Print in Motion: The Expansion of Publishing and Reading in the United States, 1880-1940

By Carl F. Kaestle; Janice A. Radway | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
Learned and Literary Print Cultures
in an Age of Professionalization
and Diversification

Janice A. Radway

.  .  .


An Introductory Overview

In 1936 Henry Seidel Canby, editor of the Saturday Review of Literature and chief judge at the Book-of-the-Month Club, published a thoughtful memoir about academic life, entitled Alma Mater: The Gothic Age of the American College. His book took stock of how changing definitions of learning had altered American society and assessed the impact of the modern college, asking “what it was, what it did to us, [and] what powerful hands it laid upon the United States of our generation.”1 Canby warned that he was not writing about “that larger organization of professional schools, service bureaus, and organs of scholarship, called a university.”2 Nevertheless, his elegiac account is dogged by the figure of the modern research university and the changing definitions of learning it promoted. Canby acknowledged that the college of 1910 was a different institution from that of 1870 because the years between witnessed “the triumph of applied science, the breakdown of stereotyped religion, the defeat of the classics in American education, and the dramatic appearance, full blown, of American confidence in our own scholarship and our own literature.”3 These developments that altered the American college so irrevocably were connected most intimately with the appearance of the American research university in the years between 1870 and 1915.

The history of the American university is traditionally connected to specialization, professionalization, and the rise of corporate capitalism, but as this chapter demonstrates, it is connected as well to the changing cultures of print that developed during this period. The forms of learned culture that emerged slowly in the late nineteenth century reflected changes in writing and reading practices and altered information distribution networks as much as shifting epistemologies, subject matter, and goals. Although traditional, bound books maintained their role in learned culture, especially in the disciplines termed

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