Fencing with Words: A History of Writing Instruction at Amherst College During the Era of Theodore Baird, 1938-1966
Citing the revolutionary ideas that Theodore Baird brought to his freshman composition classes at Amherst College (Massachusetts)--ideas such as requiring students to write often and from experience--this book examines the innovative work and groundbreaking ideas of Baird and his staff. The book focuses on Baird's pedagogy and his belief in a connection between self-knowledge and writing. The book considers the influence of the social and political forces outside the classroom on what happened in class--forces that existed within the larger institution of Amherst College as well as national and international forces related to World War II, the Cold War, and the civil unrest of the 1960s. Unlike much historical scholarship in composition (based mostly on composition textbooks), the book encompasses a wide range of materials, such as course descriptions, student papers, staff memoranda, and teacher and student recollections to form conclusions. Through this examination of one writing course, the book paints a complex picture of a fascinating period of social, cultural, and academic change in the United States. Each chapter contains notes. Appended are a description of English 1-2, English 1 assignments for fall 1946, an exchange of letters, and selected student papers. Contains 101 references.
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