An original work stuffed with data and scholarship about early college-level instruction in the English language. . . . The Formation of College English has excellent chapters on the teaching of language and literacy in Scottish and Irish universities and in English universities and dissenting academies. . . .The book also contains excellent chapters on the contributions made to literary studies by Adam Smith, George Campbell, and Hugh Blair. These chapters are so comprehensive—and so good—that they can profitably be read by graduate students as introductions to the rhetorical and cultural work of these canonical figures . . . anyone who is interested in the future of English studies ought to read this superb exploration of its past.
In the middle of the eighteenth century, English literature, composition, and rhetoric were introduced almost simultaneously into colleges throughout the British cultural provinces. Professorships of rhetoric and belles lettres were established just as print was reaching a growing reading public and efforts were being made to standardize educated taste and usage. The provinces saw English studies as a means to upward social mobility through cultural assimilation. In the educational centers of England, however, the introduction of English represented a literacy crisis brought on by provincial institutions that had failed to maintain classical texts and learned languages. Today, as rhetoric and composition have become reestablished in the humanities in American colleges, English studies are being broadly transformed by cultural studies, community literacies, and political controversies. Once again, English departments that are primarily departments of literature see these basic writing courses as a sign of a literacy crisis that is undermining the classics of literature. The Formation of College English reexamines the civic concerns of rhetoric and the politics that have shaped and continue to shape college English.
As with his description of the effect of eighteenth-century rhetoric, Miller's detail and clarity when dealing with twentieth-century academe makes his conclusions compelling. Like Scholes, he offers the discipline a broad mandate for reform. Moreover, even if the reader agrees with Miller's ultimate conclusions, The Formation of College English will be useful to members of the English department for its archival work alone, for the range and depth of historical texts represented here is truly impressive. Combining both close attention to scholarly detail and wide-ranging (re)vision, this book will speak to those who are interested not only in the history of English studies but in its future as well.
I first became aware of Tom Miller's work at a 4C's conference . . . At that time I was impressed with the thoroughness of his scholarship and the meticulousness of his research. . . . For my purposes it filled a vacuum that no other work on the history of English studies had done. . . . Miller's book provides a full history of English studies as seen from the viewpoint of scholars stationed at the end of twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. It is an important contribution to the discipline's history.
Miller's achievement here is twofold. He provides a well researched, well written history of the issues and events that prompted and encouraged the institutionalization of English as a subject AND he breaks important ground historiographically by insisting all the way through that the study of educational institutions and of rhetoric in particular can reveal cultural motives and ideologies. . . . It really is a fine piece of work.
Thomas Miller's The Formations of College English presents detailed original research into the social and intellectual histories of rhetoric and composition. Beginning with the earliest teachers and students of English in the eighteenth century, Miller gives us significant insights into the complex and over determined workings of cultural hegemony. . . . His argument shows how rhetorical and literary education in eighteenth and nineteenth century English provinces resulted from philosophical, social, cultural, and political vectors. . . . Miller's book demonstrates how material and intellectual historical circumstances have shaped current versions of college English.
Thomas P. Miller is associate provost for faculty affairs at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He is the author of The Formation of College English: Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in the British Cultural Provinces, a winner of the Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize.