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The School of English Language and Literature

The School of English Language and Literature

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Excerpt from The School of English Language and Literature: A Contribution to the History of Oxford Studies

Academic history is a difficult subject, especially recent academic history; yet, since it is part of the history of learning as well as part of the history of institutions, it deserves writing. No part of it repays attention better than the story of the growth of new studies and the gradual introduction of new subjects into the curriculum of our universities. The object of this paper is to trace the introduction of two such subjects into the Oxford curriculum, to inquire into the causes which led to it, and into those which have promoted or retarded their progress since the time when it was first recognized that our own language and literature were proper things for undergraduates to study during their residence in Oxford.

To do this it is not enough to start with the foundation of the English School in 1894. It is necessary to go further back and to begin with the time when learned men in the universities began to regard our language and literature as subjects on which it was worth while to spend their life and their labour, and benefactors, either in our own body or without it, began to found chairs and provide endowments for the purpose of encouraging these branches of learning.

About 1834 a controversy sprang up in the pages of the Gentleman's Magazine, which began with a discussion of various points of Anglo-Saxon scholarship, and ended with a dispute whether Oxford or Cambridge had contributed most to its progress.

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