The Global English Department
The Global English Department
Ashley Squires, New Economic School
Myles Chilton, Nihon University
Gauri Viswanathan’s Masks of Conquesttaught us how and why English studies first took shape in colonial India. The discipline’s next major stage of development in Mechanics’ Institutes and working men’s colleges took literary education ‘back’ to Britain, and from that point English became an Anglo-American scholarly discipline that left behind its always-already global-ness, rendering the scholarly activity in its historically Asian roots exotic, peripheral, forever ‘catching up’ to the ‘center’.
More recently, English studies has been forced to reckon with its Anglo-American insularity. First, it has had to engage critiques generated from within postcolonialism, world literature, and transnational literary studies. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak captures the essence of this critique in criticizing the Anglo-normative, even racist, assumption ‘we’ at the geographical center of the discipline hold; namely “the claim to the dominant place, class, and gender” (167). Additionally, it must confront the changing audience for and composition of English as a discipline. With the English language emerging as a global academic lingua franca, the global demand for English is expanding even as the discipline sees declining prospects in the Anglophone center. As James English argues, “future expansion of English studies will mostly occur outside the discipline’s traditional Anglophone and European base.” Therefore “it is time for those of us at the presumptive center of things to begin paying more attention to the forms our discipline is taking at these sites of rapid expansion” (191).
The Global English Departmentaims toexplore the implications of this expansion from a truly global perspective. By ‘global,’ we mean contributions from as wide a geographical range as possible that analyse the discipline’s development beyond the ‘presumptive center’. We are looking for essays that gauge how English departments struggle with the pull of Anglo-American centrality, negotiate their peripheral status, seek to overcome the discipline’s neglect of its global spread, and structure themselves in relation to their particular circumstances. We want to analyze to what extent ‘out here’ beyond the Anglo-American ‘center’ disciplinary conceptions are challenged by their import/export to regions where not only linguistic difference, but also social, political and cultural histories impact institutions, teachers and students.
We also hope to address concerns that demand discussion at the international level and to explore the broad field of English studies in its multiple disciplinary manifestations: Language, Literature and Rhetoric. In the Anglo-American center, the study of Anglophone literature has a disciplinary history distinct from the study of the English language, particularly its teaching as a foreign language. Likewise, in recent decades, Rhetoric and Composition has branched off from Literature to form its own sub-discipline. One of our objectives is to explore and problematize the consequences of these divergent paths of disciplinary formation and professionalization in other contexts.
For instance, the paths taken by TESL/TEFL/TESOL teachers and PhDs with literature backgrounds have led to a bifurcation of the discipline into “instrumental English” and “literature.” Students want to improve their English-language ability; institutions work to meet these demands by concentrating on language instruction. Attention to the former means a decrease in attention to literature, with the result that English literature suffers precisely because so many students want to learn English. Another challenge: where literature retains a curricular focus, the Anglo-American canon dominates. English PhDs trained in the Anglo-American center may chafe at what may seem an archaic and restricted sense of canonicity, and struggle to reconcile differing disciplinary conceptions and objectives.
We are also seeking contributions that explore the place of writing and writing programs. The internationalization of academia and of academic publishing has placed English in the role of global lingua franca, meaning that there is a demand not only for the study of the language but academic literacy and communication, which are shaped by Anglophone norms. Yet the growth of writing studies in the world is a case of an English-affiliated discipline emerging without much input from US-based professional organizations like the Conference on College Composition & Communication. As with literature, this is partially attributable to the disciplinary split between composition and second language writing. But it also means that writing studies is, in many spaces, being newly invented, either as a branch of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) or as a translingual discipline of its own.
The Global English Departmentthus invites chapters that address the above issues, as well as those arising from the following questions:
- What is the mediating role of English (and the Humanities more generally) in the globalization of academic discourse? How does it replicate the colonial dynamics of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and to what degree do we need paradigms to understand what is happening today?
- How are the disciplines of English language, literature, and rhetoric being revised and reinvented outside of the Anglosphere?
- What forms of training will be needed to help graduate students across the globe engage with these new dynamics? (For example, should foreign language requirements return to Ph.D. programs in the United States.)
- What are the consequences of disciplinary fragmentation for the ways in which we disseminate knowledge among ourselves and to our students?
- Should literature teachers also come to see themselves as language teachers? How do we reconcile the need for language instruction (and the range of abilities present in any given classroom) with our goal of teaching literature?
- Are Anglo-center trained faculty seeking to reproduce in their students the ways of thinking, values, and responses expected in the Anglo-American academy?
- What can faculty trained beyond the Anglo-center contribute to English pedagogy within an increasingly polyglot/ESL oriented Anglo-center student body?
- Though challenges to canonicity are de rigeurin Anglospheric universities, the canon remains quite important outside of it. Is there a case to be made for the importance of an English canon (particularly in the creation of anthologies and curricula) in these contexts? Is there really such a thing as a global canon of literature or is it better to speak of a multiplicity of localized canons that arise in response to situated concerns about culture, curriculum and politics?
- What contributions can transnationalism, globalism, and world literature as pedagogical paradigms make to the teaching of English outside the Anglosphere? What contributions can teachers teaching outside of it make to those research paradigms?
- To what extent can writing be decoupled from English in a global academic context? What models exist for teaching writing in languages other than English, and how might those inform writing studies more broadly?
We welcome theoretical engagements with these questions as well as case studies of individual regions and institutions. Overall, we hope this book will reflect pressures and opportunities raised by the internationalization of English’s research paradigms. While we welcome the latter development, we believe that not enough attention has been given to the ways in which the profession itself is becoming increasingly internationalized. The movement of researchers, teachers, and pedagogies across borders and (increasingly) away from the centers where English is traditionally spoken will become a defining issue for the discipline in the decades to come.
English, James F. The Global Future of English Studies. Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “How Do We Write, Now?” PMLA133.1 (2018): 166-170.
If you are interested in contributing, please send a 250-word abstract and short bio by January 31, 2019, to
Ashley Squires: firstname.lastname@example.org
Myles Chilton: email@example.com