A History of the English Department: Further Reading

You can read about the mid-20th-century New Curriculum in Gail Kennedy, ed., Education at Amherst,: The New Program (New York: Harper’s, 1955). An entire book has been written about English 1-2 and Theodore Baird by Robin Varnum, Fencing with Words: A History of Writing Instruction at Amherst College during the Era of Theodore Baird, 1938–1966 (Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1996). Baird’s own essays are collected in Theodore Baird, The Most of It: Essays on Language and the Imagination (Amherst College Press, 1999). Reuben Brower’s teaching method is well described in his essay “Reading in Slow Motion,” in In Defense of Reading: A Reader’s Approach to Literary Criticism, ed. Reuben A. Brower and Richard Poirier (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1962), pp. 3-21. The experience of teaching in Humanities 6 under Brower is sketched by Richard Poirier in “Reading Pragmatically,” in his Poetry and Pragmatism ( Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), pp. 171-93, while William H. Pritchard provides a memoir of Brower in his Shelf Life: Literary Essays and Reviews (University of Massachusetts Press, 2003).

The experience of being a student of English at Amherst, and later a teacher here, is remembered by Pritchard in English Papers: A Teaching Life (St. Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 1995). He describes his own version of teaching “close reading” in “Ear Training,” in Teaching What We Do: Essays by Amherst College Faculty (Amherst College Press. 1991), pp. 127-43. One course among our current freshman English offerings that has many continuities with our past practice is described by Howell Chickering, "Creative Reading: A First-Semester First-Year Course," Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture, Vol. 4, No. 2 (2004), 263-87.

The variety of our present subject offerings and the scope of our teaching methodologies are well represented by three very different essays: Rhonda Cobham, ‘Go Eena Kumbla’: Caribbean Ways of Seeing and Knowing,” in Teaching What We Do: Essays by Amherst College Faculty (Amherst College Press, 1991), pp. 29-48; Michèle Barale, “The Romance of Class and Queers: Academic Erotic Zones,” in Linda Garber, ed., Tilting the Tower: Lesbians Teaching Queer Subjects (New York and London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 16-25; and Howell Chickering, "Chaucer By Heart," in Under Criticism: Essays for William H. Pritchard, ed. David Sofield and Herbert F. Tucker (Athens: OH: Ohio University Press, 1998), pp. 91-108.


Front door of Johnson Chapel