The Making of “English” in the 19th-Century Britain

The Making of “English” in the 19th-Century Britain: from Adam Smith to Henry Newbolt

This essay is a brief institutional history of “" English" that established itseIf as a proper academic subject in 19th-century Britain. English Studies originated from a special lecture series of Edinburgh University by Adam Smith in 1748, the main audience of which were the children of the Scottish middle class, who wanted to become lawyers in England. English Studies in Britain was from its very beginning and continued to be throughout the Victorian period motivated by an educational initiative of the English bourgeoisie who wanted to raise their children as capable participants of the British capitalist economy with decent cultural refinement. The study of English literatures was a poor substitute for the Classics when it was first established as an academic subject at University College London in 1828. With the rise of the bourgeoisie as the dominant class of Victorian society, however, the study of English language and literature became thε very core of “English subjects" which were recommended not just to the middle class but all the British people. With strenuous campaigns of nationalistic literary intellectuals, particularly under the guidance of the English Association, “English" was elevated as the embodiment of “Englishness," the essence of the cultural identity of thε British people. This implies for us Korean scholars of English Studies that we need to be more historically (and culturally) self-conscious in defining thε English Studies here in Korea, with clear awarenεss that the forms and contents of "English" have always been specific to a particular historical conditions of British society.

In/Out 22(2007):10-35  


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