Conversation with Rachel Sagner Buurma and Laura Heffernan
A conversation with Rachel Sagner Buurma and Laura Heffernan, who will be discussing
their recent book The Teaching Archive: A New History for Literary Study. Buurma and Heffernan offer a new account of the history of literary studies that
suggests that, as Louis Menand puts it, "the history of English is not the history
of big books of criticism talking to other big books of criticism. Instead it is the
history of students and teachers talking to each other in the classroom.” Drawing
on an extensive archive of teaching materials—lecture notes, syllabuses, course descriptions,
assignments—their book traces the ideas and texts that have structured the study of
literature n over the past century back to classrooms at HBCUs, community colleges,
and extension courses as well as Ivy League universities. Their archive offers a fascinating
and refreshing history of literary study that promises to transform debates about
its present and future in an age of defunding and causalization.
In preparation for our conversation with Buurma and Heffernan, we will be reading
the introduction and conclusion of their book, as well as their chapter on the teaching
notes and syllabi of J. Saunders Redding, the author of To Make the Poet Black (1939). The book is available as an e-book via the university library; if you would
like to receive a PDF version of the reading please request them from Brian Glavey
Rachel Sagner Buurma is Associate Professor of English at Swarthmore College and the
co-director of the Aydelotte Foundation. In addition to The Teaching Archive, she is the author of essays that have appeared in collections and journals including Big Data and Society, Debates in Digital Humanities, New Literary History, PMLA, Representations, Studies in English Literature, and Victorian Studies.
Laura Heffernan is Associate Professor of English at the University of North Florida.
In addition to The Teaching Archive, she is the co-editor of Laura Riding’s Contemporaries and Snobs and of numerous essays in edited collections and journals including James Joyce Quarterly,
Modernism/Modernity, Modernist Cultures, New Literary History, PMLA, Representations,
and Victorian Studies.