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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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Introduction: Textbook Histories and Testimonial Legacies (Christopher Carter and Russel K. Durst)


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...

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