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Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past1660-1781$
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Richard Terry

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198186236

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186236.001.0001

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Teaching English Literature

Teaching English Literature

(p.169) 6 Teaching English Literature
Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past

Richard Terry (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the permeation, rather than the construction, of ideas about English literature. It examines how far-flung, outside the metropolitan literati and the higher ranks of society, cognizance of high literature actually was in England. Recent critics who have described the ‘rise of English’ have rightly attached significance to the way English literature was bolstered by its accession to the status of an educational subject. This is mostly taken to occur between the 1860s, when the first professorships of English Literature were instituted in British universities, and 1921, when the Newbolt report elevated English literature to its (since unchallenged) position as a compulsory element of secondary educational syllabuses. The role played by education in the cultural fortification of English literature seems indubitable, but this chapter argues that this process gets under way as early as the 18th century, therefore appreciably earlier than is generally assumed. Ample evidence exists of the incursion of English literature into 18th century classrooms, yet this has mostly been given scant attention.

Keywords:   English literature, poetry, fiction, syllabuses, literacy

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