Archives of Instruction: Nineteenth-Century Rhetorics, Readers, and Composition Books in the United States

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Southern Illinois University Press, Feb 21, 2005 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 311 pages
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Both a historical recovery and a critical rethinking of the functions and practices of textbooks, Archives of Instruction: Nineteenth-Century Rhetorics, Readers, and Composition Books in the United States argues for an alternative understanding of our rhetorical traditions. The authors describe how the pervasive influence of nineteenth-century literacy textbooks demonstrate the early emergence of substantive instruction in reading and writing. Tracing the histories of widespread educational practices, the authors treat the textbooks as an important means of cultural formation that restores a sense of their distinguished and unique contributions.


At the beginning of the nineteenth century, few people in the United States had access to significant school education or to the materials of instruction. By century’s end, education was a mass—though not universal—experience, and literacy textbooks were ubiquitous artifacts, used both in home and in school by a growing number of learners from diverse backgrounds. Many of the books have been forgotten, their contributions slighted or dismissed, or they are remembered through a haze of nostalgia as tokens of an idyllic form of schooling. Archives of Instruction suggests strategies for re-reading the texts and details the watersheds in the genre, providing a new perspective on the material conditions of schooling, book publication, and emerging practices of literacy instruction. The volume includes a substantial bibliography of primary and secondary works related to literacy instruction at all levels of education in the United States during the nineteenth century.

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About the author (2005)

Lucille M. Schultz is a professor of English at the University of Cincinnati. She is the author of The Young Composers: Composition’s Beginnings in Nineteenth-Century Schools, winner of the 2000 Nancy Dasher Award from the College English Association of Ohio.

Jean Ferguson Carr, an associate professor of English and women’s studies at the University of Pittsburgh, is the coeditor of the Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture.

Stephen L. Carr is an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

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