Literary Study and the Scholarly Profession

Literary Study and the Scholarly Profession

Literary Study and the Scholarly Profession

Literary Study and the Scholarly Profession

Excerpt

I wish, first of all, to acknowledge the honor done me by the University of Washington in appointing me Walker-Ames Professor for the spring term of the year, 1944. I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to gather together in the form of lectures a good deal of what I have learned from my experience as a teacher of English literature in a number of different American universities. I should probably never have done it but for the opportunity, I may say also the compulsion, of doing it systematically and in such form as to be intelligible to an academic community. I am still not sure it was worth doing, and can only say that, after many years as a professor in classrooms, on committees, and faculties, it was a pleasure to do it. I have tried to be very honest in the record of my own opinions, although I realize that these opinions are, for the most part, not startling or of profound originality.

I realize also that I have not talked about literature as much as I had expected to do, although my intention from the start was to discuss, not literature as such, but literature as a study, and, further, literature as a study in American colleges and universities. Even so, the interconnections of literature with other branches of study is such that one has to consider the whole field of study along with literature. University regulations, trends of preference, the lives students live and the ideals they adopt--all these and other factors determine what literature and other humanistic studies may hope to accomplish, so that it may seem that I have really written a book on American higher education. In any case, the book has no pretense to importance in what it says about literature. The subject is what Bacon would have described as "sufficiently laboured or undertaken." This book deals with literature as a subject of study and sometimes of research in American institutions of learning, and not with the far more important subject of the nature and function of literature in society. It deals with personal opinions, not unquestionable truths to be imparted with the authority of superior insight, and its merit, if . . .

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