English Matters

The Trouble with English?

We all have our histories for “The Department of English,” and mine pre-dates that of Georgia Institute of Technology’s Richard Utz.  Utz thinks English as a formal discipline of study begins in mid-nineteenth-century continental Europe.  I am persuaded by Gauri Viswanathan’s finding, in Masks of Conquest, that English Studies began in British India in the 1830s.  This quibble over the past is only part of why I question Utz’s prognostication for our future. Utz divides English teachers into two camps:  those who do “literature and theory,” on the one hand, and those who work with “blogs, video essays, Web comics, digital archives, [and] data visualization,” on the other.   The first, he predicts, are “bound to become monument of bygone glory, remembered only as a ‘wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command.’”  Am I alone in thinking that our formal object of study doesn’t matter nearly as much our critical methods of engagement?

Read Utz’s short essay on “The Trouble with English” here:



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