The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.

BEFORE there was English literature at Michigan, there was rhetoric. It is true that a freshman entering the University as far back as 1844 would have found no required composition to mar the pleasure he might take in his Latin and Greek and mathematics. But in his sophomore year he would have to spend one-third of his second term mastering Newman's Rhetoric and making practical application of its principles. By 1845-46, if we are to believe the penciled emendations of the available copies of that year's Catalogue, rhetoric (probably Newman's) had edged its way into the first term of both the freshman and sophomore years, and Whately's Rhetoric was one of four subjects required in the third term of the junior year. Except for the substitution of Blair for Whately, this arrangement was maintained up to 1850-51. By 1852, however, English Language and Literature had replaced Newman's classic in the first term (of the scientific course; it was not prescribed in the classical course), and had been added in the second term. Elocution had been made a third-term freshman subject, while rhetoric proper was reserved for the first term of the sophomore year for both classical and scientific students.

The nature of the rhetoric work, as well as that in English language and literature, in this early period may be inferred from extracts from the announcements. Thus, in the Catalogue for 1852-53, one reads: "The Professor of Ancient and Modern Languages and the Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy take charge of this branch jointly." In 1853-54, the statement read:

Rhetoric is attended to as a special recitation but one term by students of the Classical Department; but constant attention is directed to this important subject by the professors of Ancient and Modern Languages. Weekly exercises are attended by the students during the entire course.

The students of the Scientific Department receive instruction by lectures, upon the History and Analysis of the English Language, and give especial attention to the study of Rhetoric.

Original essays will frequently be required in this Department.

It would appear that the Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy had now relinquished his interests in rhetoric.

The information in the 1854-55 Catalogue was still more explicit:

During two terms of the first year, the members of the Scientific Department devote one third of their time to the study of the English Language and Literature. The object of this plan is to secure an examination of the principles of our native tongue, as thorough and exact as that which is necessary for the mastery of a foreign language. The survey of our general Literature is necessarily cursory, and is designed chiefly to establish fundamental principles of criticism, and to cultivate correctness and propriety of style.

All members of the Sophomore class, in both departments [classical curriculum, or "course," and scientific course], have a daily study in Rhetoric during the first term of the year in which a good text-book is examined, and a course of lectures given by the Professor, and original Compositions are presented by the students every week for criticism.

Declamations are required regularly through the whole course; and during the last two years the pieces spoken are original, and previously presented to the professor, for criticism.

It is instructive to learn that students of eighty-five years ago were expected to master their native tongue as thoroughly as any foreign language!

Page  559The emphasis on oral expression suggested in the extracts quoted continued to a much later period. Thus, in 1875, a freshman would have been privileged to enroll in a course, labeled quite simply "1," which included lectures in elocution, "with exercises for the voice, and the delivery by each student of two original speeches" (Cal., 1875-76, p. 37). His texts would have been Tancock's English Grammar, Morris' Elementary Lessons in Historical English Grammar, and Earle's Philology of the English Tongue. By 1886-87 the title of the freshman course was Composition and Elocution, but the pièce de resistance was still "two speeches." It was not until much later that written composition became the essential work in first-year courses.

Indeed, until well into the seventies, continual emphasis seems to have been laid on the art of speaking well, not only in freshman but also in later years. The Catalogue for 1869-70 carries the following summary of work under the heading English Language and Literature:

  • Freshmen. — English Language — Lectures. Exercises in declamation every Monday at 4 P.M. at the Old Chapel. A public exhibition, the participants in which are chosen by the Professor in charge of this department.
  • Sophomores. — The art of effective expression — Haven's Rhetoric; Lectures. English Literature — Lectures; Chaucer's Legende of Goode Women (Corson's Ed.). Exercises in composition every Monday at 3 P.M. at the Old Chapel. Two public exhibitions, the participants in which are volunteers.
  • Juniors. — Exercises in the delivery of original speeches every Monday at 2 P.M. at the Old Chapel. A public exhibition, the participants in which are chosen by the Faculty.
  • Seniors. — Exercises in the delivery of original speeches every Saturday morning in the Chapel before all the classes. A public exhibition, the participants in which are chosen by the Faculty.

There was, however, a gradual shift toward written work, though essay writing seems for a long time to have been generally reserved for the second year. Thus, in 1874-75, the University of Michigan sophomore took a course labeled Rhetoric: Theory and Practice, for which he wrote compositions exemplifying the principles set forth in Day's Art of Discourse. By 1880-81 the textbook in this course had been changed to O. J. Hill's Science of Rhetoric, and each student was required to present two essays. This, in general, seems representative of the second-year course.

The department in which these courses were offered was known as English Language and Literature. This title had been first adopted in 1869, succeeding the old heading Rhetoric and English Literature, which in turn had in 1854 replaced the original division-name Rhetoric. In 1882 the department was rechristened English and Rhetoric. This change may have occurred in deference to a new course that had unobtrusively crept into the announcement for the previous year (Cal., 1881-82, p. 42): "13. Grammatical and Critical Study of Selections in Prose and Poetry. Tuesday and Thursday, 4-5. Assistant Professor Burt." By 1883-84, this course had become Rhetorical Study of Selections in Prose and Poetry (Cal., p. 46), the probable ancestor of the present course called Rhetorical Analysis. In 1886-87 there appeared another new course title, destined to become well known on the University of Michigan campus: Seminary in Rhetoric and the Principles of Literary Criticism. The name of the department remained unchanged up to 1903,* when the division into Department of Rhetoric and Department of English occurred. During this period a marked increase in the offerings Page  560in rhetoric and criticism gave evidence of an emphasis which was, in the next twenty-five years, to raise the University of Michigan to a place of outstanding leadership in this field.

The history of the Department of Rhetoric proper is very much the story of Professor Fred Newton Scott ('84, Ph.D. '89). Scott came to the Department of English and Rhetoric as an instructor in 1889, when his name appeared in connection with the freshman course. As an assistant professor in 1890, a junior professor in 1896, and a full professor in 1901, Scott seems to have rapidly acquired most of the advanced work in rhetoric and criticism. By 1902, the last year before the work in rhetoric was made a separate department, there were listed under his name the following courses:

  • 4. Essays in Description and Narration.
  • 4a. Essays in Exposition and Argument.
  • 15. Principles of Style.
  • 15a. Theory of Prose Narrative.
  • 17. Teachers' Course. Methods of Teaching Composition and Rhetoric.
  • 18. Advanced Composition. Essays in Exposition. Interpretation of Literture and Art.
  • 21. Seminary in the Theory and History of Rhetoric.
  • 21a. Seminary in the History and Theory of Rhetoric. (Cal., 1902-3, pp. 76-78.)
Other courses in rhetoric and criticism offered in the Department of English and Rhetoric at the time were: Paragraph-Writing, eleven sections, taught by Strauss, Thomas, Bohn, and Morrill; Theme Writing, eleven sections, by Strauss, Thomas, Bohn, and Morrill; Studies in Diction and Usage, two sections, by Fulton; and Principles of Literary Criticism, by Demmon.

The Department of Rhetoric came into existence as a separate unit — mainly, it is said, because Professor Scott wished it so — in 1903 (see Part III: Department of English Language and Literature). The Proceedings of the Regents carries under April, 1903, the entry:

On motion of Regent Dean, the title of Professor I. N. Demmon was changed to Professor of English, and the title of Professor Fred N. Scott was made Professor of Rhetoric by the full vote of the Board.

(R.P., 1901-6, p. 172.)
And in the Calendar for 1903-4 the Department of English and the Department of Rhetoric were for the first time separately listed. The change occurred with no particular disturbance to courses. Men who had been teaching literature and composition were given their choice of remaining with the old, or entering the new, department. It is of interest that Louis A. Strauss, who had been Assistant in English in 1893 and Instructor in 1895, was one who elected to stay with the old division.

Scott carried with him the elementary work in composition and the advanced courses in rhetoric and criticism which he and others had been teaching. In the University Calendar for the year 1903-4 the new department announced that it would offer two types of courses: (1) courses "to give practice in the leading types of prose composition," and (2) courses to "familiarize the student with the fundamental principles of Rhetoric and Criticism." These offerings totaled sixteen courses, only four of which — Prose Rhythms, Newspaper Writing, Interpretations of Literature and Art, and Reviews — were new. It is worthy of note that two of the new courses were in journalism (see Part IV: Department of Journalism). A third, Prose Rhythms, was unique in American education; its inclusion in this curriculum was indicative of Scott's many-sided interests in literary problems. The course known as Interpretations was to become one of the Page  561most popular and most valued in the department: it was long a proving ground for students who aspired to do work in practical criticism.

The courses given in this first year were to form the backbone of the work in rhetoric for the next twenty-five years. Some of the titles were changed, some new ones were added, a few were discontinued, but the elementary courses, and certain of the advanced courses in style and rhetoric and composition offered in 1903-4 were to become fixtures in the department, and many of them traditions at the University. Rhetoric 3 and 4 later became Rhetoric 31 and 32, with enrollments running up to the three- and four-hundred mark. Principles of Style was taught up to the time Professor Thomas E. Rankin left the University of Michigan in 1928; the Theory of Prose Narrative, which Assistant Professor Edward S. Everett took over after Professor Scott resigned in 1927, was continued until 1933; Diction and Usage, first taught by Professor Roy Cowden and now by Associate Professor Carlton F. Wells, is still an honored course in the Department of English Language and Literature; and the seminary called Rhetoric and Criticism, continuing in much its original form as long as Scott remained in the University, became the parent of present survey and studies courses in rhetoric and criticism.

In the hands of Fred N. Scott and such capable associates as Joseph M. Thomas, T. E. Rankin, Herbert S. Mallory, Marion C. Weir, Lyman Bryson, John L. Brumm, and later Roy W. Cowden, the department went steadily forward to a position of prominence in journalism, creative writing, and graduate work in rhetorical theory and criticism (see Part IV: Department of Journalism). Students interested in these subjects were attracted to the University of Michigan from all parts of the country, and, in due course, added to the steadily increasing list of prominent writers and scholars who had "studied under Scott."

Shirley Smith, now Vice-President of the University and once an instructor in rhetoric, writing on "Fred Newton Scott as a Teacher" in the Michigan Alumnus, listed the following as former students of rhetoric who had contributed information for his article: Professor Richard R. Kirk, of Tulane University; Professor Karl Young of Yale University; Lyman L. Bryson, Director of the California Association for Adult Education; S. Emory Thomason, Publisher of the Chicago Daily News; Lee A White, of the Detroit News; and Arthur Pound, author, New Scotland, New York.

This is but a fraction of the roll of important names that might be called of those who once studied in the Rhetoric Department. The list would include Ernest Sutherland Bates, college professor and famous author; Alice Snyder, Coleridge scholar and Professor of English at Vassar; Wilfred B. Shaw, author, Director of Alumni Relations, and Editor of the Michigan Alumnus Quarterly Review, Ann Arbor; Webb Waldron, novelist, journalist, and publicist, Westport, Connecticut; Paul Osborn, playwright, New York City; Avery Hopwood, playwright, and donor of the Hopwood prizes; Ray Stannard Baker ("David Grayson"), author, Amherst, Massachusetts; Katherine Holland Brown, novelist, Quincy, Illinois; Ada F. Snell, Professor of English at Wellesley College; Joseph Thomas, Professor of English and Dean of the Senior College, University of Minnesota; Marjorie Nicolson, Professor of English and Dean of the College, Smith College; James Oliver Curwood, author; Edgar A. Mowrer and Paul Scott Mowrer, journalists extraordinary, Chicago; Edwin S. Beck and James O'Donnell Bennett, journalists, the Chicago Tribune; Karl Edwin Harriman Page  562editor and author, New York City; Fletcher Harris, Professor of English and Assistant Dean of the College at the University of Illinois; Charles C. Fries, philologist and Professor of English, University of Michigan; Winthrop D. Lane, journalist and editor, Trenton, New Jersey; Louis V. De Foe, critic, New York City; Lawrence Conrad, teacher and author, Montclair, New Jersey; Wilson Farrand, educator, Newark Academy, Newark, New Jersey; Melvin T. Solve, Professor of English, University of Arizona; and Harold Titus, author, Traverse City, Michigan.

Many other names might be added, but there is space to mention only a few — Charles Phelps Cushing, author and photographer, New York City; Paul Blanshard, lecturer and specialist in industrial relations, New York City; Jo Chamberlain, formerly Managing Editor, Scribner's Magazine; Warren Bower, New York University; Walter A. Donnelly, Editor of Museums Publications and Supervising Editor of Publications in the Registrar's Office in the University; Phyllis Povah (Mrs. Henry Drayton), actress, Port Washington, Long Island; Mary Yost, Dean of Women, Stanford University; Ruth Mary Weeks, educator, Kansas City, Missouri; Helen Mahin, Professor of Journalism, University of Kansas; Dorothy Tyler, poet and editor, Detroit; and Martin Feinstein, poet, deceased.

From the beginning, the Department of Rhetoric was attractive to graduate students. Advanced degrees in rhetoric had been granted under the old Department of English and Rhetoric. Gertrude Buck had taken a master of science degree in rhetoric in 1895, and in 1898 Annie L. Bacorn had received the degree of master of letters, and Sophie C. Hart and Katherine G. Sleneau the master of arts degree. In the same year, the first doctor of philosophy degree in rhetoric was granted to Miss Gertrude Buck, whose dissertation on metaphor was a distinctive contribution in the field. Between 1898 and 1903, in the remaining years of the combined department, nine more students, one of them Ernest S. Bates, took the master of arts degree in rhetoric. From 1904, the first year that degrees were given in the new department, to 1930, the last year, a total of 140 students took the master's degree in this field. In the same period twenty-three students, as compared with a total of twenty-five in the Department of English, were granted the doctor of philosophy degree in rhetoric. The first of these was William E. Bohn, in 1906.

It is worth noting, as significant evidence of a progressive attitude in the department on linguistic matters, that of those receiving the master's degree, Sterling A. Leonard (1909) and Ruth M. Weeks (1913), became distinctive leaders in the liberal movement in language matters that has in recent years taken firm hold in the English pedagogical field.

Graduate study in rhetoric was characterized throughout the existence of the department not only by a broadly liberal point of view in linguistics, with a consistent emphasis upon the growth of language as a social phenomenon and as an instrument for current needs, but also by critical attitudes which had their bases in psychological investigation and in an examination of literature in its relation to life. Merely historical matters were subordinated to the analysis of works and to an understanding of the principles by which their authors wrote and of the sources and modes of their appeal. Scott's own deep humanism permeated the work of the entire department, and graduate study in rhetoric became synonymous with an earnest search for central standards in artistic creation and aesthetic response. The value of such teaching in an age which tends toward Page  563formalistic and historical scholarship is obvious; its influence, spreading in some degree to every school where graduates of the department have taught, has no doubt been greater than can be easily estimated.

A unique and notable course developed by Professor Scott was Rhetoric 23 and 24, first announced in 1909-10, without further description, as a Seminary in Advanced Composition. The next year's Calendar (p. 127) carried the following information:

This course is intended for a limited number of advanced students who write with facility and are in the habit of writing, but who desire personal criticism and direction. Although the greater part of the time will be spent in the discussion of the manuscripts submitted for correction, there will be talks upon the essentials of English Composition and the principles of criticism and revision. Open only to students who receive special permission.

This was destined to become one of the most prized offerings of the department. Since only a limited number could be accommodated and since only candidates of ability were selected, it soon came to be regarded as an honor to be admitted to the course. The class became something like a young writers' club, and was a proving ground for many who later gained distinction in the literary field. It was, moreover, a recognition, in principle, of the importance of creative writing as a university study. To it, more than to anything else, can be traced the Hopwood prizes and the outstanding development of present advanced courses in writing at the University of Michigan.

The Avery Hopwood award in rhetoric, established by the Avery Hopwood bequest in 1928, through which excellence in writing is rewarded at Michigan with unusual munificence (see Part III: Hopwood Prizes), had faint foreshadowings in the Field poetry prize and the medal awards in rhetoric. The Field prize was established on 1908-9. In the minutes of the Regents' April meeting in 1908 is a copy of a letter to Fred N. Scott containing the offer of the award (R.P., 1906-10, p. 246). The letter reads:

Professor F. N. Scott:

Dear Sir — I will offer a prize of $100 cash for the best poem submitted by any student in the Literary Department of the University of Michigan. This poem is to be written and submitted to the committee of award on or before May 1, 1909, said committee to consist of the Professor and Assistant Professors of Rhetoric in the University. The terms and conditions of the awarding prize are to be prescribed by the committee, who will make a formal announcement of the same.

Very truly yours,

Nelson C. Field, U. of M., '90.

This prize was continued to 1916-17. It was a cash award of $100, given to the undergraduate writing the best poem of the year. Two outstanding winners were Edgar Ansell Mowrer and Martin Feinstein.

The rhetoric medals were established in 1925 and were given each year to 1930. The statement in the Announcement of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts of 1925-26 (p. 314) explains the purpose and conditions of the awards:

In recognition of exceptional proficiency in Rhetoric, two gold medals will be awarded each year. The first will be awarded to the student about to be graduated who has maintained the best scholarship record in Rhetoric during his university residence, his elections to have covered not less than six courses in the department. The second will be awarded to the first year student who has done the most consistently acceptable work in freshman Rhetoric. The winners of the medals will be chosen, by a faculty committee, from candidates recommended by instructors in the department of Rhetoric.

It is a long way from the Field prize Page  564and the rhetoric medals to the lavish Avery Hopwood prizes, but in these modest beginnings, the principle of recognizing proficiency in rhetoric was established; it is quite possible that they gave Mr. Hopwood the idea for his great gift.

The relation of the Department of Rhetoric to the development of journalism in the University merits notice. In the University Calendar for 1890-91 (p. 54) there appeared under "English" a course described as "Rapid Writing. Two-fifths Course. Hours arranged with instructor. Assistant Professor Scott." It is said that this was the first college course in journalism in America. The work of the course seems not to have been the ordinary news reporting and editing, but rather a study of current news stories to the end of writing editorials on subjects of prominent public interest. By 1893-94 this course (numbered 18) appears to have been rechristened Advanced Composition and to have been designated "for those who are already proficient in writing, but who feel the need of practice and criticism" (Cal., p. 64). It was open only by permission and the number was limited to six! After the Department of Rhetoric was formed in 1903, the announcement carried boldly, as Course 13, "Newspaper Writing: Theory and Practice" — evidently the old course Rapid Writing under a new name. This was the beginning of journalism as an avowed subject of study at Michigan.

It is instructive to find in the minutes of the Regents for September, 1903, that Willis J. Abbot, editor of Pilgrim, later, of the Christian Science Monitor, had offered to give lectures in journalism without expense to either students or the University; upon the recommendation of Professor Scott, the Regents accepted this proposal (R.P., 1901-6, p. 235). Further evidence of the practical nature of the course called Newspaper Writing, suggested by this immediate linking with the active field of editing and publishing, is to be found in the description of the work by an old student. According to this student,* each member of the class, using the newspapers as a text, gathered over a considerable period, news stories on any given topic of live interest, such as "Government Control of Monopolies," and wrote editorials on the subject. Another extract from the Proceedings of the Regents for October, 1905, shows the extent to which the practical and laboratory method of instruction was carried out in this class: Professor Scott presented to the Board the information that the Chicago Record-Herald had given him all the newspaper material for the issue of October 1, 1905; and he asked for and was granted $15 for mounting this material (R.P., 1901-6, pp. 633-34).

The work in journalism expanded, most of the courses still taught by Professor Scott, until in 1914-15 Lyman Bryson began to take over some of the work. Later, from 1918, John A. Mosenfelder and, after him, John Brumm and Wesley Maurer, assumed the burden of the teaching of journalism up to the establishment of a separate Department of Journalism, with Professor Brumm as its head, in 1929 (see Part IV: Department of Journalism).

Old West Hall, on the State Street side of the present Betsy Barbour House site, was long a landmark on the campus.* It had been erected as one of the early ward schools of Ann Arbor, but Page  565when that school was moved in 1902 to its new location on Packard Street, the ancient structure was purchased by the University as a temporary makeshift and was sketchily renovated for classroom use. Here, in 1903, Professor Scott and the new Department of Rhetoric took up quarters. The building was later repeatedly condemned, but was not abandoned for over twenty years. It was a byword for inconvenience. It had no private offices and sometimes as many as four instructors would be holding conferences in the same room at the same time. It was so crowded that a passageway less than ten feet wide was used as a classroom, and another of the same sort as office and library. The basement was filled with tons of old themes gathering dust and cobwebs and constituting a fire hazard. President Burton once took a committee through it, exhibiting it as a horrible example of the desperate needs of the University.

In August, 1922, the Regents ordered it removed. In the Regents' minutes one finds this item:

On motion of Regent Murfin, the Board adopted the following resolution: —

Resolved, That it is with regret that the Regents find themselves prevented, by the pressure for class-room space, from removing West Hall for the present year; and be it further

Resolved, That not later than the close of the University year 1922-23, West Hall shall be removed in accordance with the agreement made with Mr. Barbour, the donor of the Betsy Barbour House.

(R.P., 1920-23, p. 606.)
Removal was delayed, however, until in May, 1923, the Regents finally voted that the building should be razed. But the actual demolition did not take place until 1924.

Probably no student who ever passed the dingy portals of this crazy old building and toiled up its creaking stairways — and in the two decades of its use, thousands of freshmen and upperclassmen entered there — ever forgot West Hall. To some it was but a nightmare of required themes, but to many, especially among the advanced students of rhetoric, it was a place of light and inspiration. For here were situated the rhetoric library, presided over for years by the efficient Clara Belle Dunn, and the seminary room of Professor Scott. Scott's room was unique. It contained more than a thousand books, among them his valuable private collection in rhetoric and criticism. The walls were plastered with pictures, some of them copies of masterpieces, some of an unusual, grotesque sort. Many were prints from foreign magazines, Jugend, for example; and there were photographs of gargoyles and caricatures of great literary figures. Completing the scene were the round table, about which seminary students sat, and Scott himself, remembered by many as a sort of fixture in the room, comfortably ensconced between the table and his desk, which was always piled high with papers, lecture notes, and books.

It seems not inappropriate to put down here some words about this room written by an old student many years after she had enjoyed its unique privileges:

I have many memories of that room and of those classes, memories which meet oddly in a small seminar that gathered there at four o'clock in the afternoon and stayed until six or any later hour, while the shadows slowly obscured the rows of books, the pictures softened into the walls with dusk, and the wind swayed the branches outside the windows in an ancient detachment from earth-walking things. There was talk of everything conceivable that had to do with beauty and truth, art and humanity. And to at least one student the dusk, the books, the pictures, and the voice of the preceptor were like the song of the wind in the branches, sweeping over all the things of earth.

(Mahin, p. 2.)

Page  566Across the hall from Scott's room was the rhetoric library. The origin of this library is recorded in the Proceedings for April, 1903 (p. 169). The item reads:

Regent Dean presented and read the following communication from Professor Scott, and on motion the President was requested to return to the Macmillan Company of New York the thanks of the Board for their gift to the Library of the University.

To the Honorable Board of Regents:

I have pleasure in announcing that I have just received from the Macmillan Company, publishers, of New York City, a collection of 330 volumes intended as the nucleus of a department library of Rhetoric. The books are given without condition, but with the understanding that they will be placed in the Rhetorical Seminary Room in West Hall (Room 6). The collection consists of standard works in rhetoric, literature and psychology, and is valued at $260.

I respectfully suggest that your honorable body make a suitable acknowledgment of the gift.


F. N. Scott

By the time old West Hall was condemned and abandoned in 1923 this library contained a total of a thousand volumes. It was then transferred to the first floor of Angell Hall, where it continued to grow through gifts and special funds until, during the present administration, the Department of Rhetoric and the Department of English were merged. The manner in which a considerable portion of the funds for this library was provided is indicative of the unselfish devotion of various members of the rhetoric staff. Many of the books belonged to Professor Scott or were given to the department by him. In addition the department had a tradition of turning the royalties of certain publications — chiefly compilations by the staff or by members of the staff for classroom use — into a fund for the departmental library. Books that helped in this way included: Materials for the Study of Rhetoric and Composition, edited by Thomas E. Rankin and John L. Brumm; Adventures in Essay Reading, edited by Thomas E. Rankin, G. S. Lasher, and Amos R. Morris; and The Way of Composition, edited by T. E. Rankin, A. R. Morris, Carlton F. Wells, and Oakley Johnson. The most successful of these, Adventures in Essay Reading, alone sold more than 24,000 copies, and, according to a recent statement by the publishers, yielded a total of $4,016.74. A most valuable gift came from Fred N. Scott himself, who upon retiring in 1927 gave to the University his splendid rhetoric collection of many hundreds of volumes.

The roster of men who taught in the Department of Rhetoric during the twenty-six years of its existence is long. Heading the list, from the point of view of length and importance of service, are Thomas Ernest Rankin ('98, A.M. '05), John Lewis Brumm ('04, A.M. '06), and Roy William Cowden ('08, A.M. Harvard '09). Rankin's name first appeared in the records in 1905-6, when, though he was named as Instructor in Rhetoric, all his teaching was done in the Department of Law. In June, 1907, he went over to the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts and in 1916 was promoted to a full professorship. During the period of his service, he contributed much to the department as both teacher and administrator. He was for many years in charge of the elementary courses in composition, and he later gradually assumed most of the administrative duties of the department. At the time of his resignation in 1928 he was teaching Versification, Drama, and Literary Types and Forms. Other courses which he had developed, by this time discontinued or being taught by others, were Argumentation, Short Story Writing, and Studies in American Style.

Page  567John Brumm came to the department as Instructor in 1905, after a period as student assistant in English in the Department of Engineering, and taught various writing courses up to the time of the separation of the teaching of journalism from that of rhetoric in 1929. He was made a full professor in 1923. During this period he developed, or helped to develop, the courses Advanced Composition and Rhetoric, Argumentation, English Prose, Written Criticism, and Journalism. In 1928-29, the last year of the rhetoric-journalism combination, he was in charge of courses designated as Feature Writing, Editorial Writing, Critical Writing and Reviewing, Advertisement Writing, and Newspaper Policy and Management.

Roy W. Cowden began teaching in the Department of Rhetoric in 1909 and has held a full professorship since 1935. He developed, or had a share in developing, such courses as the Mechanics of the English Sentence, Modern English Prose, Diction and Usage (in its later form), and Junior Composition. This last course, tending largely to creative writing, was long a principal feeder for Scott's Seminary in Advanced Composition. Professor Cowden was later made chairman of freshman composition; he served in the period of Professor Jack's chairmanship on the executive committee of the department; and he was, in general, prominent in shaping affairs relating to composition. His great enthusiasm for, and his success in, teaching creative writing led to his appointment, after the Rhetoric and English Departments had merged, as Director of the Hopwood Awards.

Of the many others who deserve special notice in this article there is space for brief mention of only a few. Herbert Samuel Mallory (Western Reserve '99, Ph.D. Yale '04), who came to the department as an instructor in 1908 and served it most faithfully until 1927,* will long be remembered for his stimulating teaching and his radiant cultural influence. His Short Story Writing was one of the most successful courses offered in the department. Lyman Bryson ('10, A.M. '15), who began his work in the department as Instructor in 1913 and resigned in 1917 to accept a government position, left his mark as a capable teacher of composition and journalism. Marion Clyde Wier (St. John's '92, Ph.D. Michigan '18), Instructor in 1910-11 and Assistant Professor in 1921, was regarded as one of the most successful teachers of creative writing the University of Michigan has ever had, and he is still mentioned by his colleagues and former students for his erudition and for his enthusiasm for poetry.

Men still on the campus who taught in the Department of Rhetoric ten years or more are: Edward Simpson Everett ('14, Ph.D. '21), who came in 1914 as an instructor and was promoted to an assistant professorship in 1925, a teacher of the dependable type upon whom students and colleagues learn to rely; Frederick William Peterson (Lake Forest '11, A.M. Michigan '16), Instructor in 1918 and Assistant Professor since 1925, whose mastery of language and lively interest in his students have made him a favorite professor on the campus; Erich Albert Walter ('19, A.M. '21), Instructor in Rhetoric in 1919 and now Associate Professor of English and Assistant Dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, whose courses in the essay gave preparation for his notable Essay Annual and whose distinctive work in creative writing was recognized by his appointment to the chairmanship of freshman composition and to membership on the Hopwood committee; and Page  568Philip Louis Schenk ('02, A.M. '04, B.D. Union '07), a gentleman of the cloth turned teacher, known for his sound courses in report writing and for his friendly interest in students.

Space forbids the mention of the scores of other men who served in the department for a longer or a shorter term in the twenty-six years of its existence. It would seem inappropriate, however, not to include the names of Amos Reno Morris (Ohio State '07, Ph.D. Yale '04), who came to Michigan in 1921 and who maintains one of the traditions of the old department in his course known as Rhetorical Analysis, and of Carlton Frank Wells ('20, A.M. '22), who also dates his teaching experience in rhetoric from 1921 and whose proficiency in the classroom has been recognized by his appointment to the chairmanship of freshman composition, a position which he still holds.

Scott retired from active duties, on account of ill health, in the middle of the year 1926-27, and Rankin, who as chairman of an executive committee had been for some two years the active administrator, took over the affairs of the department. On August 29, 1927, Peter Monro Jack (A.M. Aberdeen '20), from Cambridge University, was appointed chairman for a period of three years, to succeed Professor Scott. Professor Jack continued as chairman, acting with an executive committee, the other members of which were Professors Cowden and Thorpe, until the Departments of Rhetoric and English were united.

In the Announcement for 1929-30 rhetoric was listed for the last time as a separate department. Instructors were given as follows (p. 281):

Professors Jack and Thorpe; Associate Professor Cowden; Assistant Professors Everett, Walter, Peterson, Morris, N. E. Nelson, Schenk, Abbot, Binkley, and Rowe; Mr. Wells, Mr. Baker, Mr. Donnelly, Mr. Bader, Mr. Proctor, Mr. Stevens, Mr. Bebout, Mr. Butchart, Mr. Hornberger, Mr. Helm, Mr. Hoag, Mr. Ott, and Mr. Boothe.

The course offerings were large and varied. There were listed thirty-eight sections of Rhetoric 1 and 2, nineteen sections of Rhetoric 31, and twenty-three sections of Rhetoric 32. In addition there appeared thirty-six different advanced courses. Among these were most of the old stand-bys of the department, such as Rhetorical Analysis (Morris), Interpretations of Art and Literature and Special Problems in Rhetoric and Criticism (Jack), Diction and Usage (Cowden), and the Drama (Rowe). In addition, there were newer offerings under such heads as Intimate Types of Writing, Biographical Writing, Studies of the Creative Process, Studies in Criticism from the Pléiade to the Lyrical Ballads, and Medieval and Renaissance Rhetoric and Poetic. A glance at the total list gives the impression of a rather overloaded program.

Looking towards a closer co-operation among the related units, the Regents established early in 1928 a Division of English, composed of the Departments of English, Rhetoric, and Speech. The resolution was as follows:

  • 1. That a Division of English be established composed of the Departments of English, Rhetoric, and Speech.
  • 2. That there shall be a divisional committee of nine to be appointed by the Dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and an executive committee to be composed of the chairmen of the three departments.
  • 3. That these committees shall consider, advise, and recommend to the departments or to the administration in regard to all matters of common interest to the three constituent departments. It is to be understood that the functions of these committees will be those of review in the interests of proper co-ordination and co-operation of the departments concerned.

(R.P., 1926-29, p. 444.)

Page  569The arrangement thus provided for proved, however, to be but a temporary expedient. The natural interrelation of the work in English and that in rhetoric made a union of the two departments a logical necessity. It was apparent that such a union would serve the interests of both economy and efficiency. Indeed, it had been generally believed that when Professor Scott, who had brought the department into being, retired, rhetoric would be reunited with English. Accordingly, there was little occasion for surprise when the Regents voted, on January 10, 1930, to "reorganize the Department of English and the Department of Rhetoric into a single department to be known as the Department of English Language and Literature" (R.P. 1929-32, p. 156). The details of the plan were to be worked out by a committee composed of the dean and two members of each department. Professors Strauss and Campbell, for the Department of English, and Professors Cowden and Thorpe, for the Department of Rhetoric, were chosen to act with Dean Effinger on this committee. It was agreed as a preliminary basis for action that whatever plan was adopted, the unique values that had been developed in each department should be maintained and safeguarded for the future. After several meetings the details for reorganization were completed, and rhetoric became a part of the new Department of English Language and Literature.