Re-Reading the Emergence of the Subject English: Disrupting NCTE’s Historiography

Jory Brass


This article disrupts dominant narratives of English’s curriculum history in order to draw attention to configurations of knowledge and self-disciplinary practices that have fallen outside of English education’s historiography. It begins with a reading of three histories sanctioned by the National Council of Teachers of English (e.g. Applebee, 1974; Hook, 1979; Lindemann, 2010) in which history has been constituted as celebratory and complicit in maintaining education’s grand narratives. It then draws from the work of Foucault, cultural histories of education, and the new curriculum history to reexamine English education’s first programmatic texts that were published between 1896 and 1912. This analysis examines how the English curriculum was represented as a disciplinary technology that should attune youths’ minds and souls to a range of norms and ideals, foster youths’ capacities for self-governance, and constitute racial and national imaginaries. The goal of the article is to disrupt progressive readings of the field’s history so that scholars and educators might scrutinize ethical and political commitments of the subject English that have been overlooked or obscured by NCTE’s historiography.

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JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing is an interdisciplinary journal of curriculum studies. It offers an academic forum for scholarly discussions of curriculum. Historically aligned with the "reconceptualist" movement in curriculum theorizing and oriented toward informing and affecting classroom practice, JCT presents compelling pieces within forms that challenge disciplinary, genre, and textual boundaries.

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