Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Arthur Applebee: In Memoriam

Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Arthur Applebee: In Memoriam

Article excerpt

May the chorus of our collective voices offer a louder tribute than [a] single song of praise.

-Deborah Appleman

In this Forum, colleagues remember and celebrate the life and legacy of Arthur Applebee, a former editor of Research in the Teaching of English and a leader in the field for many years, who passed away after a short illness on September 20, 2015. Intellectually, Arthur will be remembered for the sheer scope of his work over four decades, for his mentoring of several generations of scholars, for his contributions to research on literature and writing instruction in secondary schools, and for his theoretical work on "curriculum as conversation," which has left an indelible mark on classroom discourse studies and English teacher education. More personally, Arthur's friends and colleagues cherished his human kindness, generosity, humility, thoughtfulness, gentleness, equanimity, and affability.

The Scope of Arthur's Contributions to the Field

Martin Nystrand, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Arthur and I were graduate school classmates (in a class of two) at Goldsmiths, University of London in 1971. We both went to Goldsmiths to study with James Britton, known to all as "Jimmy," who had been the British guru of the AngloAmerican Dartmouth Conference in 1966. When I first checked in with Professor Britton, he advised me to look up Arthur Applebee, which I took to be a reference to an important scholar, like Piaget or Vygotsky, whom we read thoroughly and discussed in our Monday afternoon seminar (which started at 3 p.m. in Britton's office and continued in the college bar for some time afterwards). Arthur and I spent nearly every afternoon of the week discussing our readings.

At the time, Arthur was all of 25 and had already published research in a refereed journal: Applebee, A. (1971). Research in reading retardation: Two critical problems. journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 12, 91-113. When I met him, he was at work on Tradition and Reform in the Teaching of English (1974), which I read in typescript and which went on to become a classic in our field. He would go on to defend his dissertation a scant two years after his start at Goldsmiths: hundreds of pages in typescript (I studied them all), it was published as a jewel of a study, The Child's Concept of Story: Ages Two to Seventeen (University of Chicago Press, 1974), his most cited work.

Professor Britton's recommendation to "look up Arthur," we now know, was prescient given that in the next 44 years Arthur would publish 24 books and monographs (more than a book every other year), as well as over 100 journal articles and other publications, and would become the most frequently cited author in research handbooks in English language arts.

Along with Britton, Arthur was easily the most influential person in my career. My own classroom discourse research-for example, the book Opening Dialogue: Understanding the Dynamics of Language and Learning in the English Classroom Discourse (Nystrand, 1997)-was inspired by Britton's Talking to Learn (Britton, 1969) and shaped in its statistical approach by Arthur's empirical methods as outlined in his Writing in the Secondary School (Applebee, 1981).

Arthur and I were also close friends, taking time off from studying to go grocery shopping at Harrods and Fortnum and Mason in preparation to celebrate Thanksgiving in 1971 with Professor Britton and his wife. Arthur was also best man at my wedding at the Lewisham Registry (in London's East End) in the spring of 1972. Much later, I would join Arthur and Judith Langer as a director of the National Research Center on English Learning and Achievement (CELA). All these endeavors, I'm pleased to report, were successful.

In our generation, Arthur Applebee has done more perhaps than anyone else in our field to raise the tone and level of our professional discourse. It was my personal privilege to be, in Britton's words, a spectator with the clearest of views. …

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