English, Department of


Date of this Version



PMLA 81:2 (May 1966), pp. 18-23


Published by the Modern Language Association. Used by permission.


My thesis is that our scholarship is the poorer for not being developed, half consciously, for a public civic reason and to serve a somewhat public civic end. The MLA's proper first concern may, as some of its memoranda have indicated, be with scholarship and its second with pedagogy; but I cannot believe this. The two cannot for a moment be separated. Could they for Socrates or Erasmus or Milton or Wittgenstein? Are not the logical structure of a discipline—the way it fits together for us—and its pedagogy, as Piaget and common sense tell us, one? And if we have not taught the world to teach our books well, may not that be because we do not fully know them—because we have done only part of the research on which we so pride ourselves? The reordering of the curriculum in English which is going ahead now will, fortunately, not ask us to play Maecenas; the Office of Education and the large private foundations will, in their roughhouse way, do that. But we may be asked to be the younger Scipios and Chaucers, or, to put it more modestly—to be those who see, in common profit terms, the phenomena of our speaking together.