Lean Pickings

The Announcement of Courses in Instruction devotes eleven pages to English, but considering the bracketed "omitted in 1952-53" courses and the illnesses and absences of professors, English concentrators find lean pickings there.

This year the department is offering only five full courses and twenty-eight half courses, including those primarily for graduates and such esoteric items as English 191 hf (The Study of Fine Books.) For a concentrator who must take six courses, this permits very little latitude.

Probably the worst situation exists in the American field. Besides the rambling survey course (English 7), there is only one other course offered on the undergraduate level--Howard Mumford Jones' English 170, which the Department has carelessely severed into two half-courses covering 1890 to 1917 and 1917 to the present. Other than a survey course then, the period between the Revolution and 1890 is virtually unrepresented.

Among the courses open to graduates and "qualified" undergraduates, America does no better. There is a course in the American Novel before 1900 and one in American Poetry. Three half-courses, all scheduled with Professor Arvin of Smith College as instructor, were canceled because Arvin fell ill.

The English department has but one defense for this dearth: there are not enough students interested in courses dealing with single writers to warrant giving them every year. This is irrelevant, however. It does not excuse the gaping lapse in historical continuity so evident in American Literature's meager offerings.

The situation is just as bad in English Literature itself. English concentrators have even more to complain of since, unlike their colleagues in American, they cannot easily enter graduate conference groups. Although there are four full courses there, they are all the basic elementary variety, and the two half-courses offered stop at 1700. Except for Comparative Literature 166 (Modern Novel), the three centuries beyond 1700 are represented only by courses on individuals.

Just as in American Literature, basic courses in English Literature are there, but from that point on advanced courses are omitted or fail to cover in whole areas important in literary history. And there is no course at all in modern English Literature, let alone from the late Romantic Period to the present.

In both sectors of Literature, these deficiencies are not particular to this semester. They have developed over the years. Two years ago, for example, there were thirteen more courses offered than today. By allowing the number of professors teaching American Literature to dwindle to three or four, the department risked losing several key courses, and the risk become fact this year. If the trouble were simply a matter of visiting professor's sudden illness, we would hesitate to complain. But this looks more like a case of negligence.

The time for the English Department to build up strength is now, when it still has the basic courses. It should strive for increased number of teachers, attraction of better-known professors to the University and it should close the historical gaps which beset current English majors. Most especially, it should have the foresight to make allowances for sickness, thus avoiding blatant course omissions.