Rachel Sagner Buurma and Laura Heffernan, "The Teaching Archive: A New History for Literary Study" (U Chicago Press, 2020)
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Rachel Buurma and Laura Heffernan's The Teaching Archive: A New History for Literary Study (University of Chicago Press, 2020) is an excavation of a discipline through the work of its teachers, the traces of the tremendous and varied labour that went into preparing for and practicing literary study in classrooms from the first decades of the twentieth century to the 1970s. Exploring the teaching papers of scholars and instructors at institutions private and public--prestigious and privileged universities, extension schools, and HBCUs--the authors revisit the work of some of the scholars frequently identified as "founders" of the discipline, including T.S. Eliot, I.A. Richards, Cleanth Brooks. They also show how the work of women and other scholars/teachers neglected as shapers of literary critical methods before the 1960s and 1970s was indeed essential to the development of the ideas and practices at the heart of the discipline.
At once an intellectual and a labor history, the book emphasizes practices, complicating the stories literary study has told about itself about innovation, canon, and more while making a meaningful and moving contribution to urgent contemporary discussions of higher education more broadly. It is a book for anyone interested in what happens inside classrooms, how their content and form has changed over time, and how what takes place there is always already imbricated with research, with lives and contexts "outside." It is also just a wonderful read, written truly collaboratively from start to finish by two scholars and teachers deeply committed to an inclusive history of their field, to their work in the present, and to a better future for all of us.
Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada who specializes in twentieth and twenty-first century France and its empire. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send her an email (email@example.com).
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