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Composing Legacies

Testimonial Rhetoric in Nineteenth-Century Composition


Christopher Carter and Russel K. Durst

In 2015, Professor Emerita Lucille M. Schultz donated to the University of Cincinnati her set of composition materials gathered from fifteen libraries and collections around the country. With 350 entries ranging from 1785 to 1916, the collection includes picture books for early primary schools, grammar textbooks, student writing, and advanced rhetoric textbooks for undergraduates. The documents afford a thrilling glimpse into nineteenth-century ways of thinking and teaching, highlighting practices we would today identify as prewriting, collaborative invention, freewriting, and object-oriented pedagogy. Composing Legacies relates these pedagogies to expressions of social class, nationalism, and public engagement that run throughout the Victorian era and the Gilded Age. Early chapters show how writing and grammar handbooks aimed to reproduce social hierarchies; later ones show how textbook authors aimed to mitigate lecture-style pedagogy with attention to student backgrounds, personal interests, economic aspirations, and presumed audiences. Often, those authors demonstrated a pronounced interest in national unity, but not without exception. Little-known Confederate textbooks took the ideology of unity to be a form of Northern aggression, promoting the maintenance of state and local traditions through their classroom exercises and sample passages. Composition scholars who see the nineteenth-century as a period of skills-and-drills teaching, devoid of explicit political concern, will find surprises in the archival texts’ testimonies about national crises and civic participation. Those scholars will also find that the “social turn” in writing and rhetoric, however recent as a historical framework, has been underway for more than two hundred years.
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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,...

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