Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Re-Reading the Emergence of the Subject English: Disrupting NCTE's Historiography

Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Re-Reading the Emergence of the Subject English: Disrupting NCTE's Historiography

Article excerpt

Methodologically, the key challenge for curriculum history in response to the linguistic turn ... is how to engage with text and discourse as both historical 'data', on the one hand, and as constituting the very practice of curriculum history itself, on the other. (Cormack & Green, 2009, p. 231)

THE IMPACT OF THE POSTRUCTURAL, FEMINIST, AND LINGUISTIC TURNS remains limited in curriculum history (Cormack & Green, 2009; Hendry, 2011). Since the mid-1990s, however, a new wave of curriculum history has taken up new problematics and possibilities associated with Foucault's historiography (Popkewitz & Brennan, 1998), new cultural history (Popkewitz, Franklin, & Pereyra, 2001), and the new curriculum history (Baker, 2009b). Much of this work annuls the distinction between "history" and "historiography," adopting the poststructural position that historians do not narrate a "reality" or "past" that lies outside of representation-but that their narratives and language constitute history. Thus, as Cormack and Green (2009) note, the challenge for contemporary work in curriculum history is to attend to the ways in which historical inquiry itself structures and delimits certain modes of (un)intelligibility and also to practice historiography that is sensitive to multiple discourses that have constituted modes of (un)intelligibility represented in archival texts.

This article takes up both methodological challenges by examining how English, the school subject, has been constituted in the historiography of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and in some turn of the 20th century texts that Applebee (1974) credits with creating an initial identity and consciousness within the profession. It begins with a reading of NCTE's three sanctioned histories (Applebee, 1974; Hook, 1979; Lindemann, 2010) that documents how history has been constituted as celebratory and complicit in maintaining education's grand narratives of progress, enlightenment, and change (Baker, 2009; Hendry, 2011; Popkewitz, Franklin, & Pereyra, 2001; Winfield & Hendry, 2011).Then, my analysis charts multiple classificatory regimes represented in the field's emergent professional texts that have been obscured by NCTE's historiography. My goal is not only to draw attention to configurations of knowledge that framed, disciplined, and ordered teachers' ways of thinking about and practicing English at the turn of the 20th century, but also to consider the practices and techniques by which students of English were to be shaped and (self-) disciplined (Cormack & Green, 2009). With NCTE's traditional historiography disrupted, it becomes easier to examine how formative accounts of English represented a curriculum territory that was not primarily organized around the knowledge of university English studies (Patterson, 2000). Rather, from the late 19th century on, a range of discourses worked together to construct elementary and secondary English as sites to foster youths' capacities for ethical self-discipline and citizenship, to constitute racial and national imaginarles, and to govern how youth think about, feel about, "see," and relate to their "self," "others," and the world (Brass, 2010, 2011a, 2011b; Donald, 1992; Green, 1993; Green & Cormack, 2011; Green & Reid, 2002; Hunter, 1988; Morgan, 1990, 1995; Peel, Patterson, & Gerlach, 2000).

Disrupting NCTE's Historiography

it is no longer sufficient to accept English' on its own traditional and self-serving terms, a rhetoric which has been pugnaciously anti-historical and politically neutralizing. (Morgan, 1990, p. 231)

Canadian scholar Robert Morgan once characterized English education as an anti-historical field in which teachers and researchers were largely unaware of the historical commitments and political effects of their practice. More than two decades later, this remains true within the NCTE. Prior to publishing an edited history to commemorate its 2011 centennial (Lindemann, 2010), the only NCTE histories still in print1 were published in the 1970s: Applebee's (1974) Tradition and Reform in the Teaching of English and Hook's (1979) A Long Way Together: A Personal View of NCTE's First Sixty-Seven Years. …

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