Critical English for Academic Purposes: Theory, Politics, and Practice

By Sarah Benesch | Go to book overview
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Chapter 1
A History of English for Academic Purposes

This history of English for academic purposes (EAP), like all overviews, is subjective. Choices of which citations to include and leave out depend on the aims and predispositions of the overview's author. Yet, while acknowledging my subjectivity, in this chapter I try to present the history of EAP from the perspective of specialists who have shaped the field over the last 30 years and to honor their contributions. Further on, I highlight concerns raised about EAP from outside the field (see chap. 3). This is not to say that EAP has developed without criticism from within. On the contrary, theoretical and pedagogical differences, many of which I discuss in this chapter, are prevalent in the EAP literature as they are in all academic fields. Indeed, discussion of these conflicts has contributed to shifts in EAP's research and teaching methods over the years.

Although such contestation and debate appear frequently in the EAP literature, its politics remain largely hidden. Power issues have been ignored in the name of pragmatism, that is, fulfilling target expectations without questioning the inequities they might perpetuate or engender (Benesch, 1993). These questions, though, are not the focus of the present chapter. Instead, I save them for the next chapter in order to first present a chronology of the intellectual history of EAP, a discussion of its theoretical influences from the 1960s to the present. One way my subjectivity manifests itself in this presentation is that I devote more space to the recent years of EAP, that is, to needs analysis, study skills, linked courses and genre analysis, and less space to the early years of register analysis and rhetorical analysis. This choice was guided by my teaching and research experience, based on more recent developments in EAP's history than on earlier ones.

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