It is easy enough to make fun of the outrage and anguish expressed when the creation of a School of English was being debated at Oxford at the end of the nineteenth century. Such a School, it was contended, would either force lecturers into mere gossip about the lives and times of authors in order for them to have something to say, or else quickly become a dry philological study of the history of the language, which, by usurping the place of Latin and Greek would, in the acerbic comment of Thomas Case, Wayneflete Professor of Moral Philosophy, “reverse the Renaissance.” The conservatives of course lost and the progressives entered the citadel, waving a banner reworked from Matthew Arnold that might have read, “the best that is known and thought in the world includes a good deal of English literature” (to which could later have been added “and a little American”).
KeywordsLiterary Study Literary Text Paradise Lost Literary Commentary Time Literary Supplement
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