Winifred Bryan Horner argues that an understanding of the changes that occurred in the content of nineteenth-century courses in logic, rhetoric, and belles lettres taught in Scottish universities provides important critical insight into the development of the twentieth-century American composition course, as well as courses in English literature and critical theory.
Because of the inaccessibility of primary materials documenting the changes in courses taught at Scottish universities, the impression remains that the nineteenth century represents a break with the traditional school curriculum rather than a logical transition to a new focus of study. Horner has discovered that the notes of students who attended these classes—meticulously transcribed records of the lectures that professors dictated in lieu of printed texts—provide reliable documentation of the content of courses taught during the period. Using these records, Horner traces the evolution of current traditional composition, developed in the United States in the first part of the twentieth century, from courses taught in nineteenth-century, northern Scottish universities. She locates the beginning of courses in English literature and belletristic composition in the southern schools, particularly Edinburgh.
Horner’s study opens new vistas for the study of the evolution of university curricula, especially the never before acknowledged influence of belletristric rhetoric on the development of the North American composition course.