Program in the History of the Book  in American Culture


The Teaching Archive:
A New History for Literary Study

with Laura Heffernan and Rachel Buurma

Thursday, May 27, 2021, 2 pm EDT

Approx. 45 minutes

Watch on YouTube

This program is free but requires advanced registration.

The Teaching Archive shows us a series of major literary thinkers in a place we seldom remember them inhabiting: the classroom. Rachel Sagner Buurma and Laura Heffernan open up “the teaching archive”—the syllabuses, course descriptions, lecture notes, and class assignments—of critics and scholars including T. S. Eliot, Caroline Spurgeon, I. A. Richards, Edith Rickert, J. Saunders Redding, Edmund Wilson, Cleanth Brooks, Josephine Miles, and Simon J. Ortiz.

This new history of English rewrites what we know about the discipline by showing how students helped write foundational works of literary criticism and how English classes at community colleges and HBCUs pioneered the reading methods and expanded canons that came only belatedly to the Ivy League. It reminds us that research and teaching, which institutions often imagine as separate, have always been intertwined in practice. In a contemporary moment of humanities defunding, the casualization of teaching, and the privatization of pedagogy, The Teaching Archive offers a more accurate view of the work we have done in the past and must continue to do in the future.

Laura Heffernan is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Digital Humanities Institute at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. At UNF, she is project lead on the Viola Muse Documentary Edition, a digital edition of Muse’s work for the Negro Writers Division of the Florida Federal Writers Project. In addition, Heffernan is writing a book about how scholars taught modernist literature in the early twentieth century, titled “Unliterary Critics,” to be published by Columbia University Press.

Rachel Sagner Buurma is Associate Professor of English at Swarthmore College and Co-Director of the Aydelotte Foundation for the Liberal Arts. She teaches courses on nineteenth-century literature and culture, the history of the novel, literary informatics, and book history. She has recently published essays on book indexes, Anthony Trollope, and reading in the digital age.

Together, Heffernan and Buurma have just published The Teaching Archive: A New History for Literary Study (University of Chicago Press, 2021). Their co-authored work has also appeared in PMLA, New Literary History, Representations, Victorian Studies, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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