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On the banks of the old Raritan

In the 1930-1931 catalogue, I found an English course called “103. 104 Masterpieces of Literature” and it uses the phrase “world literature”! I wonder how early this phrase was used, and what it meant here, namely, what literatures were excluded.

I found a similar couse in the addendum: 111 and 112: Masterpieces of Literature – I sense a foreshadowing of our discussions of the English canon!
I wonder if this is a pre-comparative-literature moment, when the phrase “great literary works of the world” would have meant great literary works of America and Western Europe?

The three levels of the Speech classes in the addendum show an interesting development, and an emphasis on being able to speak with “correct pronunciation” and “proper voice placement” in public. Being able to read drama and blank verse was the highest of these three classes, before “theatre” might have been considered a separate department, I suppose.

Course Catalogues over the Years

The most obvious thing I noticed in reading through these catalogues is the direct emphasis of Latin and Greek. These were the primary requirements for anything, as well as Bible recitation in moral philosophy and the evidence of Christianity. Even the free elective choices consisted of only modern language, German, or French. Obviously, the spectrum of classes increased throughout the years. By the 1890-91 catalogues, many of the sciences were added. By 1922-23, European studies and even physical education were added.


It was not until the 1950-51 catalogue did the English classes look more like it does now. Classes like Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, and literature by century were added. An interesting class I noticed was Voice and Diction, something that seemed to have disappeared from the requirements today. One aspect I noticed, though, was that despite the added classes, there were still no classes of African studies or Women studies offered. It is not until the 1969-70 catalogue do we see these classes appear. The Douglass College catalogue included “the educated woman in literature” and “the Negro expression in literature.” Needless to say, these titles are no longer proper. By the 1971-72 catalogue we now have an entire selection of Black literature offered, both historical and modern. As a current student, there are a lot of classes that caught my eye that I wish were still offered. Even classes like “science and literature” seem interesting, although I did take psychology and literature. Looking through these catalogues offers an interesting perspective on how literature has changed over the years what came to be recognized as important for English education.