Revolution Lullabye

June 29, 2009

Veysey, The Emergence of the American University

Veysey, Laurence R. The Emergence of the American University. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1965.

Veysey’s history of the American university, which he tries to write on a middle level (not about one institution, but not oversimplified) is divided into two parts: 1. the competiting academic philosophies that shaped the American university in the second half of the 19th century and 2. the development of the university’s structure, a bureaucratic administration and the administration’s relationship to the faculty and students of the emerging university. The American university was in a crisis immediately after the Civil War: it was not a place young men went to move up the social ladder (they went to the cities to learn business, law, and medicine), and it was seen to many as an archiac institution. The available conditions at the time – the promise and potential of European universities, the presence of new capital and philanthropic giving, and a desire to keep the university as an important part of American life – helped turn the university around,┬áso that by the 20th century, it was as influential as the Church was in the 1700s. The modern American university is a distinct system, not directly modeled after the German research university. It is an institution that is not coherent or cohesive, but its tensions allow for constant negotiation, flexibility, and vitality.

Quotable Quotes

The university administrators “might almost as easily have promoted any other sort of American enterprise.” (443).

for the faculty: “the university offered a convenient intermediate pattern of behavior, somewhere between a business career and exile” (443).

Notable Notes

four educational philosophies that competed in the late 19th century:

  1. Discipline and Piety – the old college model, concerned with the soul, manly character, mental powers, Chirstianity, study the ancient classics, discipline and codes for students, little academic freedom. This died out and was replaced by the other three models.
  2. Utility – practical education for a wide variety of fields, workshops, connection to the outside world, democracy, vocations, John Dewey, elective system, secular, applied science, Morrill Act, civil service and civic duty, progressive era
  3. Reseach – experimentation, labs, German research model (Americans changes this into specialized disciplines), professional autonomy, research for its own sake, pursuit of knowledge, skeptism, science, not concerned with undergraduate teaching.
  4. Liberal Culture – humanities in the new university, new modern classics, culture, taste, unity of all life, breadth, cultivation, character, aesthetics, Oxford and Cambridge, English models, philosophy and literature, well-rounded, humanity, Western Civ, rescue the boorish American, charismatic lecturer, successful in small colleges with research or graduate programs.

academic administrators were bureaucrats, businessmen who planned and managed the university

academic freedom – progressive era reform that allows for flexibility – move towards tolerance, a blended university that allows for eccentric intellectuals


March 9, 2009

Johnson-Eilola, The Database and the Essay

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. “The Database and the Essay.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004. 199-235.

Drawing on scholarship and federal cases about intellectual property law and theories of writing as symbolic-analytic work and writing as articulation, Johnson-Eilola argues that composition teachers should begin valuing the processes of selection and connection (as done in blogging, database construction, MOOs, and search engine design) as writing, writing to discuss, analyze, and do in their classrooms. Writing, he argues, cannot be divorced from the economic sphere and must understand all information as value- and choice-laden. Two forces have combined to spark this change that composition teachers must understand and act upon: first, the postmodern move to recognize that there is no such thing as the solitary author, since all writing is social work; and second, that intellectual property law is increasingly seeing texts not as coherent wholes but rather chunks of marketable, commodified information and material. His assignments ask students to blog and look critically at how search engines organize and display information.

Quotable Quotes

Looking at “the breakdown of ‘text’ as a coherent and privileged object” (205)

Shift “away from thinking of intellectual property as a ‘work’ – as a relatively extended, coherent whole – and toward thinking of it as marketable chunks” (209).

“This new notion of writing as at least partly – perhaps primarily – about valuing connection will let us argue to our students that information is not neutral. Collection is a social and political act; there are not mere disembodied facts, but choices” (212).

Notable Notes

see selection and connection as writing – draw on articulation theory for this.

we need to begin connecting writing and architecture theories

postmodern, commodity, capitalist,

the business of information

controlling linking on webpages, database structure

February 16, 2009

Strickland, How to Compose a Capitalist

Strickland, Donna. “How to Compose a Capitalist: The Predicament of Required Writing in a Free Market Curriculum.” Composition Forum 9:1 (Spring 1998) 25-38.

Composition’s low status in the academy is not due to its pedagogical orientation. Rather, composition’s status is a result of the fact that it is the sole required course in a university designed around the concept of liberalism and free choice, a concept that indoctrinates students in the ideologies of individualism and competition that are necessary for a capitalist society. Strickland traces composition’s contradictory place in the academy to the pedagogical reform movements at Harvard under Charles Eliot, who instated the modern liberal arts elective curriculum. Composition served as required cultural capital that students must secure before moving on to become independent capitalist men, ready to interact with their instructors in a business relationship and become a free-thinking man able to own himself and his own choices. Thus, modern progressive composition pedagogies that attempt to subvert the system by giving students the freedom┬áto choose their own topics are actually just making composition like the rest of the university, where student choice through the major and elective system dictates the curriculum.

Quotable Quotes

Progressive composition pedagogies are really “reinscribing rather than resisting the dominant discourse of the university, that of the free capitalist individual” (36).

“The new university set itself up as a place to construct free, self-motivated, white male subjects, the very subjects necessary for the logic of American industrial capitalism” (26).

Notable Notes

choice is self-regulation, free students, self-governing, competition-driven

good English is necessary cultural capital for which to enter the system to have wealth, power, and the language of capitalism

women are not fit nor strong enough for the rigors of the capitalist liberal arts curriculum

teacher serves as a “model of masculine ability” (33)

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