The Young Composers: Composition's Beginnings in Nineteenth-Century Schools

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Lucille M. Schultz's The Young Composers: Composition's Beginnings in Nineteenth-Century Schools is the first full-length history of school-based writing instruction. Schultz demonstrates that writing instruction in nineteenth-century American schools is much more important in the overall history of writing instruction than we have previously assumed.

Drawing on primary materials that have not been considered in previous histories of writing instruction—little-known textbooks and student writing that includes prize-winning essays, journal entries, letters, and articles written for school newspapers—Schultz shows that in nineteenth-century American schools, the voices of the British rhetoricians that dominated college writing instruction were attenuated by the voice of the Swiss education reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. Partly through the influence of Pestalozzi's thought, writing instruction for children in schools became child-centered, not just a replica or imitation of writing instruction in the colleges.

It was also in these nineteenth-century American schools that personal or experience-based writing began and where the democratization of writing was institutionalized. These schools prefigured some of our contemporary composition practices: free writing, peer editing, and the use of illustrations as writing prompts. It was in these schools, in fact, where composition instruction as we know it today began, Schultz argues.

This book features a chapter on the agency of textbook iconography, which includes illustrations from nineteenth-century composition books as well as a cultural analysis of those illustrations. Schultz also includes a lengthy bibliography of nineteenth-century composition textbooks and student and school newspapers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The Young Composers, which Schultz herself labels as ‘our profession’s first history of school-based writing instruction,’ is a groundbreaking text that reveals the true creativity of writing teachers, the innovations in the lower schools, and the complex origins of many teaching methods.”—JAC

“The study is a strong example of imagination, resourceful, and thorough archival research and it will be a valuable resource to future researchers for its bibliographies of nineteenth-century “composition and Language Arts Textbooks, Grammars, and Rhetorics” and “Student Writing” in addition to the list of Schultz’s secondary resources.”—CCC  

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809322367
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/1999
  • Series: Studies in Writing and Rhetoric Series
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Lexile: 1490L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Lucille M. Schultz is a professor in the Department of English at the University of Cincinnati.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures
Introduction: Telling Our Stories 3
1 The Beginnings of Composition in Early Nineteenth-Century Schools 11
2 First Books of Composition 34
3 "No Ideas but in Things" 56
4 The Agency of Textbook Iconography 85
5 Textual Practices of the Young Composers 107
Conclusion: "We Say to Him, Write!" 144
App. 1 Tables of Contents from John Frost's Easy Exercises (1839) and George Quackenbos's First Lessons (1851) 169
App. 2 Three Student Readings of an Illustration, 1886 174
App. 3 Student Essay: June 20, 1846 177
App. 4 Excerpt from Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Autobiography, Eighty Years and More 179
Notes 183
Bibliography 193
Index 211
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