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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, December 05, 1948, Image 8

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Philip Pranks, President
American Literature
Is Neglected in U. S.
Colleges, Report Says
By John S. Lewis
ProUuor of English at Wilton Ttochtr’t
A recent publication of the
National Council of Teachers of
English, “American Literature in
the College Curriculum,” confirms
an impression held by almost any
one who has attended an American
college—the literature of our own
country is more or less neglected as
a subject of higher education. The
facts revealed have discouraging
implications for those who look to
the colleges and universities to
apprise students of the nature and
significance of the American cul
tural tradition.
The report, based on three years
of research, shows that only about S
per cent of our colleges require stu
dents to take work in American
literature, even for the A. B. or B. 8.
degree, supposedly conferred for
work in a curriculum providing a
background of general culture. This
in itself is not, of course, evidence
of severe neglect, since under the
elective system students can, theo
retically, take courses in terms of
their own interests.
But elective courses in American
literature are few and far between.
In many catalogues one has to look
twice to find them, so completely
are they buried among English, j
French. German, Italian, Spanish
and other literatures. Because of
their infrequency they are difficult
for students to schedule, and under
the pressure of electlVes more obvi
ously related to the student’s major
subject they are passed over. Often
the only opportunity afforded for
the study of American literature on
an elective basis is in connection
with other material in such couraes
as contemporary literature or mod
ern drama. There is evidence that
in these courses the American com
ponent is generally given less than
half the time of the course, which
means that in the usual three
semester-hour course of this type
the attention to American literature
is very slight indeed.
Emphasis Thrown Elsewhere.
Historically, American literature
has been a sort of stepchild of the
curriculum. Since its fairly wide in
troduction as a college course after
1890, the courses in it have increased
somewhat, but with nothing like
the almost biological rapidity of
courses in other subjects—and this
in spite of the tremendous expan
sion of its basic subject matter.
As recently as 1939 the following
situation existed in three of our
major universities respectively: (1)
More time on the graduate level
given to the work of Caedmon and
Cynewulf than to American litera
ture; (2) as much attention given
to Celtic influences on English lit
erature as to the whole American
field; (3) time devoted to Anglo
Saxon religious poetry but none
whatever to American literature. It
would be comfortable to believe that
such disproportion no longer exists,
but a random examination of cur
rent college catalogues is not re
assuring on this point.
In most colleges and universities
in which American literature now
appears as a separate subject, it is
represented by a single survey course
running from three to six semester
hours and covering—or attempting to
cover—American literature from
Colonial times through the present.
At the beginning of the trail stands
Capt. John Smith and at the end
stands T. S. Eliot. Such courses
could once—in 1910, perhaps—be de
fended on the ground that all first
rate American authors could be
dealt with in so brief a period. But
the rising tide of American literary
talent of the last 40 years has over
flowed the three to six point survey
Thu* even as an elective American
literature receive* something less
than adequate attention, and the
student is likely to move through
and out of college without even a
nodding acquaintance with his
country's literature and its intellec
tual tradition*. For the ordinary
college-trained citizen this is an
unfortunate fact. But another fact
emerges from the National Council’s
report which is even more unfor
tunate-students preparing to be
come teachers are required to study
American literature in only 5 per
cent of our liberal arts colleges and
universities. (Teachers’ colleges
were not included in the survey.)
English Majors Often Untouched.
The status of American literature
in English departments at large can
be conjectured from the follow
ing fact—for students majoring in
English, American literature is a
required subject in only about 24
per cent of our colleges and uni
versities. So far as the remaining
76 per cent are officially concerned,
apparently, their students may grad
uate as specialists in English lan
guage and literature and still know
nothing of Poe, Hawthorne, Emer
son. Thoreau, Melville, Whitman,
Emily Dickinson or Henry James—
to choose names at random and dis
regard our distinguished contempo
raries. Some students do learn
something of our writers, of course—
from occasional mention in sec
ondary school, from roommates who
were able to schedule American lit
erature as an elective, from news
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vtoduct. frit itreet to ri»St (i/19 mile).
PROPOSED ADAS ISRAEL TEMPLE—This is a model of the proposed new temple of the Adas
Israel Congregation, on which construction will begin in April at Connecticut avenue and Porter
street N.W. The large structure will include facilities for civic affairs, religious teaching and
recreation, as well as for worship. Plans were drawn by Frank Grad & Sons of Washington
and Newark. _
paper columns, or from their own
browsing. Many do not.
The most favorable sign for the
recent years has been the grouping,
in about 80 institutions, of courses
from various departments to form
a "major” in American civilization.
Requirements usually include Amer
ican literature, the social and ec
onomic history of the United States.
European literature and historical
backgrounds, and a thesis. The
degree of doctor of philosophy in
American civilization is now being
offered under such a plan by the
following. universities:
Brown University, George Wash
intgon University, Harvard Univer
sity, New York University, Ohio
State University, State University
of Iowa, University of Chicago.
Also, University of Maryland, Uni
versity of Minnesota, University of
New Mexico, University of Pennsyl
vania, University of Wisconsin,
Western Reserve University, and
Yale University.
Basic Classes Deplete Staffs.
One reason for the neglect of ■,
American literature is fairly obvious.1
English departments, which have
! the responsibility for courses in
American literature, have responsi-;
ibility also for required basic courses(
with heavy enrollments, such as!
composition and speech. Since
i members of the department can
conduct only one class at a time,!
there is a sharp limitation, particu
larly in small colleges, on the num
ber of courses that can be offered.
The sudden increase in enrollments
, in the last few years has forced
the scheduling of many more classes
in basic required subjects and has
aggravated this condition.
There are bright spots in the
total picture.
At least one American college—
Middlebury—maintains a separate
department of American literature.
Scholars in the Held now have a
professional quarterly, “American
Literature,” published at Duke
A number of institutions, among
them the George Washington Unl
| verslty and the University of Mary
land* are doing impressive graduate
'work in the subject.
In 1946, some 4S institutions re
‘ ported 245 students working for
; M. A. and 88 for Ph. D. degrees In
(American literature.
There Is evidence that the propor
j tion of present-day teachers of
'American literature who have had
(special training in that field is much
i greater than a decade ago and that
as time goes on the proportion of
well-prepared teachers will in
crease still further.
But in spite of these brighter
omens, the fact remains that in the
majority of our colleges and uni
versities American writing does not
receive attention commensurate with
its value, either intrinsically as
literature or as explanation of the
American tradition and evidence of
the validity of the American vision.
It is to be hoped that the report
, wiil serve as a stimulus to the col
legiate teaching of the subjK .. Fol
j lowing are the names of the mem
! bers of the committee which con
ducted the study:
W'llliam G. Crane, chairman, City
College 'New York Cityi; George
Arms, University of New Mexico;
Walter Blair. University of Chicago;
Scully Bradley, University of Penn
sylvania; Frederic I. Carpenter, Un
iversity of California (Berkeley).
And, Rudolf Kirk, Rutgers Uni
j versity; Ernest E. Leisey, Southern
Methodist University; John 8. Lewis,
J. Ormond Wilson Teachers’ Col
lege; Tremaine McDowell, Univer
sity of Minnesota; Floyd Stovall,
North Texas State Teachers’ Col
Also, Willard Thorp, Princeton
University; Charles C. Walcutt,
Washington and Jefferson College;
Harry R. Warfel, University of Flor
ida; William L. Werner, Pennsyl
vania State College.
(Continued Prom First Page.)
ring our city.” said Liberal Demo
crat Carl Schwennicke.
Speakers Rage at Blockade.
"The Soviets are pressing us with
all means short of war,” cried Ernst
Reuter, Social Democrat favorite for
Mayor. "They want to press us to
our knees but they will never
achieve it.”
The speakers raged at the Soviet
blockade which has left the popula
tion dependent on the Western air
lift for every bite of food.
The election is being held under
tfie Berlin constitution approved by
the four occupying powers in 1946.
Nevertheless the Communists re
fused to risk another outright de
feat and banned it as illegal in East
There they have set up a rump
Communist government chosen by a
show of hands at a mass meeting
called on 24 hours notice in the So
viet sector. The regularly elected
city government has been driven
into the Western two-thirds of the
The Russians have recognized the
rump government as the "only legal”
Favored ]or Berlin Mayor.
—AP Wirephoto.
one. Communists are urging their
followers to ignore tomorrow’s vot
ing, and are using every trick to cut
down the size of the vote.
Day of Work Ordered.
Gen. Clay said tonight “there is
no intention on our part to recog
; nize the rump government.” He
denied a report that he had said
the West might recognize the Com
! munist regime as part of a settle
ment of the whole Berlin dispute.
All three Western military gov
ernors joined in a letter to Rus
sian authorities calling organization
of the rump government an "illegal
The Russians have ordered tomor
row' to be a day'of work in East
Berlin, even though it is Sunday,
hoping to prevent 100,000 west Ber
liners who work in the eastern sec
tor from getting to the polls. They
may curtail city-wide transportation.
Officials in Western Berlin coun
tered the Communist move by stop
ping street railway and underground
rail service on lines leading into the
Russian sector until after 10 a.m.
tomorrow. •
That will prevent some Russian
sector workers from going to their
jobs before 10 a.m. and thus permit
them to vote before going. Many,
however, will still be able to go to
work early on elevated trains which
are controlled by the Russians
throughout the city.
Troops Ready for Emergency.
The polls will be open from 8 a.m.
; (2 a.m., Eastern Standard Time) to
8 p.m. (2 p.m. (EST), to give more
voting time for Germans who work
in the Russian sector.
Under the city constitution the
voting is secret. The voter receives
two ballots, one city-wide, the other
for his borough, marks them in a
booth and places them in a sealed
envelop which is dropped in the box.
He may give his registration number
instead of his name when voting.
Ten thousand officials will be on
duty at hundreds of polling places.
Police guards have been strength
British, French and Americans
have adopted a hands-off policy
unless trouble breaks out which the
Germans cannot control. Picked
American troops will be held ready
for emergency in their sector.
Britons Confined to Barracks.
The British will confine their
troops to barracks during the voting
hours, but the usual force of mil
itary police will be on duty.
All Germans over 20 who have
lived here six months are privileged
to vote. There are about 1,700,0 0
of them in the three Western sec
In the 1946 elections when the
Communists received less than 20
per cent of the votes, 92 per cent
of the eligible voters cast ballots.
This time the Communists are ex
pected to stay away.
The Social Democrats won about
48 per cent of the vote in 1946, the
i Christian Democrats 22 per cent
and the Liberal Democrats 9'/a per
j cent.
Drivers Who Peep
Through Frost on
Windows Warned
"Peep-hole” drivers are creating a
hazard to law-abiding drivers in the
District, according to Herman S.
Cole, administrative officer of the
Department of Vehicles and Traffic.
"Peep-hole” drivers were charac
terized by Mr. Cole as those who
park their cars in front of their
homes overnight and if the wind
shield is frosted, in the morning,
scrape off only a few inches of the
windshield, rather than clear the
entire window. They never clear
the glass in the back window and
therefore are not able to see traffic
in back of them.
Mr. Cole suggested that motorists
take the following step*:
Park their cars in garages when
ever possible.
When cars are left out in the
street all night, cover the windshield
with newspaper or cardboard using
Scotch tape if necessary to hold the
paper in place.
Secure old razor blades to scratch
all of the frost off the windshield in
case newspaper or cardboard is not
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Drive Nets $725,000
To Construct New
Adas Israel Temple
The Adas Israel Congregation has
raised about (725,000 in a (1,250,000
building fund drive for a new con
gregation temple at Connecticut
avenue and Porter street N.W., offi
cials reported last night.
Fred S. Kogod, finance committee
chairman for the campaign, said it
was hoped that construction could
start on the temple by next April.
Plans for the building, drawn by
Frank Grad it Sons, of Washing
ton and Newark, call for a temple
to seat about 1,500, a social audi
torium with a capacity of 700, a
chapel with a capacity for 300 wor
shipers, a religious school with 15
classrooms and a recreation area
that would accommodate 350 chil
t Air-Conditioning Planned.
The auditorium, which Mr. Kogod
said will be used for civic as well
as religious gatherings, will be
equipped with stage facilities, a
projection booth, air conditioning
and a kitchen.
Mr. Kogod said the congregation
has “completely grown out” of the
present temple at Sixth and I streets
N.W. The new property on Con
necticut avenue was bought about
three years ago.
The Finance Committee will meet
at 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Jewish
Community Center to discuss fur
ther plans for the drive.
Report Made At Dinner.
A campaign report was made by
officials at the congregation’s 80th
anniversary dinner last Tuesday
at the Mayflower Hotel. A model
of the proposed temple was on
Joseph A. Wllner, president of the
congregation, reviewed its history
from the founding in 1869, when
meetings were held in members
homes. He recalled dedication of
the congregation’s first synagogue,
at Sixth and G streets N.W., in 1876,
and described ceremonies attended
by President Grant and other Gov
ernment and civic leaders.
Madame Chiang
(Continued Prom First Page.)
the supply services for the Chinese
army, extend and operate military
training and assume direction of
strategic planning. The Chinese
wanted Gen. MacArthur, but Presi
dent Truman said no. Their pro
posal, together with Chlang’s’ as
surances to the President and Gen.
Marshall of complete co-operation,
means that the generalisimo now
apparently wants the United States
to “take over” the running of his
4. Laying down a military and
economic aid program for a period
of three years at a billion dollars a
year, including expenses of the mili
tary mission. Ambassador Koo has
estimated that in the first year the
$1,000,000,000 could be divided 60 per
cent for military aid and 40 per cent
for economic aid, but that in sub
sequent years, assuming the military
situation Improved, the majority
would go for economic purposes.
Unwilling to Accept Estimate.
Dr. Koo is understood to have told j
both the President and State De
partment officials that his govern
ment believes that with a program
of this sort the Job could be done in
three years. In general. United
States officials have not been willing
to accept this estimate. American
military estimates for saving China
run to a total of at least $5,000,000,
000 over a three or four-year period.
Gen. Marshall, Mr. Truman and
their advisers also have decided,
tentatively at least, that any pro
gram to be guaranteed effective in
the present situation in China would
mean the Americans would virtually
have to take over. This Gen. Mar
shall and Mr. Truman have been
unwilling to do. One question which
deeply concerns them is the possi
bility of American involvement la
a situation which could go on almost
cndle sly draining away American
iunds berau;e of the chaos and dis
organization of China and what la
conceived to be here the rapid de
cline of Chiang's leadership.
Gettysburg Man Who Heard
Lincoln's Address Dies
ly tht Aueciotad Prm
Gettysburg, p»„ Dec. 4.—Ed
ward A. Trostle, 89, the last known
surviving Gettysburg resident who
heard Lincoln’s address here on No
vember 19, 1883, is dead.
Mr. Trostle was 4 years old when
he heard the address. He attended
ceremonies recently marking the an
niversary of the speech and a few
hours later was struck by an auto
He died of the Injuries last night.
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