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Dreams of a Democratic Culture: Revising the Origins of the Great Books Idea, 1869-19211

  • Tim Lacy (a1)


British and American intellectuals began to formulate ideas about so-called great books from the mid-1800s to 1920. English critic Matthew Arnold's writings served as the fountainhead of ideas about the “best” books. But rather than simply buttress the opinions of highbrow cultural elites, he also inspired those with dreams of a democratized culture. From Arnold and from efforts such as Sir John Lubbock's “100 Best Books,” the pursuit of the “best” in books spread in both Victorian Britain and the United States. The phrase “great books” gained currency in the midst of profound technical, cultural, educational, and philosophical changes. Victorian-era literature professors in America rooted the idea in both education and popular culture through their encouragements to read. Finally, the idea explicitly took hold on college campuses, first with Charles Mills Gayley at the University of California at Berkeley and then John Erskine's General Honors seminar at Columbia University.



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2 The Erskine-General Honors story has been told in works such as Allen, James Sloan, The Romance of Commerce and Culture (Chicago, 1983);Graff, Gerald, Professing Literature (Chicago, 1987);Levine, Lawrence, The Opening of the American Mind (Boston, 1996);Rubin, Joan Shelley, The Making of Middlebrow Culture (Chapel Hill, 1992).

3 Adler, Mortimer J., Philosopher at Large: An Intellectual Autobiography, 1902-1976 (New York, 1977), 3031.

5 Rudolph, Frederick, The American College and University: A History (1962; New York, 1965), ch. 14;Veysey, Laurence, The Emergence of the American University (Chicago, 1965), 9, 2125, 54-55, 88-89.

6 Erskine, John, “General Honors at Columbia,” Kew Republic, Oct. 25, 1922, 13;Erskine, John, “English in the College Course,” Educational Review 40 (Nov. 1910): 346;, Adler, Philosopher at Targe, 31.

7 , Adler, Philosopher at Targe, 30-31, 129. Adler's education and educational priorities point to a nominal Victorian literary sensibility, but there is no indication that he learned of the great books idea prior to General Honors. See , Adler, Philosopher at Large, 5, 1112; University of Chicago Special Collections, Mortimer J. Adler Papers (UCSC/MJAP), Box 37, “Notebook,” p. 22, and onward and Box 38, “Snapshots” scrapbook, clipping from New York Sun, Feb. 2, 1919, “From Examination Papers in Victorian Literature.”

8 I concede that men of letters formed the “elites” of the American Victorian era but refuse to negatively generalize them as “elitists.” The former acknowledges a factual lack of inclusiveness in their communities of discourse, but the latter often implies-to me at least—a malicious intent to exclude. Just as the term “condescension” meant something different in the eighteenth century than it does today, there is a difference between living within one's genteel station of life and actively seeking to exclude others from that station.

9 , Graff, Profession Literature, 134. Graff asserted that the idea began with Gayley's course. Joan Shelley Rubin's account rests on Graff's.May, Henry F. covers Gayley in his Three Faces of Berkeley (Berkeley, 1993).

10 Etymology and genealogy are important to this study. I concede that portions of this essay utilize an “internalist” methodology in the tradition of historian/philosopher Arthur Lovejoy. Sometimes the great books idea has clear connections to the environment (i.e., coping with increased numbers of books), and sometimes not (i.e., higher-education variations). In this study, fewer environmental connections occur. For more on these historiographic and methodological issues, see Conkin, Paul and Higham, John, eds., New Directions in American Intellectual History (Baltimore, 1979);Higham, John A., “Intellectual History and Its Neighbors,” journal of the History of Ideas 15 (June 1954): 339–47;Lovejoy, Arthur O., “Reflections on the History of Ideas,” Journal of the History of Ideas 1 (1940): 323.

11 Arnold, Matthew, Culture and Anarchy, ed. Lipman, Samuel (New Haven, 1994), 5. Culture and Anarchy was first published as a book in 1869 but first existed as a June 1867 lecture.

12 For more on the increased numbers of books and the book market, see Wadsworth, Sarah, In the Company of Books: Literature and Its “Classes” in Nineteenth-Century America (Amherst, MA, 2006).

13 Several scholars emphasize that these literary commodities, including the great books, functioned as reactions to modernity's moral rootlessness and the fragmenting of the Victorian era's moral consensus, the breakdown of “mental discipline” as the education philosophy, and the advent of modern aesthetic sensibilities. Works emphasizing these factors include:May, Henry F., The End of American Innocence (1959; New York, 1979); Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture;Satterfield, Jay, “The World's Best Books”: Taste, Culture, and the Modern Library (Amherst, MA, 2002);Sheets, Kevin, “Antiquity Bound: The Loeb Classical Library as Middlebrow Culture in the Early Twentieth Century,” journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 4 (Apr. 2005): 149–71. On the great books, I see these works underestimating two factors: (1) democratizing culture and (2) the increased quantity of books being published.

14 I have found that most academic literature using the phrase “democratic culture” leans toward politics rather than culture. Works with this leaning include Zaret, David, Origins of a Democratic Culture: Printing, Petitions, and the Public Sphere of Early-Modern England (Princeton, 1999); and Diamond, Larry, ed., Political Culture and Democracy in Developing Countries (Boulder, CO, 1993).

15 Kammen, Michael, American Culture, American Tastes: Social Change in the Twentieth Century (New York, 1999), contains an excellent discussion of the cultural forms considered by historians.

16 Works using these terms include:Huizinga, Johan, Waning of the Middle Ages (London 1924);Miller, Perry, The New England Mind (1939; Cambridge, MA, 1953);Welter, Rush, The Mind of America (New York, 1975); and various practitioners of France's Annales school of history (i.e., Roger Chartier). My own definition of immaterial “culture,” especially with regard to education, is influenced by Geertz, Clifford, Interpretation of Cultures (New York, 1973).

17 I favor “democratic culture” over “common culture” because I see the former as a subset of the latter. And democratic culture contains a political element. Since the great books idea becomes politicized later, I can use “democratic culture” with the ends in sight. My thinking about the notion of “citizenship” in U.S. history is informed by Kerber, Linda K., “The Meanings of Citizenship,” journal of American History 84 (Dec. 1997): 833–54.

18 Many factors complicate understanding of the democratization of culture. Some forms of cultural democratization occur unconsciously. Examples include the growth in popularity of amusement parks, dance, film, or music. Other cultural forms, such as literature and education, have been more consciously democratized. Active historical agents made these cultural forms accessible to the masses. Historians such as Allen, James Sloan, The Romance of Commerce and Culture: Capitalism, Modernism, and the Chicago-Aspen Crusade for Cultural Reform (Chicago, 1983);Cremin, Lawrence, American Education: The Metropolitan Experience (New York, 1988); and Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, have documented these efforts—even if they have not always characterized them as democratization. The great books fall under this latter category of “conscious democratization.” Also of concern are the origins and perpetuation of democratic cultural forms. Are these forms less democratic, less of the people, if they originate in a small community of intellectual elites? Are they less democratic, or of the folk, if they have been actively popularized? Was the great books idea cheapened by its popularizers in the twentieth century?

19 , Graff, Professing literature, 3, 56;Levine, Lawrence W., Highbrow/Lawbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America (Cambridge, MA, 1988), 164, 223–24;May, Henry, End of American Innocence, 3031;, Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, 14-15, 17, 18;, Satterfield, World's Best Books, 45, 180n15-16. May argued that turn-of-the-century intellectuals ended the “innocence” of prior Victorian and Arnoldian views of literature. Rubin nuanced May's argument by asserting that the Arnoldian, genteel tradition persisted in the idea of middle-class, “middlebrow” culture. Rubin also distinguished the older, “genteel tradition” (labeled by George Santayana in a famous 1911 essay) from the “New Humanists” (i.e., Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More). The latter's outlook “rested on a much more cogent, specific analysis” of Arnold (xvii, 44-48).

20 Howe, Daniel Walker, “American Victorianism as a Culture,” American Quarterly 27 (Dec. 1975): 508, 520;, Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, 11.Perry, Lewis, Intellectual Life in America (New York, 1984), drew on Howe's essay and other articles in the same American Quarterly issue to buttress his own assertions about Arnold.

21 , Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow, 223–24;, Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, 14, 46. Of recent scholars, Levine is most prominent in terms of references. He argued for a high/low cultural split based in part on Arnold. Levine stated that his “account of Arnold's impact upon the United States is derived from John Henry Raleigh['s] Matthew Arnold and American Culture (1957)” (289n61). Raleigh's view of Arnold in that work, however, was much more sophisticated than Levine indicated. Raleigh argued that Arnold believed culture to be “all-important, and [he]…preach[ed] its efficacy as an anddote against anarchy and as a modifier of power” (10). Raleigh also asserted that “elements in [Arnold's] thought…made his writings permanently congenial to Americans” (246). Raleigh explained, “Arnold's explicitly non-metaphysical, common-sense approach to literature was an antidote to the spell of transcendentalism.…[He] knew the [American] middle class as few other intellectuals have known it before or since” (247-48). Rubin also takes a more nuanced view than Levine of Arnold via the New Humanists, but she still primarily interprets Arnold's legacy as negative: His thought enabled a bland, commercial middlebrow culture to evolve., Satterfield, World's Best Books, 180n1516, acknowledged that Arnold's view of culture was “more sophisticated” and subject to interpretation but used scholarship no more recent than Raymond Williams to support the claim.

22 , Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, 812;Keating, P. J., “Introduction” in Matthew Arnold: Selected Prose, ed. Keating, P. J. (New York, 1970), 20-23, 28. Despite the use of Keating here, all references herein to “Arnold” alone, or quotes of Arnold's work, come from the lipman's Yale edition cited below.

23 , Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, 8, 31.

24 “Matthew Arnold: A Brief Sketch” in Arnold, Matthew, Culture and Anarchy, ed. lipman, Samuel (New Haven, 1994), xii–xiii.

25 “Matthew Arnold: A Brief Sketch,” 5.

26 Ibid., 33.

27 , Perry, Intellectual Life in America, 263–64;Menand, Louis, The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America (New York, 2001), 11-13, 73, 161. Higginson was a part of the “Secret Six” that funded John Brown's Harper's Ferry raid. At Harvard, Higginson had been a student of mathematician Benjamin Peirce, father of philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce. Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, emphasizes themes of “discipline” and “training” in Higginson's thought, as derived from Boston's Charles Eliot Norton.

28 , Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, 48; “Matthew Arnold: A Brief Sketch,” ix-xiv;, Keating, Matthew Arnold, 9, 21, 23;Rose, Jonathan, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes (New Haven, 2001), 8, 20, 29, 3436. For more on Arnold's history and context, see Dale, Peter Allan, Victorian Critic and the Idea of History (Cambridge, MA, 1977).

29 “Matthew Arnold: A Brief Sketch,” xiii. WASPiness seems implicit in the Genteel, Highbrow, and Middlebrow traditions.

30 Meyer, D. H., “American Intellectuals and the Victorian Crisis of Faith,” American Quarterly 27 (Dec. 1975): 587. For the Pauline origins of the notion of the best, see especially Philippians 4:8.

31 , Meyer, “American Intellectuals,” 585-90, 595, 597–99;, Howe, “American Victorianism,” 525. See also Lears, T. J. Jackson, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 (New York, 1981);Higham, John, “The Reorientation of American Culture in the 1890s” in Hanging Together: Unity and Diversity in American Culture, ed. Guarneri, Carl J. (New Haven, 2001); and Tomsich, John, A Genteel Hndeavor: American Culture and Politics in the Gilded Age (Stanford, 1971). No Place of Grace discusses popular coping mechanisms for the loss of unity and resultant doubt among later American Victorians. Lears's work also explains why religion remained popular among a large number of cultural elites even while they doubted its foundation on truth, objectivity, unity, and reason.

32 Bender, Thomas, New York Intellect: A History of Intellectual Life in New York Cityfrom 1750 to the Beginnings of Our Own Time (New York, 1987), 262.

33 Trilling, Lionel, Matthew Arnold (1939; New York, 1949), 267–68, 320;, Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, 33.

34 , Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, 48. Adler's work in the 1940s on Britannica's “Great Ideas” fulfills, in a way, Arnold's dictum on spreading the “best ideas.”

35 Ibid., 5. The work of a few recent historians runs contrary to, or at least complicates, the Levine-Rubin view of Arnold.Radway, Janice, A Feeling for Books (Chapel Hill, 1997), 382n48, acknowledges that America's “ideology of democratic individualism…warranted the extension of Arnold's [educational and cultural] project,” even if the same project contained “innumerable problems.”Pratt, Linda Ray, Matthew Arnold Revisited (New York, 2000), 3-4, 16, contends that “Arnold…was safest in modern times when his definition of culture could be eased, incorrectly, into a defense of elite culture…The ideological upheavals of the recent ‘culture wars’…created an Arnold who could be either dismissed as a stereotype or valorized as the eloquent proponent of culture at risk.” She conceded that “the actual degree of equality of classes Arnold supported was not always clear,” as he feared an “Americanized” democracy “dominated by the will of the individual.” Arnold otherwise hoped that a “democratic state in which all the classes were invested, all participated, and the best of each class could contribute to the unity of the whole…would become the powerful state.”

36 Carnochan, W B., “Where Did the Great Books Come from Anyway?Book Collector 48 (Autumn 1999), 358.

37 , Howe, “American Victorianism,” 529.

38 , Adler, Philosopher at Large, 64;, Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, 28-29, 4547;, Carnochan, “Where Did the Great Books,” 358–66;, Keating, Matthew Arnold, 15, 22-23, 27;Moorhead, Hugh S., “The Great Books Movement” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1964), 1315.

39 The Best Hundred Books: Containing An Article on the Choice of Books by John Raskin (Boston, ca. 1886-1887), 3, 23;Brewer, David J., ed., The World's Best Orations: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time (St. Louis, 1900), 2819;, Carnochan, “Where Did the Great Books,” 354, 358-61;, Rose, Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, 128. Rose noted that Henry James and Matthew Arnold were “dismissive” of Lubbock's choices.

40 Sir Lubbock, John, The Choice of Books (Philadelphia, 1896), 56.

41 Ibid., 6-8.

42 Ibid., 8-10;, Carnochan, “Where Did the Great Books,” 360, 362. Carnochan noticed Lubbock's “continuity” with twentieth-century lists.

43 , Lubbock, Choice of Books, 810.

44 New York Times, Feb. 9, 1886;, Brewer, World's Best Orations, 2819.

45 The Best Hundred Books, 23 (italics mine).

46 Like Lubbock, Harrison taught at the Working Men's College. As it happened, in 1886 Harrison lost to Lubbock in a campaign bid for Parliament. While one might attribute Harrison's foray into great books listing to politics, it is worth noting that he was “first-class n i Literae Humaniores in 1853” at Wadham College, Oxford, and served there as a fellow and tutor. “Frederic Harrison,”Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., 1911, <> (Sept. 25, 2004).

47 Harrison, Frederic, The Choice of Books (London, 1886), 6 (italics mine).

48 Ibid., 9, 116.

49 Ibid., 106-07, 114.

50 Frederick Copleston, S.J., Modern Philosophy: Bentham to Russell, Part II, vol. 8, A History of Philosophy (Garden City, NY, 1967), 138–39.

51 , Harrison, Choice of Books, 117–18.

52 This contradiction explains an aside by Carnochan in his article on the great books. He quoted Comte as saying that he must live with “the moral and political synthesis” of medieval Catholicism for “the study and improvement of our nature.” Comte's curious admission foreshadows the affinity of later University of Chicago great books promoters for aspects of medieval Catholicism.

53 Farrar, F. W, Great Books: Bunyan, Shakespeare, Dante, Milton, The Imitation (London, 1898), 35. Carnochan believed that , Farrar “may be said to have brought the category of ‘Great Books,’ capitals and all, into being” (354). This is true only if one is a stickler for capital letters and not the idea itself.

54 Ibid., 5-15. Paragraphs of elaboration separate these quotes in these pages.

55 , Carnochan, “Where Did the Great Books,” 355.

56 , Moorhead, “Great Books Movement,” 16 (italics mine). Moorhead listed many etymological references to “great books,” mixing British and American sources, but ultimately was more concerned with America's adult-education movement.

57 , Howe, “American Victorianism,” 510.

58 Ibid., 511-17.

59 Vanderbilt, Kermit, “Charles F. Richardson” in American Uterary Critics and Scholars, 1880-1900, ed. Rathburn, John W and Grecu, Monica M., vol. 71, Dictionary of Literary Biography (Detroit, 1988), 222–26, <> (Jan. 24, 2005);“Charles F. Richardson,” from Virtual American Biographies, Book I: Continental Discovery to 1899, <> (Sept. 25, 2004);Richardson, Charles F., The Choice of Books (New York, 1881).

60 , Richardson, Choice of Books, 6 (italics mine). Even if incorrect, the estimates convey the despair of keeping up.

61 Ibid., 13-15, 17.

62 Ibid., ch. 1.

63 Ibid., 15-16. No work of Arnold's is cited by Richardson for the quote, but Culture and Anarchy is the probable source. On the same page is a “Frederick” [sic] Harrison quote, five years before Harrison's Choice.

64 Green, Nancy S., “Harrison, Elizabeth” in American National Biography, <> (Apr. 9, 2007);Harrison, Elizabeth, A Study of Child-Nature from the Kindergarten Standpoint (Chicago, 1890), 190, 204–05;Harrison, Elizabeth, A Vision of Dante: A Story for Little Children and a Talk to Their Mothers (Chicago, 1894). For more on Harrison, see her autobiography,Sketches Along Life's Road (1930); and Agnes Snyder's essay on her in Rasmussen, Margaret, ed., Dauntless Women in Childhood Education, 1856-1931 (Washington, 1931).

65 , Perry, Intellectual Life in America, 269–71, 274-76;, Cremin, American Education, 7680.

66 New York Times (in order of reference), Apr. 11, 1897, SM6; Dec. 9, 1899, BR828; Feb. 23, 1901, BR9; July 26, 1901, BR8.

67 , Graff, Professing Literature, 8182;Buggeln, John D., “van Dyke, Henry” in American National Biography, <> (Apr. 9, 2007); Princeton University Libraries, Rare Books and Special Collections, Henry van Dyke Family Papers, Finding Aid, <> (Dec. 19, 2005). More on van Dyke is in Dyke, Tertius van, Henry van Dyke: A Biography (1935), and “Henry van Dyke,” New York Times, Apr. 11, 1933, 18.

68 Henry van Dyke, “Literature in Education; A Teacher's Simple ‘Articles of Faith’ Concerning the Making of a Few More Good Readers,”New York Times, Oct. 22, 1911, LS631.

69 , Graff, Professing Literature, 83; Buggeln, “van Dyke”; Princeton Libraries, van Dyke Family Papers, Finding Aid.

70 Erenberg, Lewis, Steppin' Out: New York Nightlife and the Transformation of American Culture, 1890-1925 (Westport, CT, 1981);May, Lary, Screening Out the Vast: The Birth of Mass Culture and the Motion Picture Industry (Chicago, 1980);Peiss, Kathy, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York (Philadelphia, 1988);Radway, Janice, A Feelingfor Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire (Chapel Hill, 1997);Rosenzweig, Roy, Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920 (New York, 1983); Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture.

71 Kaestle, Carl F., “Studying the History of Literacy” in literacy in the United States: Readers and Reading since 1880, ed. Kaestle, Carl F. (New Haven, 1991), 25; Lawrence C. Stedman and Carl F. Kaesde, “Literacy and Reading Performance in the United States from 1880 to the Present” in Ibid., 79. Kaestle's numbers come from Folger, John K. and Nam, Charles B., Education of the American Population (Washington, DC, 1967). Kaestle warns against overre-liance on census data on literacy because it was self-reported.

72 Damon-Moore, Helen and Kaestle, Carl F., “Surveying American Readers” in Literacy in the United States, 180;, Radway, A Feeling for Books, 379n12. Radway reports that Book-of-the-Month Club creator Harry Scherman in 1926 believed that the notion of “only about 200,000 people [buying] books on a regular basis was ridiculous[low]” (190).

73 , Stedman and , Kaestle, “Literacy and Reading Performance,” 127.

74 , Richardson, Choice of Books, 6.

75 Olney, Martha L., Buy Now, Pay Later: Advertising, Credit, and Consumer Durables in the 1920s (Chapel Hill, 1991), 1, 22;, Kaesde, “The History of Readers” in Literacy in the United States: Readers and Reading Since 1880, ed. Kaesde, Carl F. (New Haven, 1991), 6566. Book sales increased in the 1960s after the “paperback revolution” of the 1950s. See Davis, Kenneth C., Two-Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America (Boston, 1984).

76 , Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, 18.

77 Madison, Charles A., Book Publishing in America (New York, 1966), 34-35, 220-25, 304-05, 323, 347, 393-94, 569;Douglas, Ann, Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s (New York, 1995), 14;, Satterfield, World's Best Books, 2, 10, 25-27, 41;, Radway, Feeling for Books, 128, 171. Part III of Madison's book, “The Commercialization of Literature, 1900-1945,” covers changes in the publishing industry for the period considered here. Everyman's was a British venture distributed in the United States by Dutton and Sons. See , Rose, Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, 131–34;, Satterfield, World's Best Books, 25.

78 Stedman, Lawrence, Tinsley, Katherine, and Kaestle, Carl F., “Literacy as a Consumer Activity” in Literacy in the United States, 151–52. The Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys covered a number of other years (1901, 1934-36, 1944, 1950, etc.). The 1901 data did not cover books.

79 Ibid., 164, 169.

80 For more on cinema's role in these changes, see May, Screening Out the Past.

81 , Rose, Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, ch. 2.

82 See Folder “People's Institute” (from the “1897-1929 Report”), Box 39, UCSC/MJAP;, Adler, Philosopher at Large, 77, 87-88, 103–04;Herder, Dale Marvin, “Education for the Masses: The Haldeman-Julius Iitde Blue Books as Popular Culture during the Nineteen-Twenties” (PhD diss., Michigan State University, 1975);Higbie, Toby, “Unschooled, but Not Uneducated: Pathways to Workers' Self-Education in Early Twentieth-Century America,” (April 2007, paper held by author);Kass, Amy Apfel, “Radical Conservatives for Liberal Education” (PhD diss., Johns Hopkins University, 1973), 4, 6-7, 1617; Moorhead, 110, 117-20;Wofford, Harris, ed., Embers of the World: Conversations with Scott Buchanan (Santa Barbara, CA, 1970), 41-42, 71. Higbie noted that Marcet Julius of the Haldeman-Julius Company was Jane Addams's socialist niece. Columbia professor Charles Sprague Smith founded the People's Institute in 1897.

83 , Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, 3541.

84 , Rose, Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, 116-17, 140. Obviously much needs to be uncovered concerning U.S. working-class readers.

85 See note 77, as well as Sheets, “Antiquity Bound.”

86 James, Henry, Charles W. Eliot: President of Harvard University, 1869-1909 (1930; New-York, 1973), 2:193201. This Henry James was William's son and thus the novelist's nephew Hawkins, Hugh, Between Harvard and America: The Educational Leadership of Charles W. Eliot (New York, 1972), 292–96, esp. a reprint of a Collier's Weekly advertisement on the pages between 180 and 181;, Cremin, American Education, 385–86;, Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, 2729;, Radway, Feeling for hooks, 145;, Satterfield, World's Best Books, 6, 111. Eliot presided at Harvard from 1869-1909.

87 , James, Charles W. Eliot, 2:92-96, 190–92;, Hawkins, Between Harvard and America, 296–97.

88 , Hawkins, Between Harvard and America, 292, 376n8;, James, Charles W. Eliot, 2:193.

89 , Cremin, American Education, 385–86;, James, Charles W. Eliot, 2:193, 195, 200.

90 , Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, 28.

91 , James, Charles W. Eliot, 2:195–96. Here James quoted from Eliot's “Introduction” in vol. 50 of the Harvard Classics.

92 Ibid., 197.

93 Kurtz, Benjamin P., Charles Mills Gayley (Berkeley, 1943), 58, 64, 82-83, 85, 88.

94 Ibid., 85, 92-94;, Graff, Professing Literature, 81-82, 84, 102.

95 , Kurtz, Charles Mills Gayley, 132;, Veysey, Emergence of the American University, 210;Gayley, Charles Mills, Idols of Education (New York, 1910), 65, 9397. Gayley's concern for the ancient classics and the best “for the best” presaged Allan Bloom's view in The Closing of the American Mind (New York, 1987).

96 , Kurtz, Charles Mills Gayley, 151–54.

97 Ibid., 182,186-283. Graff, in Professing Literature, made no connections between Erskine, Woodberry, and Gayley.

98 , Veysey, Emergence of the American University, 200, 205, 224;, Graff, Professing Literature, 82;Burduck, Michael L., “George Edward Woodberry” in American Literary Critics and Scholars, 1880-1900, ed. Rathburn, John W and Grecu, Monica M., vol. 71, Dictionary of Literary Biography (Detroit, 1988), 297305, <> (Oct. 2, 2004).

99 Burduck, “Woodberry”;, Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, 39;, Graff, Professing Literature, 84.

100 , Burduck, “Woodberry”; Moorhead, “Great Books Movement,” 4447;, Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, 155–56;Doren, Mark Van, The Autobiography of Mark Van Doren (New York, 1958), 131. Appreciation is explicit enough in its text to show Woodberry's fondness for the great books idea. Another of Woodberry's three books published that year was Great Writers: Cervantes, Scott, Milton, Virgil, Montaigne, Shakspere (New York, 1907).

101 Woodberry, George, The Appreciation of Literature (New York, 1907), ch. 6.

102 Ibid., 1-2.

103 Ibid., 176-77.

104 , Woodberry, Appreciation of Literature, 5 (italics mine).

105 , Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, 4258, 115-23. Other contemporary literary critics with undemocratic tendencies included Stuart Sherman (early) and Henry Seidel Canby.

106 Burduck, “Woodberry.”

107 , Woodberry, The Torch, 10.

108 Erskine, John, My Life As A Teacher (New York, 1948), 2021;Erskine, John, The Memory of Certain Persons (New York, 1947);, Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, 156;, Graff, Professing Literature, 82, 9394. Erskine is a universal touchstone in histories and personal narratives on the great books movement, including those of Adler, Carnochan, Fadiman, Kass, Moorhead, Reynolds, Rubin, and Van Doren.

109 Erskine, John, My Life As A Teacher, 1415, 20, 48;, Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, 154, 156, 160.

110 , Erskine, My Life As A Teacher, 20.

111 , Erskine, Memory of Certain Persons, 228;, Adler, Philosopher at Large, 31.

112 Erskine, John, The Moral Obligation To Be Intelligent and Other Essays (New York, 1921), 4, 6-10, 15 (italics mine).

113 Ibid., 18.

114 Ibid, 18-19.

115 Ibid., 21-23.

116 Ibid., 30.

117 , Erskine, My Life As A Teacher, 166–67;, Erskine, Memory of Certain Persons, 342

118 , Erskine, Memory of Certain Persons, 343.

119 Ibid.

120 , Rubin, Making of Middlebrow Culture, 161–64;, Erskine, My Life As A Teacher, 129-30, 140, 153161. After the war, Erskine argued in a published report to General John J. Pershing for a form of national training based on his time in Beaune. Passages of the report echo in part the civic impulse of other figures in the history of the great books idea.

121 , Erskine, Memory of Certain Persons, 341.

122 Ibid.;, Erskine, My Life As A Teacher, 165–68. Erskine seems to have first used the phrase “great books” publicly, at least twice, in “English in the College Course,”Education Review, Nov. 1910, 340–47.

123 Reynolds, Katherine Chaddock, “A Canon of Democratic Intent: Reinterpreting the Roots of the Great Books Movement,” History of Higher Education Annual 22 (2002): 10.

124 , Adler, Philosopher at Large, 5556;Doren, Mark Van, Autobiography of Mark Van Doren, 131.

125 , Adler, Philosopher at Large, 56.

126 For more on the expansion of general education, see General Education in a Free Society: Report of the Harvard Committee (Cambridge, MA, 1945);A History of Columbia College on Morningside (New York, 1954);Bell, Daniel, The Reforming of General Education: The Columbia College Experience in Its National Setting (New York, 1966); and Cremin, American Education.

127 , Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, 33, 48.

page 438 note * James, Henry, Charles W. Eliot: President of Harvard University; 1869-1909, Vol. II (1930; Boston, 1973), 357–58.

page 440 note * Adler, Mortimer J., Philosopher at Large: An Intellectual Biography, 1902-1976 (New York, 1977), 60.

1 This article is based on the first chapter of my doctoral dissertation. Many have read the latter as well as this piece. Although not all have agreed with my story on every point, I benefited from comments and criticisms by the following: Lewis A. Erenberg, Susan E. Hirsch, Michael Perko, members of the Newberry Library Urban History Dissertation Seminar, Christopher Miller, Justin Pettegrew, Jonathan Rose, Tom Rzeznik, Paul Boyer, and unnamed JGAPE reviewers. Special thanks go to my wife, Jodi Lacy, for her help, patience, and encouragement.

Dreams of a Democratic Culture: Revising the Origins of the Great Books Idea, 1869-19211

  • Tim Lacy (a1)


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