Examining diverse local histories in composition courses, 1890–1940: A study of two Rhode Island universities

Kathy Jones Langston, University of Rhode Island


This study yields a broader understanding of the "development of rhetorical instruction in the American college" (Gold 15) by focusing on the composition programs at two little studied universities. This dissertation addresses the descriptions of composition courses as these appear in the course catalogs of two different kinds of institutions for which detailed information is available: a private research university (Brown University) and a land-grant institution (University of Rhode Island) which are located in the same state. Through a content analysis of the course catalog descriptions from 1890 through 1940, this study finds that both Brown University and URI embraced the current traditional rhetoric of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries but in differing ways. Brown, counter to the current historical accounts of composition scholars, formed a composition program that maintained elements from its earlier classical curriculum while adopting many elements from current traditional rhetoric. With a strong departmental focus on literature, Brown's English department focused the first-year composition course on writing alone. URI, however, produced a composition program that focused on writing through literature in a typical current traditional method.

Subject Area

Education history|Rhetoric|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Kathy Jones Langston, "Examining diverse local histories in composition courses, 1890–1940: A study of two Rhode Island universities" (2010). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3433255.