carter and Russel Durst for all their help completing my chapter, even though they told me not to thank them.

—Daniel Floyd

Thanks first to the generous funding of Pat Belanoff, whose award for graduate students in rhetoric and composition at the University of Cincinnati provided me with the time to write and locate all the materials for this project. I must also thank Russel Durst and Chris Carter, who invited me to write this chapter in the first place and offered lots of encouragement along the way. Finally to Ben and Lou, my fearless first readers who listen patiently every time I threaten to quit and gently guide me back to writing again. And most of all to Jessie Macmillan Anderson, a comrade who continues to inspire me every day.

—Rhiannon Scharnhorst

I am grateful for the gift of time made possible by the P.E.O. scholar’s award, and especially for the support of women in the local chapter who sent notes of encouragement while I rambled, wrote, rewrote, and revised this chapter. I am grateful as well to Chris Carter and Russel Durst for their support and guidance. I am also indebted to my family (Dale, Ellen, Mom, Tyler, Devon, Denny, and Colleen) whose patience was unending, and who let me know they were proud of my work; and to Sophie, the sweet pup who sits loyally by my side.

—Kathleen Spada

The whole team wishes to express warm thanks to Alice Horning, series editor for Studies in Composition and Rhetoric, for her historical expertise and generous feedback. Her perceptive questions kept us returning to the Archive, each time with newly refined lenses, honing our research methods in ways that enriched the book, and that will continue to resonate as we undertake new projects.


lucille m. schultz

It’s been years since I discovered the first books that, over a period of years, would become what is being called the Schultz Archive. I was on sabbatical at the Library of Congress when, taking the advice Bob Connors had offered when we chatted at a 4C’s gathering, I headed for the PE shelves. There, often dusty, with faded covers, broken spines, and foxed pages, were the books that allowed me to read, to take a crack at beginning to understand something about school-based composition writing in the early nineteenth century.

At that time, the LC allowed scholars access to the warren of shelves that a researcher might itch to wander through. And so, in dusty jeans, often sitting on the floor, I read hundreds of shelves, selecting piles of books, skimming them for what might jump out, putting them aside, and moving on to the next shelf, the next pile of books. At this stage of my work, I was letting the books tell me about themselves; I wasn’t quite sure what I hoped to find, or was looking for.

I didn’t know it at the time, but those small books were the beginning of this archive. As is so often the case, books led to more books, and in my case, to more than thirteen libraries, big and small, public and private. I remain grateful for the travel and housing support from the Taft Research Center and from the English Department of the University of Cincinnati that helped fund the research. And, just as importantly, to the librarians and archivists that listened ever so patiently to my requests for help. Within a couple of years, I distilled what I found and read ←xi | xii→ and sent off my arguments to journals and presses. And within a decade or so, I realized I had an archive on my hands, an archive of more than 300 xeroxed copies of nineteenth-century texts that to a small or large extent focused on the teaching of writing. And, I laugh as I think of this, I discovered part of the “real” work of a researcher: feeding quarters into a xerox machine hour after hour. Thanks to my UC faculty colleagues Russel Durst and Chris Carter and UC digital preservationists Nathan Tallman and James Van Mil, this archive is now online and can be accessed at hand. No more dusty jeans. No more jumping up to turn on the light that had gone off at the end of a stack.

What I have learned since then is something about an archive; on the one hand, it is rows of books on shelves dedicated to a particular subject during a particular time period. On the other hand, what I would now argue is that an archive is organic and has agency. An archive, any archive, is far from static. Rather it invites readers and scholars to speculate about what’s there and what’s not there; invites multiple ways of categorizing its contents; invites critique; invites its own growth; and asks question after question, even about its authors. And reading an archive offers the invitations that no single book can … invitations to place a single book in a cultural and ideological context and thus acquire meaning beyond itself; to notice differences in form and content over time, differences from one book to another. It allows reading the books chronologically, forward and backward; and not least, it allows readers to see similarities and differences to books outside the archive.

As John Brereton reminded us long ago, “an archive exists in the eye of the beholder.” So this archive is limited and in many ways, not only by my eye, but by what I could find after years of searching, and by circumstance. But it is testimony to the agency of an archive. Consider the ways in which the authors and contributors of this book, having pored over this archive, are, in their different ways of seeing, making it new. They have added new books. They listen for the questions the archive asks, and they respond to some of them; that is, like any archive, the Schultz Archive will continue to ask questions as long as there are readers and scholars to hear them. May the questions and the scholars abound. May we ever continue to increase our understanding of writing instruction in nineteenth-century schools.

←xii | 1→ Introduction: Textbook Histories and Testimonial Legacies

christopher carter and russel k. durst

In 2015, Professor Emerita Lucille M. Schultz donated to the University of Cincinnati’s English Department her set of composition materials gathered from collections around the U.S. The culmination of a decade’s research at more than a dozen different sites, including the Library of Congress and Harvard’s Monroe C. Gutman Library, the archive gathers 340 works in ten different genres, and we continue to add works of historical interest to the collection. Represented genres include composition histories, moral and social manuals, grammar handbooks and histories, general teaching advice, epistolary texts, studies of education, student papers, and studies in rhetoric, though handbooks and composition textbooks make up the bulk of the archive. From these materials, Schultz produced two award-winning books, The Young Composers: Composition’s Beginnings in Nineteenth-Century Schools and Archives of Instruction: Nineteenth-Century Rhetorics, Readers, and Composition Books in the United States (with Jean Ferguson Carr and Stephen L. Carr). But Schultz herself observes that the majority of the archive has not yet been studied. This book responds to the implicit invitation in that claim while also encouraging other field historians to offer their own replies.

The collection contains rhetorical treatises from as early as 1739 and student papers from as late as 1995, but 295 entries, or nearly 90 percent of the whole, fits squarely into nineteenth-century history. The Schultz Archive contains the world’s most organized, concentrated, and extensive body of nineteenth-century ←1 | 2→ texts about U.S. writing instruction, all of which have been digitized so that scholars can access them off-campus. Digital preservation specialists Nathan Tallman and James Van Mil used optical character recognition software to make the documents searchable, allowing scholars not only to locate titles but to perform keyword searches within the portable document format (pdf) files. Such searches made the arguments in this book possible, permitting us to perform swift and efficient retrieval of sources featuring terms such as “inductive” learning, “handbooks,” “taste,” “Saxon” etymology, “citizen” and “citizenship,” and “virtue,” to provide only a brief list. The holdings can be accessed through the UC Libraries Digital Collections and Repositories at digital.libraries.uc.edu/collections/schultz/. Daniel Floyd, Ian Golding, and Ben Hojem all spent a portion of their graduate studies at UC helping to organize the materials in the digital database, categorizing them by subject and period while also drafting abstracts for each entry.

As of December 2020, the processes of acquisition and categorization continue, partly due to Daniel Floyd’s discovery of relevant Civil War-era textbooks. His efforts clarify the archive’s condition as a living repository that grows and evolves with our historical investigations. It also clarifies the inventive character of Schultz’s project, which represents a career’s worth of effort while also nudging field historians to fill out and refine the picture. Taking her cue means at once deriving new lines of argument from the material she gathered and enlarging the stock of primary materials wherever we see an opportunity. Every nineteenth-century composition text we mention in the following pages is either part of the archive or shortly to become so.

Publication data shows a steady rise in the number of texts released each decade, from sixteen titles in the first ten years of the century to fifty-seven in the last. Temporary declines occurred in the eighteen-teens and after the outset of the Civil War, but the broad shape of the data indicates persistent increase. Many of the materials circulated in U.S. schools and colleges from 1830 to 1900, and many reflect the economic developments and social changes underway at the time. The rise of a middle class during the era meant that more families could send their children beyond elementary school. After the Morrill Act established land-grant colleges, postsecondary education was booming. Widespread population movement from rural to urban areas was leading to the rise of cities as centers of commerce, factories, and education, as the nation’s economy transformed from agrarian to industrial. Immigration from southern and eastern Europe was in full swing, along with efforts to Americanize newcomers through English instruction and civics education. The number of literate Americans was on the rise, leading ←2 | 3→ to the expansion of the publishing industry and greater numbers of newspapers, magazines, and inexpensive books.

But as we link publication trends to those broad historical tendencies, we pay close attention to singular texts and the responses of particular authors to cultural exigencies. Authors who make the largest contribution to the archive in terms of sheer volume include Philadelphia high school English teacher John Frost, British educational reformer Elizabeth Mayo, New Jersey school principal John Seely Hart, New York teacher and editor George Quackenbos, and Connecticut-born philosopher and educator Henry Noble Day, who spent much of his career in Ohio. Frost’s entries date from 1828 to 1857, and they exemplify the anticipatory quality that we encounter again and again in the archive, showing that much of what writing pedagogy scholars attribute to late twentieth-century educators was already present, if only in nascent form, more than a hundred years before. Frost insisted that students only learn to write by writing, encouraging them to compose from personal experience while also drawing ideas from interviews with local citizens and tradespeople. Mixing fieldwork with high-energy classroom activities, he brought art and engravings to his lessons as catalysts for imagination and narrative play. Elizabeth Mayo’s entries in the catalogue show similar leanings, and they unfold over an even longer period of time, the earliest published in 1832 and the last in 1876. A teacher at the Cheam School in Surrey, she advocated an “object pedagogy” that was based on students’ protracted sensory engagement with tangible things. She devised “boxed object lessons” in which the boxes contained “a material encyclopaedia of natural and processed specimens native to Britain and gathered from across the British Empire, both precious and quotidian” (Wade 21). The results were sanguine enough that Frost incorporated her ideas into his own books.

Although those ideas would later catch on in colleges and universities, Mayo and Frost focused their efforts on the early years of schooling. John Seely Hart took a related approach with First Lessons in Composition, part of a stream of “first books” in which Schultz finds “much of what we take to be common practice today: passages that illustrate what James Berlin calls expressionistic rhetoric; passages that anticipate the kind of freewriting that we associate with Peter Elbow; passages that warn against the kind of premature editing that Mike Rose describes; passages announcing that ‘the habit of re-writing a composition several times, is one of the best means for improvement’ (Morley v); passages that celebrate personal and experience based writing” (Schultz, “Elaborating” 26). While producing such precocious texts, Hart served as Principal of Central High School in Philadelphia and later the New Jersey State Normal School, wrote an ←3 | 4→ instruction manual on Greek and Roman mythology, and edited a collection of women’s essays that went through five editions (Linkon 1).

Quackenbos and Day were no less prolific and no less interested in developing pragmatic activities for budding writers. A teacher at New York City’s Collegiate School, Quackenbos promoted habits of mind based partly in the works of British rhetoricians George Campbell, Richard Whateley, and Hugh Blair, assiduously converting ideas from their treatises into practical exercises. Yet no matter how focused on the recursive refinement of expression, he has come to be associated with stifling routine, and with helping to institutionalize modes of discourse as formulaic containers: exposition, description, narration, argument (Lindsay 579). Like Quackenbos, Day saw writing and learning to write as processes that required systematic practice and careful attention to audience. But in formulating his pedagogy, he tended to emphasize status and class mobility in ways that appear, a century and a half later, to naturalize socioeconomic hierarchy. Composition scholar Mark Garrett Longaker describes Day as learning to compose in corporate settings and then codifying the lessons in textbooks, thereby helping to reify a certain “managerial sociolect” (509). One-time Chair of Sacred Rhetoric at Western Reserve College in Cleveland, Day later became involved in managing business endeavors related to the railway industry (513–15). Although Day wrote about rhetorical invention and reception in ways not often associated with the 1800s, Longaker frames his lessons as bureaucratic efforts in audience control (519). Despite the surprises in the pedagogies of Quackenbos and Day, and despite the persistence of their principles in twenty-first century textbooks, they tend to appear in historical scholarship as the dogmatic and politically naïve figures against which we define ourselves.

That tendency to depict nineteenth-century pedagogy as foil generated the catchall phrase “current-traditional rhetoric” in the late 1970s, as graduate programs in rhetoric and composition proliferated and their participants worked to establish a lineage for the field. A notable portion of that lineage took the form of negation, or the attribution of reductive and ineffectual practices to the teachers of earlier eras. When Richard Young began reflecting on current-traditionalism in 1978, he had in mind a textbook tradition that emphasized polished written products more than composing processes, grammar and style more than ideas, Quackenbos’s modes of discourse more than sensitivity to audience and occasion. When current-traditionalists discussed writing processes at all, they represented them as linear rather than recursive, approaching writing as a straightforward act of transcribing thought, fully formed and sequenced before it reached the page. Few textbook authors from the 1800s fit all dimensions of that description, but enough of their works exhibited some combination of those traits that the period ←4 | 5→ became synonymous with authoritarian instruction encumbered by seemingly endless rules.

In a discipline that often criticizes binary logics and rhetorical frameworks that overlook dissonance, scholars have used the language of current-traditional rhetoric in ways that create stark dichotomies and ignore historical complexities and contradictions. Charles Paine captures the dynamic in The Resistant Writer: Rhetoric as Immunity, 1850 to the Present, arguing that “in the heat of defining itself through its past (i.e. against its past), composition history often surveyed the nineteenth century too hastily and broadly, rejecting most everything, finding very little in the past that had relevance for the moment” (22). Paine even locates such tendencies in texts that preceded the consolidation of rhetoric and composition as a field, pointing out how Albert Kitzhaber’s 1953 dissertation “Rhetoric in American Colleges, 1850–1900” produced a “decline and fall” narrative of nineteenth-century rhetoric that endured decades later (Paine 25). Evidence undoubtedly exists for the kind of pedagogical limitations Kitzhaber laments, and the Schultz Archive contains ample material to explain how the decline and fall story arose. Scholars attend to that story to avoid reliving it, or as David Gold remarks, they are “driven by a desire not to repeat the mistakes of the past” (1). But both Paine and Gold draw readers’ attention to innovative work in specific schools and local contexts that chafe against simplistic stories of nineteenth-century naivete. They find dialogic pedagogies, resourceful teachers, and savvy students whose histories we might embrace rather than rebuff.

Composing Legacies extends those scholars’ projects by dwelling on neglected details in the careers of noted teacher-researchers of the period, and, no less crucial, teacher-researchers who have received little commentary in the extant literature. We thereby take Schultz’s advice to supplement the wide-angle historical lens with the telescopic variety, bringing into focus those characters and practices not easily contained by smooth narrative arcs (“Elaborating” 10). One of those characters is Jessie Macmillan Anderson (later Jessie Anderson Chase), who stands among the earliest women to compose a textbook for college classrooms. Born at the end of the Civil War, Anderson studied at Smith College and went on to become an accomplished short story writer and novelist, producing such fictional works as Three Freshmen: Ruth, Fran, and Nathalie (1898), Mayken: A Child’s Story of the Netherlands in the Sixteenth Century (1902), and Daughter of the Revolution (1910). She also wrote Sixty Composition-Topics for Students in High Schools and Colleges with Hints on Essay-Writing, where she compared students’ writing processes to music rehearsal and the act of painting. Schultz’s archive also features works by Elizabeth Spalding, Vassar graduate and woman’s suffrage advocate who became Head of English at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. ←5 | 6→ In The Problem of Elementary Composition: Suggestions for Its Solution and The Principles of Rhetoric with Constructive and Critical Work in Composition, Spalding not only framed composing in musical terms but encouraged students to write songs. An early exponent of collaborative learning, she dissociated critique from “fault finding” and described it instead as the offering of a “fellow-worker intent upon results” (Principles iv). She included those results in sample lessons, insisting that early writers often learn more readily from each other than from classic texts or celebrated authors (Principles v).

Anderson and Spalding rarely figure into the discipline’s textbook history, even though rhetoric and composition’s archival historians have long been preoccupied with such materials. With those absences in mind, we give the phrase “textbook history” two senses in this book. First, we reference the ways those books provide a window, however clouded, on the convergence of theory and practice in nineteenth-century classrooms. Second, we mean “textbook history” as the orthodox chronicle of the field’s evolution, the tropes and long-held assumptions that tend to dominate the historical literature. We wish to reaffirm certain dimensions of that history, including the critique of the whiteness of many archives, the attention to how literacy instruction has helped reproduce social hierarchy, and the sense that lessons in composing were also lessons in citizenship and identity. But we also want to put pressure on the topoi that historians have used to describe nineteenth-century pedagogy, whether classical or romantic rhetoric, current-traditionalism, or the era of decline and fall.

To counter some of the oversimplifications inherent in those topoi, we take an analytical approach that preserves some of the tensions, contradictions, and curious nuances inherent in the archive. We derive our method in part from the counsel of the materials themselves, especially as offered by Gertrude Buck and Elisabeth Woodbridge in their 1899 book A Course in Expository Writing: “The farther removed we are from the direct testimony of the senses, the more liability there is to misunderstandings” (4). We hope to diminish those misunderstandings by assembling testimonial histories grounded in slow, tactile engagement with archival texts. Those testimonial histories take various, complementary forms as we situate the textbooks and other genres within Gilded Age discourses of materialist pedagogy, sociolinguistic privilege, civic obligation, and student identity. Our approach involves listening to the testimony of Mayo’s “boxed object lessons” as much as the class-conscious rhetoric of grammar handbooks, the factionalist language of Southern, Civil War-era textbooks as much as the nationalist metaphors of fin-de-siècle teaching guides. In his own studies of related materials, Paine has favored teachers who prepare students “to live in conflict, in culture, in confusion” rather than pursuing “some Olympian critical distance” or facile ←6 | 7→ resolutions (xv). We can think of no better advice for historians of rhetoric and composition, and no better way to describe the testimonial legacies arising from the Schultz archive.

Textbook History

Scholars’ hesitancy to live in historical confusion has meant interpreting old composition textbooks in selective and generally suspicious ways. Critics have argued that those books strove to transform literary and oral-rhetorical traditions into easily digestible writing lessons, too many of which were based in broad, inflexible generalizations. Textbook authors had little interest in the act of writing, or so the story goes, and concentrated instead on principles that should govern the finished text. They showed much greater interest in deductive logic, or moving from established principles toward firm conclusions, than in processes of induction or invention where writers compose from observation, experience, and sensory engagement, deriving their ideas from (and testing them against) the materials of their daily lives.

Overlooking the specificity of daily life, the textbooks worked to manufacture docile citizens attentive to the rules of experts. The Schultz Archive contains no shortage of examples, with William Colegrove framing “syntactical parsing” as a means of achieving “mental discipline” (1852, iv), Elizabeth Oram insisting that young writers must assimilate “acknowledged laws” (1855, iv), and Anna Johnson lauding “busy work” in reading and writing as a means to establish patterned behavior (1891, 84). Opponents of current-traditional rhetoric find such instances to be powerful indicators of the era’s conventions, and they pay little attention to contrary signals, whether in alternative books or in the same ones they reject.

Such critics attribute outsize influence to a few figures, regularly observing the long shadow of Albert Kitzhaber’s “big four” theorist-practitioners: John Genung, Adams Sherman Hill, Fred Newton Scott, and Barrett Wendell. Kitzhaber argued that their textbooks and other publications, which appeared primarily between 1878 and 1900, “were not only very popular, but they were widely imitated by minor writers … and in many respects they epitomize the main emphases of rhetorical theory in those years” (97–98). Among these features, Kitzhaber includes an emphasis on sentence-level correctness, a focus on expository prose, and a stress on “proper” form over the development of ideas. Kitzhaber’s assessment was largely echoed by historians who followed him, including James Berlin, John Brereton, Robert Connors, Sharon Crowley, and Nan Johnson. Indeed, it ←7 | 8→ has never been seriously questioned, even by revisionist scholars such as David Gold, Byron Hawk, and Kelly Ritter.

But the idea of the big four obscures much more than it reveals. It reduces enormous complexity to a manageable repertoire, it ignores the differences between the scholars it cites, and it covers over the tensions and contradictions within the authors’ own works. Textbook histories of Genung’s writings, for example, fail to account for his theories of invention partly because they assume few such theories existed in the late 1800s. Kitzhaber, Young, and Berlin all saw him as an exponent of current-traditional pedagogy, thorough and scholarly but wedded to an untenable idea of writerly genius, treating students as mere absorbers of information whose idiosyncrasies could be managed with rules. The 1894 Outlines of Rhetoric at first appears susceptible to such charges, proposing 125 precepts for writers and laying heavy emphasis on planning before drafting. A close look at the book, however, uncovers a flexible approach to invention, aided by guidelines that require steady practice rather than inspiration. Those guidelines appeal not to genius but to resourceful thinking that is dialectical, scaffolded, and embodied. From a more sympathetic perspective than most historians have adopted, Genung’s insistence on dialectic enacts what James Crosswhite calls deep rhetoric, seeking out counter-evidence for routine suppositions while being “cautious of leaving any premise untested” (Genung 271). Such pedagogy merges analytical rigor with attention to “vivacity,” “the vigor of [the writer’s] feelings,” and bodily sensation, giving particular consideration to sound and the pleasures of plain language (146, 152). While what counts as plain language may vary with audience, Genung aimed to help students develop broad attunement to public readers. However limited, his techniques do not fit neatly into established metanarratives.

They also do not comport with the story of rhetorical theory through the 1800s, which purportedly begins in robust fashion and ends with its virtual disappearance. Genung’s concern with invention and audience suggests a sophisticated regard for composing processes, as does his attention to emotional appeals and the physical experiences of writing and reading. Those dimensions of his pedagogy recall the work of Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, whose influence extended throughout the period represented by the Schultz Archive. In “A Rediscovered Tradition: European Pedagogy and Composition in Nineteenth-Century Midwestern Normal Schools,” Kathryn Fitzgerald recounts Pestalozzi’s conviction that “all learning begins with the child’s sense perceptions,” and she describes his object lessons as “instruction organized to move inductively from the familiar and concrete toward the unfamiliar and abstract” (231). ←8 | 9→

Fitzgerald tracks his principles well past the Civil War as they appeared in public education systems and Normal Schools, finding evidence of his ideas more in editorials and teacher endorsements than in textbooks. Fitzgerald and composition historian Iris Ruiz both indicate that Pestalozzian educators perceived many textbooks as hindering learning insofar as most were “alien to students’ lives” (Fitzgerald 231). “Textbooks in normal schools could be questioned,” Ruiz remarks; “they were not always assumed to be right” (75). No matter how comprehensively we assess Schultz’s materials, then, classroom practices were almost always more nuanced than textbook history will allow. But at the same time, we can sense the values of object pedagogy even in those traditions it aimed to circumvent. Although many of Pestalozzi’s followers questioned textbooks, we nevertheless find his tenets in Genung’s Outlines of Rhetoric, and as Schultz discovers, in the books of Elizabeth Mayo, John Frost, M.E. Lilienthal and Robert Allyn, Warren Burton, Norman Calkins, and Horace Grant (Young 58, 75, 186).

Still, even as we foreground complexities and contradictions not often recorded in composition’s textbook history, we recognize that many criticisms of the period are well-founded, and quite urgent from the perspective of scholars moving into the third decade of the twentieth century. Some of the criticisms underscore the racism of certain textbook authors and the general whiteness of archival histories. Others attend to the demand for social and religious conformity. Schultz cites laws against teaching people of color to read in the early nineteenth century, and she describes the strict curtailment of their educational opportunities later in the period. “At the same time that formal education was denied to African American children,” she writes, “it was often imposed on Native American children as a ‘civilizing’ measure” (Young 19). Hosea Hildreth’s 1824 book For Massachusetts Children recounts the violence informing these measures, explaining how Indians who initially feared settlers’ guns eventually used them to defend their territory. “But white people understood how to make war better than the Indian,” he wrote, killing and driving away so many that “now there are not more than a thousand Indians in the state.” Whites left the Indians “poor, weak, miserable people, and not at all like the fierce Indians that used to be in Massachusetts” (124). Hildreth’s book sold well enough to spawn nineteen editions, while his similarly-themed work for New Hampshire students generated twenty.

By 1899, William N. Hailmann would lament this historical brutality on the part of whites, but assure readers that Christian philanthropy and fair play were “steadily gaining” (3). Hailmann held pronounced influence in Indiana and Ohio, serving as Superintendent of Schools in Laporte and Dayton and delivering a history of pedagogy to the Cincinnati Teachers Association. His writing on Indian education appeared in six editions between 1899 and 1904. Colegrove’s ←9 | 10→ Multum in Parvo did not focus so heavily on indigenous peoples but still linked educational rigor to Christian duty. Common School Superintendents, members of the Board of School Examiners, and college ministers all praised the book’s classroom utility, and occasionally its value for people striving to write “without teachers” (x). Whether serving classroom instruction or self-education, such books tended to confuse racial, spiritual, and intellectual purity.

Little wonder, then, that Ruiz would find the history of writing pedagogy so unwelcoming, arguing in Reclaiming Composition for Chicano/as and Other Ethnic Minorities that she cannot see herself in that history (1). Equal access to education remains a problem in the twenty-first century, she reminds us, with the ideologies of “post-racial society” and “color-blind” pedagogy perpetuating the problem of white dominance (65). It is similarly unsurprising that Fitzgerald would note the “elitist, undemocratic aspects of the field’s past” and the distress they cause many of today’s composition teachers, especially those “who see their aim as extending the opportunities available through education to all social classes by introducing students to discourses of power” (225). Early textbooks exemplify that power, with J.M.D. Meiklejohn aiming to cultivate “pure English” and “Saxon language” with his grammar manual (177), and Robert Waters praising such language as “pure mother-English” in How to Get on in the World: As Demonstrated by the Life and Language of William Cobbett (221). Many such authors associated this language with a command of logic, though, as Fitzgerald observes, linguists would come to challenge “the idea that that it is any more logical than other language variety” (235). Yet the insistence on a single variety meant correcting and dismissing the language of poor children, who were less likely to attend school anyway, but when they did go, found themselves subject to “factorylike educational practice characterized by rigid order and discipline” (Schultz, Young 16). Given these trends in the nineteenth century, critics are right to cast a harsh light on the period and remain cautious about its legacy.

But this book nevertheless attempts to dislodge one kind of textbook history—the study of teaching manuals and materials—from the kind of textbook history that regards Victorian and Gilded Age literacy instruction as necessarily lacking. Like Paine and Gold before us, we contend that literacy is never “wholly hegemonic or subversive,” and that both regressive and forward-looking tendencies can be found in the same era, sometimes even in the same book (Gold 6). The typical inattention to these contradictions may itself be indicative of ideology in action, the eagerness to categorize past rhetorics as “classical,” “romantic,” or “technocratic” rather than recognizing their intricate responses to historical exigencies. In Microhistories of Composition, Bruce McComiskey characterizes such interpretive habits in terms of Kenneth Burke’s “trained incapacities,” as ←10 | 11→ “when a certain structure of knowledge that served our purposes in the past limits our ability to understand evolving and emerging situations” (7). We suggest that the field’s history is itself an evolving and emerging construct, and that trained incapacities reproduce inadequate categories while neglecting the significance of nonconforming texts and historical details. To be sure, those details do find their ways into scholarly literature: Sue Carter Simmons informs us that sophisticated theories of invention circulated in nineteenth-century classes, JoAnn Campbell finds women teachers of the era promoting inductive logic and personal writing, and Susan Kates locates rhetorics of civic engagement and social justice among teachers at little-examined schools. By continuing their work, we heed Carr, Carr, and Schultz’s advice to honor the “plural and contested” character of the past (20). We also demonstrate attention to testimonial rhetorics not often featured in the long chronicle of writing instruction, highlighting legacies that might go unremarked if not for the investigative work Schultz’s archive embodies.

Testimonial Rhetoric

The testimony embedded in the archive takes many forms, some of which include prefaces, tables of contents, engravings, advertisements, intertextual references, lesson sequences, and samples of student writing. The statements are sometimes direct, as when authors explain what is missing in the education market and how their work meets that need, and they are sometimes oblique, as when sample exercises involve miniature lessons in morality or favor a specific kind of social or political identity. Some examples prefigure what Marguerite Helmers portrays in Writing Students: Composition Testimonials and the Representations of Students as the conventions of the testimonial genre in the context of writing instruction: students as stock characters prone to error and insensitivity, teachers as heroic guides who save them from themselves. Although works in the Schultz Archive mostly precede those Helmers analyzes, the collection contains no shortage of passages that infantilize beginning writers, and that treat them as lacking, excessive, or deviant (Helmers 15, 149). Writing a decade after Helmers, Gold finds forms of testimony that are more sympathetic to students and less trustful of teachers, framing the classroom as imposing and coercive. But even in those narratives, students appear almost entirely lacking in self-determination, “mere helpless victims of instructional ideology” (2). These depictions give us little sense of living people working together in changing situations, and they give us no feel for learners and educators as anything more than enemies. ←11 | 12→

But the Schultz Archive affords much subtler stories as well, pressing beyond the boundaries of convention toward critical and materialist modes of testimony. The critical testimonies express interest in democratizing classroom discourse, treating student knowledge as inherently valuable, and honoring diversity of thought as well as cultural background. However marginal these tendencies, Schultz points to them while arguing that the nineteenth century “is the site where composition, as we understand it today, began” (Young 4). Gold takes a similar view, observing that teachers and students of the 1800s examined power structures less frequently than we do today, but that those people were hardly naïve (153). They were already challenging the assumptions of previous generations while practicing writing as a form of engaged citizenship. After all, the era included the work of Mary Augusta Jordan, Hallie Quinn Brown, Josephine Colby, Helen Norton, and Louis Budenz, all of whom Kates associates with “pedagogies of difference” and education for social justice (xi). Kates does not equate such instruction with the critical pedagogies that took shape in the late 1960s, but she does hear dissident voices where few other field historians have thought to listen.

The dissidence is typically quiet, but nevertheless serves as an indicator of intellectual movements to come. Edward Austin Sheldon’s 1863 arrangement of Mayo’s Lessons on Objects, for example, raised the question of narrative agency in the classroom long before Freirean educators, gently chastising teachers for the habit of “telling too much” and rendering student minds “almost passive” in the process (24). Superintendent of Public Schools in Oswego, New York, Sheldon made numerous changes to the fourteenth edition of Mayo’s text for primary school pupils, but kept its emphasis on exciting the learner’s senses and crafting lessons based on their personal interests. Twenty-five years later, John Scott Clark advanced some of the same ideas for college classes in A Practical Rhetoric for Instruction in English Composition and Revision in Colleges and Intermediate Schools. While working as Professor of Rhetoric at Syracuse University, he argued for multisensory rather than strictly logical appeals, challenging the body-mind dichotomy with an emphasis on “vividness” in rhetorical practice (263). He also addressed the specifics of audience and occasion in ways that contradicted the acontextual rules of some of his contemporaries. Although he did insist on writers doing most of their thinking before drafting, and he gave much space to traditional “modes” and genres, he respected students’ differences as well as the dynamism of their readers and listeners. If not predisposed toward social critique, he nevertheless registered his opposition to unilateral, teacher-centered discourse.

Other educators, such as Ernest Huffcut, expressed opposition to teaching that led with abstract principles rather than concrete variables in learning ←12 | 13→ exercises. He brought together critical testimony with an emphasis on tangible things and memorable sensory experiences. Such pedagogy favors inductive meaning-making, and assumes that the emphasis on concreteness helps generate and sustain student interest by grounding rhetorical invention in the familiar. Treating familiar objects and experiences as catalysts for novel ideas held out the prospect of durable learning as well, as opposed to the fleeting information transfer teachers witnessed in contexts that favored memorization, or that foregrounded topics from which writers felt removed. Huffcut saw teachers as guilty of “absurdity” when asking any student “to write about Honesty or Heroism”:

These things are to him intangible and vague. To the wisest of us they are, when unsupported by concrete examples, mere general notions. What are they, then, to a boy of fifteen, or even twenty! Which one of us would like to stake his literary skill upon an essay on Honesty? Why demand so difficult a task of a boy or girl, whose experiences have not led them to understand the nature or value of generalizations? (12–13)

Schultz casts such concerns in the light of Whately’s advice in Elements of Rhetoric that young writers draw on first-hand knowledge when composing, and she finds related pedagogies in the texts of Meiklejohn and James Robert Boyd (Young 112–13). Similar theories informed object pedagogy and the wealth of illustrations in writing textbooks, which called to mind writers’ lives outside class while giving them everyday characters and situations to consider (Schultz, “Elaborating” 12).

Such experimentation with object pedagogy and image-based invention suggests the multimodal character of much instruction in the 1800s, indicating that routine writing materials involved more than paper and ink. Drawing on Jason Palmeri’s Remixing Composition, McComiskey forwards the idea that “composition has always contended with multimodal technologies—it just hasn’t been self-critically aware that this is what it was doing” (12). The materialist testimonies that appear in Composing Legacies aim to demonstrate such self-consciousness while also linking multimodal rhetoric to the economies in which they circulated, contexts where bodily, political, cultural, and monetary forms of value intertwined. Then as now, those forms of value often came under the auspices of what teachers and students called “relevance.” Paine contends that the rhetoric of relevance was not born in the 1960s, appearing with striking frequency in texts from a hundred years before (126). Young writers expressed a persistent concern with the material outcomes of their learning, which they equated not with lists of abstract goals but with growing readiness for the workforce and steady professional advancement.

Preparing to write for workplace situations meant thinking carefully about specific audiences and genres, the need to achieve pragmatic ends rather than merely reproduce model forms. Teachers who considered students’ employment ←13 | 14→ prospects tried to solve the “mutt genre” problem a century before it became known as such, avoiding tasks whose only value was for the writing class, having no analog in extracurricular economies. For Buck and Woodbridge, writing for “sham” audiences gave students little reason for enthusiasm; but “give a boy or girl something that he—not we—calls ‘interesting,’ and give him somebody who is interested, or whom he must make interested, and he will write for you” (iv). More often than not, teachers’ successes came from encouraging writers to define their own audiences rather than use pre-fabricated examples. While developing curriculum at Vassar at the turn of the twentieth century, Buck not only helped writers prepare for professional attainment, she invited class participants to analyze the politics and power arrangements of varied rhetorical situations. Buck “wanted her students to be active, critical citizens,” writes Suzanne Bordelon, “who would recognize and work against systems of dominance and oppression, beginning at the level of the communicative process” (11). Insofar as those communicative processes expressed, reproduced, and unsettled “systems of dominance,” they constituted motivating rhetorics with decidedly material bases and consequences. Buck and Woodbridge’s testimony envisioned students who were canny judges of those consequences, and who recognized rhetorical circulation as a key concern of skillful writers.

Focusing on circulation means asking where writing goes and what it does. Buck and Woodbridge saw students as more interested in those questions than in mimicking routine forms. In encouraging those interests, the teachers developed a curriculum grounded in pragmatic, audience-based rhetoric rather than the rhetoric of standard axioms and appeals. Where Helmers finds that much historical testimony about writing instruction underscores student “lack,” especially when it comes to grammar and logic, Buck and Woodbridge testify to writers’ curiosity, creative energy, and eagerness to achieve specific goals in local contexts. Rather than working to save students from themselves, Buck and Woodbridge sought to help writers achieve their desired ends.

In that way, they continued the project Edward Sheldon articulated three decades earlier when he cautioned teachers against talking too much and rendering classroom participants passive in the process. And while Buck and Woodbridge reproduced some ideas that appeared earlier in the century, they also anticipated the insights of critical pedagogy, a movement in which students’ collaborative negotiation of pressing, localized concerns would constitute the dominant principle rather than one among many. That movement would also place a high value on pragmatic, tactical persuasion, asking how dialogue and varied acts of composing might help alter exploitative social arrangements. Testimony must circulate outside the classroom to produce such effects, so critical educators such as Buck and ←14 | 15→ Woodbridge, as well as teachers who inherited their legacy, paid attention to the distribution and consequences of texts as much as what they expressed.

Turbulent Circulation

Our book shares that concern with distribution and consequence, with where texts go and what actions they perform. Our book foregrounds circulation, or the proliferation and uptake of texts, by examining how works from the Schultz Archive move within embodied economies—often with the help of eager publishers, advertisements, and the endorsements of reputable writers and school superintendents. In Still Life with Rhetoric: A New Materialist Approach for Visual Rhetorics, Laurie Gries suggests that to understand textual circulation, we have to ask how bodies and artifacts “flow within and across cultures” to produce “meaningful change.” As the Schultz books moved through various schools and public situations in the 1800s, they carried with them contending characterizations of student writers, sometimes as failed gentlemen, other times as inventive thinkers and capable researchers who lacked only for inspired topics, and still other times as subjects whose writing reflected the condition of the nation. While some students mimicked the textbook formulations, others found ways to resist the flow and create meaningful change, producing the clarity and analytical precision that teachers wanted, but in an almost comical paradox, only doing so in extracurricular contexts. Uncovering these paradoxes requires us to undertake our own forms of inductive learning, doing the microhistorical work of deriving circulatory patterns from student publications and testimonials, textbook advertisements, prefaces and introductory remarks, publishing histories, author biographies, and varied paratextual materials related to the collection. That work is precisely what we have undertaken in writing this book.

A microhistorical approach to circulation means respecting the interplay of institutional and personal actors, systematic and idiosyncratic flows. It means concentrating on local, highly particularized situations so as to uncover the contradictions and intricacies of historical artifacts, people, institutions, and periods. It declines metanarratives while highlighting the interplay of highly focused activities with larger trends; for McComiskey, it “assumes every act is conditioned by multiple forces at varying levels, some imposed socially (by institutions) and others emerging personally (from desires), all in a complex dialectic” (15). Attending to that dialectic helps avoid attributing too much influence either to social structures or individual desires; it supports a “multiscopic approach” that addresses powerful and marginalized people, hegemonic and neglected traditions, ←15 | 16→ public and intimate events (18). At its best, immersion in the dialectic helps reveal what McComiskey calls the “exceptional normal” or the “normal exception” (19). Within this field of view, exceptions to the logic of current-traditional rhetoric clarify the regularity of so-called anomalies, the routine prevalence of historical phenomena that defy easy categorization. Microhistory describes broad trends in the circulation of ideas and texts while devoting uncommon attention to lesser-known tributaries that are just as essential to a vibrant rendering of the past.

As currents of different sizes and intensities flow into and alongside each other, their relationships change with time. They produce forms of turbulence that are at one synchronic, or apparent in a tightly bounded historical moment, and diachronic, or noticeable over extended intervals. Microhistories of circulation permit us to describe both kinds of turbulence and situate them within what Bruce Horner, Brice Nordquist, and Susan M. Ryan term “economies of writing.” Those economies favor certain flows of information while limiting others; they are always “plural, contested, and political” (4). In our efforts to reassess textbook history in this book, and in our attempt to provide a forum for neglected testimonies, we undertake the difficult and always unfinished work that is essential to circulation studies: describing and analyzing things in motion, offering glimpses of processes that never stay still enough to characterize in comprehensive fashion.

However uncertain our task, we attempt to specify various currents of textual and ideological circulation within nineteenth century economies of writing. As we have seen, one prominent current associated responsible instruction with classroom discipline, paying particular attention to grammar and standardized modes of expression. William Wells’s pedagogy exemplified such discipline by outlining a system of recitation, declamation, and composition that would help students demonstrate submission to “rightful authority” (167). His book was a mainstay of Chicago public schools in the 1860s, flowing through a range of classroom contexts and exerting pronounced influence in a populous urban center. A few decades later, Alfred Welsh focused the case for self-governance on epistolary rhetoric, positing a connection between letter writing and cultured subjectivity. He counseled a direct and unadorned style while cautioning firmly against what he called “showy stationery.” In Welsh’s work as in others throughout the Schultz Archive, the circulation of ideas about discipline, culture, and rhetorical style intersected with the visual and tactile characteristics of delivery, with everything from handwriting to layout to paper quality proving meaningful.

Welsh carried these ideas with him into his post at the Ohio State University, where he marketed his books to high schools, preparatory schools, and other colleges. He was friends with R.W. Stevenson, superintendent of Columbus Public Schools, who saw him as a fellow traveler in promoting educational progress. ←16 | 17→ Although they undertook their pedagogical initiatives almost eighty years after Hosea Hildreth published his state-specific textbooks—the Schultz Archive includes one for Massachusetts and another for New Hampshire—they reproduced his view of writing as an indicator of citizenship. Hildreth’s lessons already showed a fascination with letters, each one framed as a missive from a father to a son, and one with the telling addendum that he would not have to write such a long letter to his daughter.

But where Hildreth begged off, others stepped in to clarify modes of discipline appropriate to women, tying those visions of ideal subjectivity to the health of the nation. Sarah Annie Frost, for instance, linked that subjectivity to refined composition, which reflected the cultivation of manners and, at its best, a dedication to country and Christian purity. Frost’s 1871 How to Write a Composition appeared after her book on conventions of dress and before her work on needlework and embroidery, existing as part of a textual economy focused on domestic propriety. Dick and Fitzgerald publishers, a New York press that specialized in music books (Lott 171), sold Frost’s text in paperback for thirty cents, “bound in boards” for fifty. The books complemented and gave focus to notable currents of cultural pedagogy, such as those of William Torrey Harris, who associated literacy with self-improvement and patriotic hygiene. He followed his contemporaries in praising industry and self-reliance, contrasting them (like Hailmann and Hildreth) with the habits of indigenous peoples while promoting a Eurocentric idea of civilized behavior. Harris served as superintendent of St. Louis public schools, and from 1870 to 1909 he held a place of particular authority in the National Education Association (Sniegoski 1–2). Like Frost, he tied literacy acquisition to a distinctly gendered form of citizenship, yet he sped the circulation of those principles not only through his published works but through his broad-ranging administrative influence.

Harris’s idea of “civilization” through literacy largely comports with traditional views of nineteenth-century writing pedagogy, clarifying the interdependence of teaching and prevalent sociopolitical trends of the day. More surprising, however, is how the Schultz texts disclose tendencies composition scholars often associate with the process movement of the 1960s and 1970s. As we noted earlier, Henry Day’s books proved especially forward-thinking in their creative attention to invention. William Metcalf and Orville T. Bright took a similarly imaginative approach to invention, asking students to compose narratives and arguments based on hand-drawn illustrations while enriching their writing with research into the pictured subject matter.

Metcalf was Supervisor of Schools in Boston and Bright was school Superintendent in Cook County, Illinois, positions that gave them distinct privilege ←17 | 18→ and influence within late nineteenth-century economies of writing. They also had access to powerful publishers who helped spread their ideas not only as an educational and ideological project but a financial one. Metcalf and Bright circulated their ideas by means of the American Book Company (ABC), which by the 1890s aspired to monopolize the educational textbook industry. Its efforts proved so effective that Upton Sinclair wrote a scathing assessment in The Goslings: A Study of the American Schools. Drawing on that book, educational historians Richard L. Venezky and Carl F. Kaestle recount how ABC absorbed multiple companies, bribed “local school boards or state text adoption committees” to require its products, and then “divested itself of its subsidiaries” when the specter of antitrust indictments arose (421). ABC’s teaching principles may have been progressive but the economics were anything but.

If we follow Gries’s association of circulation with meaningful social change, we would do well to situate apparently progressive pedagogies within competitive business cultures as much as textual economies. Recognizing turbulent cross-flows means underscoring contradictions not commonly noted in histories of nineteenth-century literacy instruction. But such turbulence extends beyond the flow of books, pedagogical ideas, and the drives of corporate capital. According to Schultz, archived books cannot “reveal the ways in which students wrote within, against, or beyond the limits” set by writing manuals (Young 108). She locates those transgressions in student compositions in school newspapers, their letters and memoirs, their meditations on contemporary social problems, and their reflections on personal experience. The students did not only begin with concrete topics as counseled by Metcalf and Bright, nor did they only develop audience awareness in response to their lesson sequences. They frequently did these things without teachers and in opposition to the sense of structure and routine that comes with any textbook.

Normal exceptions to dominant trends arose in the Normal schools, as students who were themselves aspiring teachers articulated the limitations of education manuals rather than merely adopting the lessons for their own courses. Such exceptions also arose when students produced what Shirley Rose describes as “original text rather than memorized text,” some of which included “writing about the experience of writing itself” (666–67). These original texts were in some cases prize-winning essays and newspaper articles, in others more private genres such as letters and journal reflections. In assembling these texts, Schultz amassed evidence of the “democratization of writing” that often had little or nothing to do with teacher pedagogy and more with students’ expressive and communicative drives (Young 113). The exceptional normal also consisted of women pushing back against confining gender ideology, both as teachers and political activists ←18 | 19→ addressing questions of race and labor. And whether in class or out, routinely extraordinary acts of composing evolved a definition of research that was firmly grounded in inquiry, aiming to generate nuanced, historically-informed interventions in public discourse rather than innocuous reports or summaries of sources.

Microhistorical scholarship stays attuned to these variances from established stories about college composition’s early days. It breaks open textbook histories both by applying Schultz’s telescopic lens to materials that otherwise dwindle into the panoramic background, and by acknowledging the insufficiencies of textbooks for understanding day-to-day practice. By tracing the circulation of normal exceptions through different decades in the 1800s, our style of microhistory finds forms of turbulence that disrupt the narrative of rhetoric’s decline and fall. To return to Paine, accepting these unruly patterns means living in conflict, culture, and confusion rather than smoothing the past into simplistic arcs and cautionary tales. It means recognizing that nineteenth-century economies of writing were varied, contradictory, and changing rather than unified or static.

Little-Known Legacies

We attempt to represent those economies, or complicate the field’s sense of them, by listening to numerous kinds of neglected testimony. In this section, we describe those forms of testimony while providing an overview of our book’s contents. Early chapters situate the object pedagogy of numerous writing manuals within nineteenth-century discourses on the politics of things, and then show how the books mediated class relations by defining favored language forms in ways both broad and hyper-specific. Later chapters foreground critical testimonies on the relationship between writing and national unity, some of which associate literacy with patriotism and others of which favor more regional or micropolitical practices of coalition-building. Those portions of the book give considerable space to women educators who helped create environments for student empowerment, and who helped them see productive intersections between expository and creative prose. Throughout this book, we frequently discuss authors and texts from the late eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries. Unless otherwise noted, these primary source materials are indeed part of the Schultz Archive. As we mentioned earlier, the entire archive can be accessed digitally at digital.libraries.uc.edu/collections/schultz/.

In Chapter One, “Testimony of the Senses: Materialist Pedagogy in Nineteenth-Century Composition Manuals,” Christopher Carter complements Schultz’s previous work on object-oriented teaching by reading the collection ←19 | 20→ alongside Victorian discourses on materialism, some of which still hold influence today. The relevance of those discourses expresses itself in at least three ways. First, the textbooks promote inductive reasoning while describing invention techniques that are grounded in students’ experience of the tangible environment. Second, the invention techniques draw tactile and aural rhetorics into the writing process, suggesting an interdisciplinary definition of composition that encompasses art and music. Third, they forward an idea of logos that is contingent and context-bound, thus practicing the “deep rhetoric” that James Crosswhite locates in varied, underappreciated tributaries of the rhetorical tradition. Deep rhetoric always has a material dimension in that it focuses on the physical and psychological environments in which communication occurs.

The following chapter continues to examine how the Schultz texts at once reflected and influenced the material conditions of those who used them. In “Testimony of the Tongue: Grammar, Aspirational Pedagogy, and the Cult of Correctness in Long-Nineteenth-Century Composition,” Russel Durst analyzes the social, political, and moral lessons that underlie grammar instruction in early American composition handbooks. The archive contains the largest collection of nineteenth-century language textbooks from the United States, over 100 texts in all. But this trove of information about accepted language use, pedagogical practice, and standardized forms of discourse has barely been researched. At a time when the English language was less standardized than at present, these books enact an “aspirational” pedagogy in which students are taught to use forms of communication associated with the highly educated and most privileged sector of society. Less prestigious usage was held up to ridicule; example sentences offered moral and ideological lessons along with grammar instruction; and students were encouraged to embody a specific form of self-presentation acceptable to society’s arbiters of good taste and correctness.

Chapter Three describes how that logic of correctness supports the production of purportedly virtuous identities, some bound to individual states and some to the nation-state. Daniel Floyd’s “Composing American” examines writing manuals from the Civil War to the 1890s, some of which Schultz found while conducting research in the 1980s and 1990s, and some of which Floyd has recently added to the collection. Taking a microhistorical approach to nearly forgotten materials, he begins by examining 1860s textbooks that teach a secessionist mindset along with grammar and style, and then he proceeds to books that favor a nationalist ethos in subsequent decades. “Do you love your country?” ask Metcalf and Bright in Language Lessons; “How can every boy make his country better and stronger”? The chapter also examines less obvious appeals to good citizenship, such as Newcomer’s lessons on “Persuasion by Appeal to Social Duty,” “Oratory—The Stump” ←20 | 21→ and “Oratory—The Legislator,” which include discussions of how to engage effectively in public discourse. Such lessons anticipate debates about literacy and social engagement that would happen a century later.

Although women teachers participated in those conversations in the 1800s, very few produced textbooks explicitly for the college classroom. Rhiannon Scharnhorst focuses on one of the earliest such women in Chapter Four, “Jessie Macmillan Anderson: A Composition Microhistory.” Combining biography of the author with analysis of her textbooks and novels, Scharnhorst decodes the personality encased in these documents and fleshes out her practice and philosophy of writing instruction. Anderson suggested that writers throw themselves “into innermost sympathy with the throb of life,” and she thereby showed a lively recognition of young writers as creative thinkers, capable of profound attunement with their social and ecological surroundings. When framing the project of her text, Anderson suggests that writers be guided by their own “literary need,” one example among many of her respect for students’ self-knowledge and expressive preferences.

Kathleen Spada prolongs the focus on early women who theorized student-centered teaching, and she gives extended space to Elizabeth H. Spalding’s The Principles of Rhetoric: Constructive and Critical Work in Composition. Chapter Five, “Elizabeth Spalding: Fellow-Worker in Composition,” discusses the pedagogical principles that arose from interaction with students at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute at the turn of the twentieth century. Those principles taught writers to be creative inventors, drawing topics and illustrations from personal experience while adapting to diverse contexts of communication. Spalding saw her students and herself as “fellow-workers” eager to discover means of reaching and persuading specific audiences with particular needs, assumptions, and expectations (Principles iv). By contrast to narratives that code late Victorian writing pedagogy as inflexible and dogmatic, Spalding addressed her fellow-workers in ways that were dynamic and conversational. Her books include surprising emphases on what we now describe as “transferable” learning while also speaking to the crossover between narrative and expository argument, scholarly and popular genres, bodily experience and intellectual growth.

Carter and Durst dwell on those convergences at the end of the book, casting a look back at previous chapters to uncover neglected forms of materialist education, handbooks that trouble the borders of their own category, Civil War-era texts that have only recently entered the archive, and paratextual material composed by the archive’s key figures. We also stress the limitations of our knowledge about the archive’s resources. Thomas Miller articulates a couple of those limitations when noting that “it is difficult to assess how teachers taught” the texts they ←21 | 22→ used, and “harder still to know what students made of them” (101). Although we attempt to track those practices through an abundance of written and material clues, we admit the incompleteness and uncertainty of our investigations. The work of microhistory involves a self-conscious break with “the traditional assertive, authoritarian form of discourse adopted by historians who present reality as objective” (McComiskey 23). This approach requires engaging in cautious, reflective “dialogue with the historical sources” rather than assuming “a position of power over them” (24). It also requires us to be self-conscious about our limited perspectives while hesitating to draw unqualified correspondences between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries.

We examine legacies of nineteenth-century writing pedagogy while avoiding tidy identifications between that period and our own. To spot recurring themes and variations across the last two centuries is not to indicate some essential stasis or to indulge in nostalgia. There is much to lament in the texts of the Schultz Archive, and, even with the ones we celebrate, there is danger in suggesting that their problems are our problems, their aspirations our aspirations. As Kates reminds us, the activist rhetorics of the 1800s “do not provide exact blueprints for us” even when they “speak to the efforts to create equitable rhetoric curricula” (xiv). By keeping in mind the differences between historical eras, we break with composition scholarship’s limited focus on contemporary texts and immediate classroom concerns. In Regimes of Historicity, François Hartog associates such a focus with presentism, or “the sense that only the present exists, a present characterized at once by the tyranny of the instant and by the treadmill of an unending now” (xv). Composing Legacies challenges that tyranny in at least two ways. First, it treats 1800s pedagogy not as a foil or a “blueprint” but rather as a story of disparate, often conflicting practices that produced uneven effects, some of which might prove instructive if teacher-researchers approach them with caution, reflexive awareness, and patience. We disrupt presentist epistemology, then, by treating the history of pedagogy as itself pedagogical.

Second, we try to avoid assessing our materials according to norms that nineteenth-century publics had no way of anticipating. We cannot claim total success in that effort, but we at least strive to unsettle what Hartog depicts as an “omnipresent present” that subsists by “eating up space and reducing or banishing time” (xix, 8). Presentism, in his assessment, does not always involve ignoring the past. Sometimes, it embodies a “movement whereby everything must be turned into heritage” (186). With our emphasis on “composing legacies,” a phrase that invokes both a historical category and a scholarly activity, we admit to being part of that movement. And as we continue Lucille Schultz’s effort to locate “composition’s beginnings in nineteenth-century schools,” we even take ←22 | 23→ pride in considering the relevance of neglected materials for contemporary praxis. But at the same time, we register the force of Hartog’s critique, and his worry that citizens of the present fail to acknowledge the stubborn inaccessibility of the past, the dimensions of previous lived experiences that elude our understanding and frustrate our methods. Throughout the argument, we attend to how the archival materials responded to their own moment rather than ours. The reconstruction of those moments never reaches its objective once and for all. We therefore offer the following chapters as modest interventions in an ongoing conversation, insisting that after thirty years of compilation, organization, digitization, and close study, the majority of the archive’s testimonial rhetorics remain to be discovered.

Those rhetorics, we hope, will build on those that appear in this book: ones that embrace inductive learning; ones that link students’ aspirations to those of a complicated, internally divided nation; ones that tie the history of student-centered education to the work of industrious women in the Gilded Age. Those women taught rhetorical flexibility along with an ability to move between literary and civic genres, preparing writers to make decisions according to time, place, and purpose. The Schultz Archive does similar work for teacher-scholars in the field of rhetoric and composition, reminding them how long authors have negotiated the challenges of teaching writing in specific periods and settings, with consequences both laudable and troubling. We find our legacies in the full range of those consequences, in what we critique as in what we celebrate.

Works Cited

Anderson, Jessie Macmillan. (Jessie Anderson Chase.) Daughter of the Revolution. Gorham Press, 1910.

---. Mayken: A Child’s Story of the Netherlands in the Sixteenth Century. A. C. McClurg and Co., 1902.

---. Three Freshmen: Ruth, Fran, and Nathalie. A. C. McClurg and Co., 1898.

Berlin, James A. “Rhetoric and Ideology in the Writing Class.” College English, vol. 50, no. 5, Sept. 1988, pp. 477–94.

---. Writing Instruction in Nineteenth-Century American Colleges. Southern Illinois UP, 1984.

Bordelon, Suzanne. A Feminist Legacy: The Rhetoric and Pedagogy of Gertrude Buck. Southern Illinois UP, 2007.

Buck, Gertrude, and Elisabeth Woodbridge. A Course in Expository Writing. Henry Holt and Co., 1899.

Burke, Kenneth. Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose. 1935. U of California P, 1984.

Campbell, JoAnn. Toward a Feminist Rhetoric: The Writing of Gertrude Buck. U of Pittsburgh P, 1996. ←23 | 24→

Carr, Jean Ferguson, Stephen L. Carr, and Lucille M. Schultz. Archives of Instruction: Nineteenth-Century Readers, Rhetorics, and Composition Books in the United States. Southern Illinois UP, 2005.

Clark, John Scott. A Practical Rhetoric for Instruction in English Composition and Revision in Colleges and Intermediate Schools. Henry Holt and Co., 1886.

Colegrove, William. Multum in Parvo: An Improved Grammar of the English Language for the Use of Schools and Academies. Smith, Knight, and Co., 1852.

Crosswhite, James. Deep Rhetoric: Reason, Violence, Justice, Wisdom. U of Chicago P, 2013.

Crowley, Sharon. Composition in the University: Historical and Polemical Essays. U of Pittsburgh P, 1998.

Elbow, Peter. Writing without Teachers. 1973. Oxford UP, 1998.

Fitzgerald, Kathryn. “A Rediscovered Tradition: European Pedagogy and Composition in Nineteenth-Century Midwestern Normal Schools.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 53, no. 2, 2001, pp. 224–50.

Frost, Sarah Annie. How to Write a Composition: Containing Original Skeleton Compositions on a Great Variety of Subjects, with Directions for Dividing Each into Its Appropriate Heads and for Arranging the Divisions in Their Natural Order. Dick and Fitzgerald, 1871.

Genung, John Franklin. Outlines of Rhetoric: Embodied in Rules, Illustrative Examples, and a Progressive Course of Prose Composition. Ginn and Company, 1894.

Gold, David. Rhetoric at the Margins: Revising the History of Writing Instruction in American Colleges. Southern Illinois UP, 2008.

Gries, Laurie. Still Life with Rhetoric: A New Materialist Approach for Visual Rhetorics. Utah State UP, 2015.

Hailmann, William N. Outlines of a System of Object-Teaching: Prepared for Teachers and Parents. Ivison, Phinney, Blakeman & Co., 1866.

Hart, John Seely. First Lessons in Composition. Eldredge and Brother, 1871.

Hartog, François. Regimes of Historicity: Presentism and Experiences of Time. Translated by Saskia Brown. Columbia UP, 2017.

Hawk, Byron. A Counter-History of Composition: Toward Methodologies of Complexity. U of Pittsburgh P, 2007.

Helmers, Marguerite. Writing Students: Composition Testimonials and the Representations of Students. State U of New York P, 1994.

Hildreth, Hosea. A Book for Massachusetts Children, in Familiar Letters from a Father. Hilliard, Gray, Little, and Wilkins, 1829.

---. A Book for New-Hampshire Children, in Familiar Letters from a Father. Francis Grant, 1823.

Horner, Bruce, Brice Nordquist, and Susan M. Ryan, editors. Economies of Writing: Revaluations in Rhetoric and Composition. Utah State UP, 2017.

Huffcut, Ernest W. English in the Preparatory Schools. D. C. Heath and Company, 1892.

Johnson, Anna. Education by Doing, or Occupations and Busy Work, for Primary Classes. E. L. Kellogg and Co., 1891.

Johnson, Nan. Nineteenth-Century Rhetoric in North America. Southern Illinois UP, 1991. ←24 | 25→

Kates, Susan. Activist Rhetorics and American Higher Education, 1885–1937. Southern Illinois UP, 2001.

Kitzhaber, Albert. “Rhetoric in American Colleges, 1850–1900.” U of Washington, 1953.

Lindsay, Creighton. “George Payn Quackenbos.” Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age, edited by Theresa Enos, Taylor & Francis, 2011.

Linkon, Sherry. In Her Own Voice: Nineteenth-Century Women Essayists. Routledge, 1997.

Longaker, Mark Garrett. “The Economics of Exposition: Managerialism, Current-Traditional Rhetoric, and Henry Noble Day.” College English, vol. 67, no. 5, May 2005, pp. 508–31.

Lott, Eric. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. Oxford UP, 1993.

Mayo, Elizabeth. Lessons on Objects, Graduated Series: Designed for Children between the Ages of Six and Fourteen Years: Containing Also Information on Common Objects. Arranged by E. A. Sheldon. American Book Co., 1863.

McComiskey, Bruce, editor. Microhistories of Composition. University Press of Colorado, 2016.

Meiklejohn, John Miller Dow. English Grammar with Chapters on Composition, Versification, Paraphrasing, and Punctuation. D.C. Heath and Company, 1894.

Metcalf, Robert C., and Orville T. Bright. Language Lessons: Part One. American Book Company, 1894.

Miller, Thomas P. The Evolution of College English: Literacy Studies from the Puritans to the Postmoderns. U of Pittsburgh P, 2010.

Morley, Charles. A Practical Guide to Composition. New York: Robinson, Pratt, 1838.

Oram, Elizabeth. First Lessons in English Grammar and Composition, with Exercises in the Elements of Pronunciation, Words for Dictation, and Subjects for Composition. Daniel Burgess and Co., 1855.

Paine, Charles. The Resistant Writer: Rhetoric as Immunity, 1850 to the Present. State U of New York P, 1999.

Palmeri, Jason. Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy. National Council of Teachers of English, 2012.

Ritter, Kelly. Before Shaughnessy: Basic Writing at Yale and Harvard, 19201960. National Council of Teachers of English, 2009.

Rose, Shirley K. Review of The Young Composers: Composition’s Beginnings in the Nineteenth-Century Schools by Lucille M. Schultz. College Composition and Communication, vol. 51, no. 4, June 2000, pp. 665–68.

Ruiz, Iris. Reclaiming Composition for Chicanos/as and Other Ethnic Minorities: A Critical History and Pedagogy. Palgrave, 2016.

Schultz, Lucille M. “Elaborating Our History: A Look at Mid-19th Century First Books of Composition.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 45, no. 1, Feb. 1994, pp. 10–30.

---. The Young Composers: Composition’s Beginning in Nineteenth-Century Schools. Southern Illinois UP, 1999. ←25 | 26→

Simmons, Sue Carter. “Constructing Writers: Barrett Wendell’s Pedagogy at Harvard.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 46, no. 3, Oct. 1995, pp. 327–52.

Sinclair, Upton. The Goslings: A Study of the American Schools. Upton Sinclair, 1924.

Sniegoski, Stephen J. William Torrey Harris and the Academic School. Department of Education, Washington, D. C. 1990.

Spalding, Elizabeth Hill. The Problem of Elementary Composition: Suggestions for Its Solution. D. C. Heath and Co., 1897.

---. The Principles of Rhetoric with Constructive and Critical Work in Composition. D. C. Heath and Co., 1905.

Venezky, Richard L., and Carl F. Kaestle. “From McGuffey to Dick and Jane: Reading Textbooks.” A History of the Book in America: Print in Motion: The Expansion of Publishing and Reading in the United States, 18801940, edited by Carl F. Kaestle and Janice Radway, U of North Carolina P, 2009.

Wade, Rebecca. Domenico Brucciani and the Formatori of 19th-Century Britain. Bloomsbury, 2019.

Wardle, Elizabeth. “‘Mutt Genres’ and the Goal of FYC: Can We Help Students Write the Genres of the University?” College Composition and Communication, vol. 60, no. 4, June 2009, pp. 765–89.

Waters, Robert. How to Get on in the World: As Demonstrated by the Life and Language of William Cobbett. James W. Pratt, 1883.

Wells, William Harvey. A Graded Course of Instruction for Public Schools. A. S. Barnes and Co., 1862.

Welsh, Alfred. English Composition: Adapted to the Wants of High Schools, Preparatory Schools, and Academies. Silver Burdett, 1896.

Whately, Richard. Elements of Rhetoric. 1828. J. Munroe, 1845.

Young, Richard. “Paradigms and Problems: Needed Research in Rhetorical Invention.” Research on Composing: Points of Departure, edited by Charles Raymond Cooper and Lee Odell, National Council of Teachers of English, 1978, pp. 29–47.

←26 | 27→ chapter one

Testimony of the Senses: Materialist Pedagogy in Nineteenth-Century Composition Textbooks

christopher carter

End with matter that concentrates the effect of the whole.

—John Franklin Genung, Outlines of Rhetoric: Embodied in Rules, Illustrative Examples, and a Progressive Course of Prose Composition (248)

Rhetoric begins where grammar ends.

—T. Whiting Bancroft, A Method of English Composition (4)

As twenty-first century scholars of composition and rhetoric consider the multisensory character of communication, and as they study the persuasive dimensions of nonhuman phenomena such as writing technologies and spaces of delivery, the field comes to encompass much more than teaching verbal argument. This expansion of focus characterizes Laura Micciche’s investigations of pathos, Jody Shipka’s experiments with eclectic modes and materials, and Laurie Gries’s studies of how visual rhetoric “moves” in affective and geographic terms—all of which reflect a growing interest in meaning-making that reaches beyond words. But however fresh those topics may feel to researchers in the 2020s, the Lucille M. Schultz Nineteenth-Century Composition Archive suggests that they are not exactly new, or at least that their novelty has a lineage in the very era many thinkers construct as incompatible with their field’s convictions. ←27 | 28→

The archive bears the record of that lineage, affording scholars a view of intellectual trends that long preceded the field’s consolidation in academic journals and graduate programs. Those trends arose, in part, from nineteenth-century textbooks about how to teach, how to write, and how to teach writing. Unless otherwise noted, these primary source materials are part of the Archive, which can be accessed at https://digital.libraries.uc.edu/collections/schultz/. The collection shows a striking rise in the publication of composition books from 1790 to 1900, with brief decreases in the eighteen-teens and after the Civil War began. A spike in the 1880s culminated in the peak year of 1894, when thirteen different works appeared in a twelve-month period.

That banner year featured John Genung’s Outlines of Rhetoric, a textbook that preferred the systematic practice of rhetorical principles to rote memorization, encouraging writers to “give like prominence to matters like in importance” and to “end with matter that concentrates the effect of the whole” (235, 248). While such recommendations seem wise enough counsel for writers then and now, they also provide a way to understand the intellectual tendencies of the archival texts, some of which include teaching abstract concepts by means of tangible things, attempting to excite deep feeling when addressing specific audiences, and crediting those audiences with critical responsiveness. Genung’s Outlines of Rhetoric brought those tendencies together in 1894, and along with the rest of the composition textbooks published that year, it synthesized pedagogical ideas from throughout the century.

To recognize how 1894 “concentrates the effect” of much material in the archive, we might begin by laying Genung’s Outlines of Rhetoric alongside T. Whiting Bancroft’s A Method of English Composition, which appeared around the same time. Bancroft shared Genung’s sense that writers’ aptitude depends on practice more than rule assimilation, and that persuading an audience requires anticipating its emotional responses. Acknowledging the importance of logic and sentence structure to those effects, he nevertheless posited that “rhetoric begins where grammar ends” (4). This adage captures his effort to distinguish rhetoric from fixed linguistic principles while accentuating its embodied character, but at least as important, it works as shorthand for fin-de-siècle publication trends. Of the collection’s varied genres, grammar guides dominated from 1820 to 1870. Soon after the Civil War, composition textbooks rich with pragmatic rhetorical theory rose to prominence, their surge in the 1890s eclipsing that of 1850s grammar books by more than 60 percent.

The transition from rules to composing guides brought not just an emphasis on practice but a pedagogical sensibility that expressed itself in three ways, each of which I characterize in the coming sections as forms of materialist rhetoric: first, ←28 | 29→ the books promoted inductive reasoning while grounding their invention techniques in the material, tangible environment; second, they drew tactile and aural rhetorics into the writing process, suggesting a definition of composition that encompassed art and music while accentuating appeals to the body; third, they advanced an idea of recursive invention that was responsive to local exigencies and embodied differences, approximating the “deep rhetoric” that James Crosswhite now locates in underappreciated tributaries of the rhetorical tradition.

Even though Crosswhite defines deep rhetoric against nineteenth century conventions, many of the collection’s materials sponsor the dialectical sensibility and situational savvy he associates with phronesis, or the development of practical wisdom. The Schultz Archive thereby permits us to perform the work Louise W. Phelps describes in “Paths Not Taken: Recovering History as Alternative Future,” where she recommends avoiding a “monolithic representation of history” in favor of observing the “unresolved conflicts, major and minor traditions, ambiguities, and contradictory practices irreducible to the dominant narrative” (47). Although dominant narratives associate the 1800s with memorization and maintenance of rigid standards, the archive harbors alternative traditions that cohere with nineteenth century innovations in philosophy, literature, and culture, all of which demonstrated fascination with the vibrancy and vitality of inert things—whether the commodities that carried with them the record of human effort and exploitation, or the pictures and visual representations that aimed to mimic everyday experiences while enlivening the storytelling instincts of student writers.

Victorian Materialisms

The textbooks’ materialism involves generating claims from concrete things, or in the words of Bancroft, producing “an inference of the unknown from the known, and of the general from the particular” (32). In his 1894 First Book in English, Brooklyn school superintendent William Henry Maxwell devised an approach to the sensory environment that crossed the subject/object divide, inviting writers to examine “what things do” as well as “what is done to things” (7, 12). That same year, Robert C. Metcalf (Supervisor of Schools in late nineteenth-century Boston) and Orville T. Bright (Superintendent in Cook County, Illinois, where the Chicago school system resides) showed the long-range influence of Romanticism by noting how “creeping things” should be “seized upon as a means of awakening interest and stimulating thought” (3). Through much of the century, such exercises began with illustrated pages that prompted writers to invent stories from the images, supplying details on either side of the frozen moment (see Figure 1.1). ←29 | 30→ While the exercises worked to catalyze imagination, they also taught students to assemble arguments through narrative, marshaling information with increasing rigor as the texts proceeded.

Such a progression was common enough in nineteenth-century textbooks that the manuals of 1894 might be read as concentrating “the effect of the whole.” The texts counseled copious practice in description, especially of things that creep and crawl, often asking students to name and analyze insect and arachnid parts. Early forays into scientific writing appeared alongside fables in which hapless cats, dogs, and foxes showed the results of recklessness and greed. Some of the lessons fixed firmly on sentence-level concerns, as the authors posed leading questions about the picture inserts, inviting students to turn questions into statements or develop comfort with verb tenses by writing about sequenced engravings. Frequently, the prompts came with memory-building exercises that instructed users to close the book and retell the story using appropriate verb forms.

Figure 1.1.Insert from First Book in English, William Henry Maxwell. American Book Company, 1894. Source: Image is in the public domain.

As the tasks became more demanding, the books asked writers to include details that were missing in a given fabula (see Figure 1.2). Pictures featured playmates negotiating, birds nesting, animals rescuing people and vice versa. Accompanying queries charged writers with naming the characters as well as sketching their histories and personalities. Others required accounting for all the nonhuman things in a scene and crafting tales where those materials held primary ←30 | 31→ importance (see Figure 1.3). Advanced exercises asked writers to learn more about the objects by consulting outside textbooks, suggesting that imaginative writing might gain precision and nuance from research. As students took up the assignments, they encountered some of the same characters and objects over the course of their textbooks, and attempted to construct a narrative microcosm from the different scenarios. Sometimes those characters occupied multiple panels on a single page, providing a late Victorian rendition of storyboarding, however limited and elliptical.

Figure 1.2.Insert from First Book in English, William Henry Maxwell. American Book Company, 1894. Source: Image is in the public domain.

Figure 1.3.Insert from Language Lessons: Part One, Robert C. Metcalf and Orville T. Bright. American Book Company, 1894. Source: Image is in the public domain.

Forward-looking as such panels seem, they were hardly new phenomena in the history of education. Schultz traces illustrated teaching manuals as far back as the work of John Amos Comenius in the seventeenth century (87). More ←31 | 32→ innovative, in her estimation, was the inclusion of sustained practice in rhetorical invention while using pictures as engines of associative thinking (96). Rather than dwelling at length on philosophical principles, the textbooks foregrounded description and narrative as methods of inductive learning, bringing pictorial renderings of daily life into contact with student experiences.

The efforts of Maxwell and Metcalf and Bright are not anomalous in this regard, but part of a trend toward concrete pedagogy that Carr, Carr, and Schultz notice as early as the 1830s (9). In The Evolution of College English: Literacy Studies from the Puritans to the Postmoderns, Thomas Miller praises such teaching for treating students as thinkers rather than absorbers of information (145). No less important, it treats literacy as a way of participating in living ecologies, addressing the dynamics of human and nonhuman agents instead of seeing composition as bloodless routine.

While noticing the ecological sensitivities of the texts, we must at the same time avoid equating illustrations with their referents or attributing to drawings an exceptional form of presence. Book covers, pages, and printed words also constitute physical, textured things, so picture inserts cannot lay claim to an exclusive or intensified form of materiality. As if to mark the difference between pictures and their objects, Maxwell encouraged writers to venture outside and find a leaf, ←32 | 33→ subjecting it to the forms of scrutiny invited by the illustrations. Students might thereby bring the book’s habits of mind to objects not contained within its pages, writing about visual and tangible phenomena the engravings could not always convey.

In focusing on what things do, what they undergo, and how they inform the activity of writing, the work of Maxwell and Metcalf and Bright embodied the century’s fixation on nonhuman culture, especially where that culture afforded lessons about social behaviors and psychological conditions. In her introduction to Bodies and Things in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture (2012), British literature scholar Katharina Boehm designates such topics a “central concern of interdisciplinary Victorian studies since the 1980s” (3). “Since the ‘material turn’ in the field,” she explains, scholars have studied objects “from a variety of angles, ranging from historicist and phenomenological to formalist and theoretical approaches” (3). The inserts in First Book in English and Language Lessons: Part One should be situated amid Victorian commodity culture, which according to Boehm, “fostered affective, prosthetic, or even parasitic relationships between subjects and objects” (6). Such textbooks flourished within a social milieu that attributed a certain liveliness to objects, as people flocked to “marionette theatres, music hall performances, exhibitions of moving automata” and “popular anatomical museums” while also showing fascination with “waxwork shows” and “mechanical toys” (6). Several decades earlier, such fascination informed Karl Marx’s definition of the commodity, which he interpreted as arising from, draining, and objectifying the vitality of the worker who produced it (1).

By attempting to understand market wares as extensions of human life, and by describing the objectification of labor, the theory of the commodity exemplified the Victorian tendency to frame human and nonhuman matter according to each other’s characteristics. In Boehm’s formulation, the period involved a “merging” of subject and object (2), not just in its philosophical and economic treatises but also in the realms of education and leisure. Beyond the examples of marionettes and automata, such merging transpired in the literary culture of the era. Victorian literature scholar Isobel Armstrong takes as an example Scrooge’s door-knocker in A Christmas Carol, springing to life as the perceptible form of his avarice and repression (31). Philosopher Jacques Rancière makes the case in more forceful terms, suggesting that commodities “could not have come to life as they do” without “the object lesson provided by Balzac—the lessons of a literary regime where ‘material things’ and ‘human beings’ enjoy the same importance” (quoted in Brown 222). Granting equal importance to human and nonhuman phenomena signaled anxiety about person-centered views of the cosmos while reflecting uncertainty about human mastery of the environment. ←33 | 34→

Rather than depicting an easy coexistence between varied forms of life, Armstrong notes how objects in Victorian novels

pierce the protagonist—and us as readers—with unexpected intensity: the text attempts to reproduce those unpredictable moments, punctuations or punctures in experience, when an object seizes attention, and comes into visibility […] They act in narrative terms very much like the accident in the photographic field that punctures the visual scene with intense power, Roland Barthes’s “punctum.” (20)

To return to Dickens, we encounter that intensity in the door-knocker, the thing that not only acts in ways contrary to its presumed purpose, but that also stores within itself the protagonist’s history while foreshadowing similar events in which bells, chains, robes, and a yawning plot of earth will transfix and overpower the previously commanding human agent.

Granted, nineteenth-century manuals did not involve a concerted political effort to decenter the human agent. Yet they did emphasize the capacity of things to act and be acted upon in unpredictable ways, and they thereby participated in discourses that flowed through art and science, philosophy and fiction. As the Schultz entries shifted from rule-bound grammar guides to exercise-driven textbooks, the emphasis on object pedagogy became more pronounced. In a historical rendition of Bancroft’s precept “rhetoric begins where grammar ends,” post-1870 manuals adopted a more explicitly process-based approach to composition than appeared in previous decades, while pursuing multimodal forms of invention and drafting. Beyond the image-intensive works of Maxwell and Metcalf and Bright, standout examples of multimodal pedagogy included George Quackenbos’s Illustrated Lessons in Our Language (1876), William Bramwell Powell’s How to Talk, or, Primary Lessons in the English Language (1882), and Mary F. Hyde’s Intermediate Grammar: Practical Lessons in the Use of English (1894). Picture books appear at earlier times in the catalog, to be sure, with John Frost’s illustrated 1839 Easy Exercises in Composition: Designed for the Use of Beginners influencing textbook design for the remainder of the century. But such works flourished in the last three decades, with representative examples appearing in the peak publication year of 1894.

By mixing images with open-ended queries, authors attempted to make practice pleasurable for inexperienced writers, mitigating the dread some felt about institutionally mandated activities. This invitational rhetoric brought a degree of liberty to the scene of education, dislodging dominant affective tendencies in favor of more generative ones. Only by fostering embodied investment in practice, the logic ran, would pedagogy produce durable results. The next section of this essay features textbook writers who addressed the issue of bodily investment in ←34 | 35→ direct fashion, seeking inspiration outside the classroom while taking motivation from interdisciplinary definitions of composing.

A Sea Change

While the view of composition as embodied recursive practice may strike twenty-first-century composition scholars as a given, in the 1800s it constituted pedagogical news. The established faith in dictation still governed much classroom experience, with grammar handbooks and the more prescriptive picture books favoring memory over invention. Although the shift from one kind of teaching to another was by no means smooth or complete, Schultz contends that “the transition from memory-based instruction to practice-based instruction marked a sea change in nineteenth-century schools” (24). The change came with recognition that even a thorough knowledge of rules did not necessarily support composing fluency. But the sea change involved more than recognition of the limitations of classroom-based memorization. It also implied the realization that textual analysis, however rigorous in execution, did not automatically lead to assured writing.

Many textbook authors knew that analyzing published texts, however useful for intellectual development, did not necessarily help students generate their own compositions. To assist students with active production of writing, the textbooks emphasized self-aware repetition while endorsing routines meant to increase fluency over time. Where Wesleyan University Professor William Edward Mead held that “precision cannot be taught by rules” but rather required “long practice” (31), Middlebury College rhetoric scholar Brainerd Kellogg drew an analogy with music instruction:

No professor of music … sits down with his scholar, expounds the principles on which the art of music rests, explains how this, that, and the other piece should be rendered, instances model performers, warns the pupil against the errors into which he is liable to fall, and then goes away imagining that under such training the youth is likely to become a musician. (3)

Kellogg’s insistence on steady practice captured a consistent concern of his contemporaries in 1894, while the anecdote signaled the interdisciplinary framework from which those authors drew. Milton Academy English instructor and author Jessie Macmillan Anderson (see Chapter Four for an extended discussion of her life and work) similarly linked writing to music and painting, asking students to broaden their imagination by examining varied material forms while learning to be particularly “heartless” analysts of prose (9, 29). By fostering critical perception, ←35 | 36→ she aimed to promote communicative economy while cultivating muscle-memory akin to that of the accomplished pianist.

Kellogg clarifies the absurdity of the leap from analysis to rhetorical proficiency in his crafting of the musical analogy, asking why, if teachers knew that people did not learn to play the piano only by reading music theory, did those same teachers imagine that the nearly exclusive meditation on technique would in itself yield accomplished writers? Kellogg thereby anticipated the thinking of Warren Bower—a 1930s-era New York University teacher and associate editor at Scribner’s Magazine—who designated such magic the “go thou and do likewise” approach to writing instruction (848).

Composition historian James Berlin shared Bower’s resistance to “literature as the basis of study in the writing course” in the late 1980s (Berlin, Rhetoric 71), preferring Fred Newton Scott and Joseph Villiers Denney’s proposal that composition be “regarded not as a dead form, to be analyzed into its component parts, but as a living product of an active, creative mind” (Berlin, Writing 84). His point, like that of Kellogg, was not to reject critical investigation or neglect the history of the thing in question, whether the piano or the pen. Anderson’s advocacy for the “heartless analysis of prose” held rich value in prompting sensitivity to insufficient evidence as well as overkill, to stumbling rhythms as well as weak visualizations.

The heartless analysis of prose did not proceed for its own sake, then, but informed an ethos of rehearsal that aimed to support students’ confidence and dexterity. Early indicators of such an approach appeared in John Frost’s Easy Exercises in Composition (1839) and Richard Green Parker’s Aids to English Composition (1844), while post-Civil War examples included Sarah Annie Frost’s How to Write a Composition (1871), J. Scott Clark’s A Practical Rhetoric (1887), and Lewis Worthington Smith and James E. Thomas’s A Modern Composition and Rhetoric (1900). If we associate rhetoric with action, with contingent communication in particular situations using appropriate channels and genres, these textbooks were devoted more to cultivating rhetorical acuity than to assimilating rules. In ways both historical and philosophical, practical knowledge of rhetoric began where grammar ended.

Such is not to suggest that the two ideas need be at odds; on the contrary, communication within a given context requires adaptation to that context’s grammatical conventions. Laura Micciche laments the tendency in writing studies to divide grammar from rhetoric, holding that “writing is profoundly reflective of the deep grammars that we absorb as inhabitants of a particular time and place” (“Making” 721), and that linguistic convention is “a positioning tool, a way of presenting ideas that influences how and what we see” (722). Kellogg and Anderson’s ←36 | 37→ theories align nicely with Micciche’s views insofar as facility with “rhetorical grammar” requires reflective attention to particular communicative situations. But when Bancroft described rhetoric as taking up where grammar leaves off, he had in mind what Micciche terms “formal grammar instruction, the deadly kind that teaches correctness divorced from content and situation” (“Making” 720). More nuanced definitions certainly exist, but the dominant pedagogies of the day produced associations between grammar and rote conditioning, some of which would still inform writing pedagogy more than a century later.

Kellogg and Anderson broke with those formulaic approaches by teaching grammatical savvy as a form of contextual competence, a means of showing respect for audience expectations. And they mixed that unconventional approach to grammar with an emphasis on multimodal rhetoric, not just by using pictures to initiate drafts but also by accentuating the aural character of writing. A search of all the words in the archive (using optical character software that digital preservation librarians Nathan Tallman and James Van Mil made available at the University of Cincinnati in 2017) suggests that Kellogg and Anderson were not alone, as references to euphony occurred 196 times, rhythm over 300 times, and harmony more than 1,000. William Williams’s Composition and Rhetoric by Practice used the terms in conjunction with each other, counseling “euphonious arrangement” and praising the harmonies that arise from “having the sound of the words of the sentence” produce “an echo of the sense” (135). Such advice acquired particular resonance alongside Kellogg’s suggestion that we think with our bodies, gaining eloquence from rehearsal while deriving ideas from “face to face” encounter with “the things of the outer world” (17–18). For Genung, learning to convey the results of such encounters required an “ear alert and well trained,” and a readiness “to think at every step how your sentences sound” (162).

The cross-disciplinary idea of knowledge emerging from felt experience holds strong associations with Romanticism, an intellectual tradition that, in some circles of writing studies, has come to represent excessive attention to the individual writer, the reproduction of the ideology of genius, and a mystical relationship between composer and environment. But in A Counter-History of Composition: Toward a Methodology of Complexity, rhetoric scholar Byron Hawk invites a rethinking of Romanticism, describing embodiment not as the experience of physical or spiritual autonomy but as “the critical, epistemological link between situation and invention” (120). To revisit Kellogg’s language, “the things of the outer world” participate in the action of a distributed mind, as those things collide with bodies in ways that produce unpredictable exigencies and novel meanings. Visual and musical arts depend on these collisions as much as writing does, Hawk suggests, describing invention as a form of “jazz improvisation” and observing ←37 | 38→ that “music theory must constantly adapt to evolving, newly emergent musical circumstances” (109). Whereas Jessie Macmillan Anderson aimed to stoke students’ imagination by recourse to art and music, she and others in her pedagogical cohort taught writing as a form of practiced adaptation to circumstance, based neither in rule assimilation nor liberated invention but rather in response to situational demands.

Memorization of those conventions served limited purposes, while imitation of eminent authors brought sophistication to classroom activities but did little to improve student writing. Both approaches left out the active body developing a “feel” for writing in both the tactile and affective senses of that term. No less troublesome an omission, they ignored the likely effects of writing on embodied readers who are socialized in a range of literate conventions, some matching those of the writer, others quite different. And just as the nineteenth century sea change recast students as co-inventors rather than receivers of knowledge, it also powered a rethinking of audiences as physical, emotive participants in rhetorical exchange.

The emphasis on specific readers who experienced the world in localized ways, and who represented communities with distinct affective histories, stood in stark contrast with ideas of reception that were characterized by a singular, all-encompassing rationality. Alphonso G. Newcomer of Stanford University knew in 1894 that no passage would strike all readers in the same way, and he provided a pointed example in A Practical Course in English Composition:

nobody else ever heard with your ears or saw with your eyes. Might it not be that, if you could look through another’s eyes you would find the color of the grass to be, not green, but what you have always called blue? In other words is it not possible that grass makes the same impression on another's optic nerves that the sky makes on yours, and that the sky makes a yet different impression on his? Of course we agree in calling the impression received from the same thing by the same name, and so there is no confusion. But who shall say whether these things are or are not thus? Perhaps we are living in very different worlds all the time and have never suspected it. (13–14)

Acknowledging such potential differences in perception made diligence of description all the more important to constructive rhetorical exchange. And those potential sensory disparities also produced an opportunity for writers: “Write with the conviction that you have something new to say about the most commonplace objects in the world,” Newcomer implores, “because your senses have told you a different story about them from what ours have told each one of us” (14). Variances in how people experienced their surroundings, many of which arose as much from social and political divergence as the operation of “optic nerves,” troubled the ←38 | 39→ assumption of easy correspondence between people’s presumed truths, while at the same time heightening the need for clear communication.

Negotiating this unstable state of affairs demanded using language that held broad appeal while nevertheless recognizing its likely insufficiency; it occasionally required taking a generous posture toward skeptics, assuring them that potential objections have received due consideration; it involved crafting enough practical illustrations that if one or several failed to sway a given audience, others might compensate. In moving from the known to the unknown, the point was partly to pull the reader along in comfortable fashion, activating the feeling of familiarity as a resource for pressing slowly into new areas of knowledge.

Yet, for all its prominence, gradualism did not constitute the only approach to learning to write for unpredictable audiences. At times the emphasis on everyday things aimed, as Armstrong notes in her reflections on Victorian materialism, to abruptly dislodge traditional assumptions, producing the effect of what Roland Barthes calls the “punctum” in Camera Lucida. Although he framed that photographic piercing as an accident, and thus something not necessarily wielded by image-makers to disrupt audience equilibrium, textbook authors such as Kellogg and Newcomer wished to create optimal conditions for such moments to occur in print.

Generating those dynamics meant courting resistance as addressees found their habitual perceptions thrown into doubt. Taking rhetorical risks without incurring outright dismissal required a dialectical approach to invention and drafting, a capacity to imagine the passions that might arise when texts move against custom. As the upcoming section shows, it required displacing certainty with the pursuit of hard-earned probabilities, which writers elicited from forecasting variously embodied rejoinders, none of which produced final or absolute judgments.

Inventing Copiously

In his 2013 book on reason and justice, University of Oregon professor James Crosswhite represents such imaginative give-and-take as a defining feature of rhetoric, which is “a way we participate in a larger world and become open to the lives of others, a way we learn and change. Rhetoric is also a way the world and others become open to us” (3). It is “something historically and materially specific … that has a special kairotic belonging to some times, some situations, some places” (3). If rhetoric has a universal quality, it exists in the negotiation of local, historically specific needs. ←39 | 40→

That constant condition, in Crosswhite’s estimation, marks the nexus of rhetoric and philosophy, as philosophy involves “questioning everything in its attempt to find what cannot be doubted” (367). As he historicizes that intersection, he describes nineteenth-century writing pedagogy as an unfortunate contributor to the chronicle, and one that impoverished rhetoric and philosophy alike. During that era, he writes,

Teaching often consisted primarily of marking errors and focusing on correct grammar. Students were not educated to engage in inquiry or critical reasoning. They were not prepared to become informed citizens capable of participating in public debate or even of expressing themselves on important issues. (3)

The period troubles him not just for its poor service to students, or for its debasement of venerable fields of study, but for its lasting influence. Dissatisfied with the emphasis on formalism and standardization, he instead asks that readers learn to live with ongoing contention, and to formulate cases within affectively charged situations.

The task is partly to anticipate the responses of interlocutors in that context, but more importantly, to see the responses play out in real time and rethink claims and evidence as the news comes in. The process produces what Crosswhite portrays as copious invention: “Only when one has invented copiously, can one try out the perspectives and arguments in the particular case and have a hope of approaching the true complexity of the situation” (166). While Crosswhite’s principle of copiousness cannot eliminate all faulty induction, it promotes dialectical movement that incorporates a range of perspectives into the process of generating knowledge.

The 1894 texts espoused values similar to those in Crosswhite’s Deep Rhetoric, with Genung’s Outlines of Rhetoric detailing a notably reflexive approach to argument. “Be cautious of leaving any premise untested,” Genung wrote, encouraging composers to consider whether contrary cases might be more forcible (271). He encouraged writers to gather plentiful, well-organized evidence while avoiding “jumping at a conclusion,” or, more precisely, “drawing too large a conclusion from too few indications” (269). Those indications should come, as much as possible, from tangible things, for “a fruitful promoter of life in expression” is to communicate “in the concrete; that is, to talk when you can about particular objects that embody the characteristics you wish to bring to light” (265). But students should regard these concrete examples only as “suggestive and stimulating; a valuable means of imparting useful lessons, but not to be leaned upon as establishing absolute fact” (273). The temptation to leap grows as writers evoke seemingly solid instances; so to curb the sort of generalizations that undermine ←40 | 41→ rhetorical cogency, students should “be cautious of the conditions to which [the] example is to be applied” (273). Genung thereby called for the critical reasoning Crosswhite characterizes as missing in the nineteenth century.

In effect if not in its stated intention, Genung thus prepared people to participate in civic dialogue. In one way, his book supports Crosswhite’s assessment of the period by generally avoiding mention of public communications. But in another way, the book assumes an audience that both includes and reaches beyond classroom environments, helping students anticipate responses by peers, teachers, and people who are not present but nevertheless hold a practical interest in the topic. Copious invention requires staged negotiations with agents who reply directly to the writer, as well as consideration of strangers whose answers can only be projected. Carr, Carr, and Schultz find Genung’s insistence on “adaptation to audience and situation” to be his “most important contribution” to late nineteenth century U. S. rhetoric (76).

At its most rigorous, the resulting pedagogy would involve a thorough investigation of the attitudes and expectations of outside readers, with awareness that the investigation must be ongoing and can never uncover all relevant variables. Genung may constrain the invention process by including too many exercises in which students revise sample essays, but insofar as Outlines in Rhetoric emphasizes writers’ production of their own cases, which were to presume diverse, critically responsive addressees, it contained the kernel of public writing pedagogy.

Considering his emphasis on the situated character of argument, we may wonder why later scholarship would characterize him as a current-traditional thinker. Richard Young, a celebrated rhetoric scholar at Carnegie Mellon University during the 1970s and 80s, interpreted Genung that way in “Arts, Crafts, Gifts, and Knacks: Some Disharmonies in the New Rhetoric,” acknowledging Genung’s shift away from grammar-centered instruction but nevertheless questioning his theory of invention. In A Counter-History of Composition, Hawk condenses Young’s critique, which associated current-traditionalism with a dogged attention to “craft—modes, genres, structures of discourse, and norms of style and usage. Thinking, invention, and creativity are left up to the mysterious powers of gifted individuals” (26). Hawk later traces this dependence on genius to the work of Hugh Blair in the eighteenth century, where the ideology of inspiration “leaves invention to chance or mystery and reduces rhetoric to a rule-governed procedure of arrangement and style” (52). But Outlines in Rhetoric presumed something quite different: a composer whose ideas arose from immersion in surrounding ecologies and whose examples must generate the affect of texture, density, and substantive action if they are to prove persuasive. ←41 | 42→

Insofar as Genung’s work concentrates the effect of other manuals at the time, it prompts the question of whether current-traditionalism dominated the era in ways scholars often assume, or whether it represents the conceptual compression of our modern dislikes, safely contained in the century before college writing instruction consolidated its disciplinary identity. Defying categorization as a current-traditional teacher, Genung approached linguistic truths as what Italian political philosopher Antonio Gramsci would call “hegemonic,” and thus advocated self-consciousness about the limits of knowledge while supporting ongoing rhetorical engagement as a way to test presumed certainties. Kellogg’s A Text-Book on Rhetoric gave an account of such hegemony by explaining that the laws of language “are conventional, depend on consent; are true as long as that consent is given; cease to be true when that consent is withdrawn” (14). Although he avoided mentioning competing conventions among discourse groups, his awareness of the socially constructed character of norms suggests attentiveness to that possibility. What counts as appropriate may change not just with time but also with movement across geographies and among cultures. Within those locations, “thought and expression are so ‘intertwined,’ so ‘inextricably blended,’ that the two are, in some real sense, one—that any change of either is or involves a change of the other” (77). Here again we see the emphasis on embodied practice in that meaning cannot commence without medium but rather depends on the site, technology, activity, form, and style of its delivery.

With the implication that the improvement of delivery supports the refinement of sense, we may return once more to Kellogg’s image of the pianist, developing proficiency from dedicated rehearsal of phrases, passages, and full scores, seeking precision in the movement from measure to measure while modulating dynamics to produce desired effects in the overall performance. For composers who invent their own pieces rather than interpreting someone else’s creation, the expressive possibilities are even broader, though no less answerable to convention.

While keeping those conventions in mind, Newcomer shared Kellogg’s doubt about perfect correspondences between the sensory experiences of differently positioned people (Practical 14), and he thereby respected the contingent relations between an audience’s social-material situation and its ideas of truth. However compelling from a given standpoint, inductive rhetoric must acknowledge the prospect of future counterexamples while recognizing that self-evident truths depend on perceivers’ histories as well as the social conditioning of their attention. What counts as common sense, or the affective condition that accompanies Gramscian hegemony, has limited stability across time or locale. Engaging with the different senses of the common, challenging some of them while reaffirming ←42 | 43→ others, again demands the sort of sensitivity to audience that rarely figures into conceptions of current-traditional pedagogy.

That sensitivity corresponds with Crosswhite’s definition of rhetoric, which involves becoming “open to the lives of others” in the faith that others will become “open to us” (3). Genung, Kellogg, and Newcomer theorized invention as practicing this openness, or at least striving to create hospitable circumstances for it. They neither reserved this practice for the few nor blanketed it in mystery, locating it instead in the things people feel, whether tangible objects or emotions. Although they did not go as far as Crosswhite, who would associate a humble approach to difference with “wisdom” and “peace” (142), fin-de-siècle writing teachers crafted guidebooks not far removed from Crosswhite’s descriptions of virtue. Where their books allowed for conflict, they did so to attain conceptual clarity, or to grant exceptions to developing theses, and not to foster competition for its own sake. Dwelling in difference means listening, maintaining the openness of rhetoric even when it is uncomfortable, “keeping one’s attention in the search” (Crosswhite 282, 253). The copiousness of that undertaking connotes the convergence of rhetoric and dialectics.

Concentrating the Effect of the Whole

Whereas Crosswhite’s Deep Rhetoric mainly concentrates on verbal reason, the 1894 texts grounded learning in pictures, music, and touch, as well as words. Teaching writing in these ways demanded copious pedagogical invention on the part of instructors along with a substantial amount of work by students. Given the scenarios Connors documents where teachers met with classes of 65 people or more, and assessed as many as “216 themes a week,” the ideals outlined in the textbooks may have proven unmanageable in practice (140, 142). Fostering reflexive writing strategies in that situation would have been daunting, the challenges of response and marking even more so. These conditions should be borne in mind when inferring teaching techniques from what Carr, Carr, and Schultz designate as the “archives of instruction.” But at the same time, such conditions do not invalidate the period’s theoretical production, nor do they authorize characterizations of the pedagogy as formalistic, mechanized, monocultural, and limited by naïve faith in the bond between sign and referent. Although rhetoricians of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have shown little sympathy for those of the nineteenth, we wish to prompt a rethinking of those attitudes in this book, pointing to underappreciated authors who promoted an improvisational approach to composing rather than adherence to formula. ←43 | 44→

The inventive capacity of such improvisation depends on what Gertrude Buck and Elisabeth Woodbridge would laud, just a few years after 1894, as the “testimony of the senses” (4). Their point, like that of many authors from the archive’s red-letter year, was that thinking, composing, reflecting, and revising flow through the circuit that links the human and the nonhuman. By recognizing that strain of argument in 1894, we “end with matter that concentrates” at least one “effect” of nineteenth-century literacy manuals. To describe those effects more fully would require enumerating some troubling dimensions of the archive, whose texts demonstrated the racism that dominated the period, upheld the gendered forms of teacher exploitation that Eileen Schell has outlined in Gypsy Academics and Mother Teachers, and affiliated rhetorical proficiency with manly achievement. Further still, they expressed an enthusiasm for pure English and submission to discipline—so much so that Anna Johnson framed “busy work” in wholly affirmative ways.

But even as the phrase “busy work” sounds irresponsible to the contemporary ear, for Johnson it meant teaching students “to use all their senses; to bring in a store of knowledge through all the outer channels” (10). With the surge of interest in affect studies and new materialism in twenty-first century rhetoric, scholars may be tempted to view those trends as historically distinctive, as “new” in the sense accorded to discovery. The Schultz Archive disrupts such assumptions, however, by offering numerous examples of textbooks that foreground complex sensory engagement, taking advantages of those “outer channels” that Johnson describes in Education by Doing.

Yet even as the archive disrupts stories of smooth historical progress, it should not support the contrary extreme whereby we posit strong identification between eras. Clearly, they include profound political differences. But there also exist more similarities than many like to admit, even as the idea of current-traditionalism inhibits the comparison. Phelps notes the problem in “Paths Not Taken,” arguing that such categories can be refuted “for their continuing inadequacy to the actual multiplicity of texts and practices recovered in primary historical research, and their inability to capture our evolving sense of the complex, slippery eventfulness of history” (48). At the same time that she invokes the Darwinian metaphor, she adds a word of caution about its teleological corruptions and expresses wariness of imagining composition “as a tree of evolution where all branches die out or converge on a singular present” (48). Emphasizing the contending, internally contradictory, and permeable structures of feeling that shape the study of writing pedagogy, she at once documents and participates in disciplinary heterogeneity. The Schultz Archive encourages us to sustain that heterogeneity both in our teaching practices and our analysis of their inconspicuous precedents. ←44 | 45→

Those precedents appeared at various times in the nineteenth century, though never more clearly than in 1894. That year “concentrated the effect” of a century’s worth of writing instruction, much of which favored inductive learning through observable or tangible phenomena. Such preferences become apparent in the writings of William Maxwell and those of Robert Metcalf and Orville Bright, each of whom asked students to pay close attention to natural and built environments, and each of whom cultivated the habit of inferring the unknown from the known. Cultivating that habit took practice. Jessie Macmillan Anderson and Brainerd Kellogg provided plans for such practice, describing writing not merely as the transcription of thought, but as a mode of learning where clarity and insight arise from an ethic of revision. Enacting that ethic meant returning to ideas time and again to refine them for specific audiences. As John Genung noted, it also meant testing every premise to see where and when it held true. Foregrounding such concerns indicated a shift away from memorization of grammatical rules: where grammar broke off, rhetoric began. And that attention to rhetoric opened the way for pedagogies of public writing where we open ourselves to others in contexts of civic urgency, situations where writers derive possibilities from known realities, political imagination from the testimony of the senses.

Works Cited

Anderson, Jessie Macmillan. Sixty Composition-Topics: For Students in High Schools and Colleges. Silver, Burdett, and Company, 1894.

Armstrong, Isobel. “Bodily Things and Thingly Bodies: Circumventing the Subject-Object Binary.” Boehm, pp. 17–41.

Bancroft, T. Whiting. A Method of English Composition. Ginn and Company, 1894.

Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida. Translated by Richard Howard. Hill and Wang, 1981.

Berlin, James A. Rhetoric and Reality: Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1900–1985. Southern Illinois UP, 1987.

---. Writing Instruction in Nineteenth-Century American Colleges. Southern Illinois UP, 1984.

Blair, Hugh. Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres. W. Strahan, 1785.

Boehm, Katharina, editor. Bodies and Things in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture. Palgrave, 2012.

Bower, Warren. “All Aboard the Omnibus.” English Journal, vol. 28, 1938, pp. 841–51.

Brown, Bill. “The Bodies of Things.” Boehm, pp. 221–28.

Buck, Gertrude, and Elisabeth Woodbridge. A Course in Expository Writing. Henry Holt and Company, 1899.

Campbell, George. The Philosophy of Rhetoric. 1776, edited by Lloyd F. Bitzer, Southern Illinois UP, 1963. ←45 | 46→

Carpenter, George R. Exercises in Rhetoric and Composition. MacMillan, 1897.

Carr, Jean Ferguson, Stephen L. Carr, and Lucille M. Schultz. Archives of Instruction: Nineteenth-Century Readers, Rhetorics, and Composition Books in the United States. Southern Illinois UP, 2005.

Clark, J. Scott. A Practical Rhetoric for Instruction in English Composition and Revision in Colleges and Intermediate Schools. Henry Holt and Company, 1887.


XII, 182
ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2021 (June)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XII, 182 pp., 5 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Christopher Carter (Author) Russel K. Durst (Author)

Christopher Carter is Divisional Dean of Humanities at the University of Cincinnati. His recent books include Rhetorical Exposures: Confrontation and Contradiction in US Social Documentary Photography , Metafilm: Materialist Rhetoric and Reflexive Cinema , and The Corruption of Ethos in Fortress America: Billionaires, Bureaucrats, and Body Slams . Russel K. Durst is Professor of English at the University of Cincinnati, where he teaches courses in composition, writing pedagogy and research, and English linguistics. He has published numerous books, articles, and chapters in the field of composition studies.


Title: Composing Legacies