English literature is a required study for all college students, yet there is a dearth of investigation as to the proper materials for teaching the subject at college levels. Even in the secondary school, where much emphasis has been placed upon subject-matter and educational procedures, the authorities are not agreed as to aims in the study of literature. Accordingly, the usual survey in the college is narrow; it seems to lack the omnibus material that might lend itself to various points of view and methods.
A condition contributing much to the difficulty of determining the scope and methods of teaching he subject at the college level, is the ineffective articulation between the secondary school and the college. Frequently a more or less helter-skelter and shallow survey course of English literature has been before students entered college and another such course often fails to stimulate a new enthusiasms. The party known territory traversed may hold out no hope of discoveries because the instruction often falls below the level of college standards. In other courses, such as history and mathematics, the method is frequently imposed by the content, but this is less true, if true at all, of English literature. Whereas in the secondary school the recognized criterion in selecting reading material is the interest of the students, here in the college the cultivation of a taste for reading too commonly yields in importance to a more intensive study (usually through the over-worked lecture method) of literature as a "knowledge subject." This may not in itself be a discouraging approach, but tends to be made so by formalization. Moreover, what are social and political values to the students are lost when textbooks of literary history and consorting anthologies are dependent upon conventional and traditional ideas.
What, therefore, should be the educational procedure in the teaching of English literature to college students? If there is a consensus it is first, that the main aim should be to relate the literature to life, vitalizing ideas and ideals, and integrating broad intellectual and philosophical connections. It is not good for literature, any more than it is for man, to be alone; and a periphery course, or, preferably, an orientation course, can perform an important service. Second, a first college course should be designed in a fashion permitting adjustment to the needs of all students, both those who purpose to go no further than the first course and those who plan to go beyond. Third, the method in . . .