Pedagogical Writing and Social Practice in the Age of American Romanticism

DFG-funded Research Project “Pedagogical Writing and Social Practice in the Age of American Romanticism”
(SP 1366/5-1; Funding 1/2017-12/2019)

Principal Investigator:
Dr. habil Clemens Spahr (JGU Mainz)

This project studies American pedagogical writings in the age of Romanticism. It proceeds from a broader understanding of American Romanticism, which includes the various proto-Romantic pedagogues of the late 18th and early 19th century. Discussing how these educational texts negotiated Romantic ideals in the context of institutionalized and habitualized practices, the project seeks to contribute to the field of the sociology of literature. The genres discussed in the monograph will include spelling dictionaries, programmatic and philosophical writings, and illustrated school records. These writings emerge in the context of particular educational experiments. These include Susanna Rowson’s academies for women, Margaret Fuller’s and Elizabeth Palmer Peabody’s conversational circles, as well as Amos Bronson Alcott’s Temple School and Lydia Maria Child’s engagement for women’s rights and abolitionism. The writings circulate in an established intellectual field, within which educational norms are negotiated with regard to habitualized norms and practices. At the same time, these writings also aim at a larger political reform project. From Rowson’s spelling dictionary to Alcott’s pedagogical writings to the writings produced in the context of the Brook Farm community, these writings always sketch alternative spaces of education that are supposed to change the field of education in a way that also affects social structures more generally. This connection between positioning in the intellectual field and social reform is most clearly evident in Frederick Douglass’s literacy narratives, which continue this tradition by translating the idea of education into a political claim for freedom. The project will result in a monograph.


Related Publications:
Radical Beauty: American Transcendentalism and the Aesthetic Critique of Modernity. Paderborn: Schöningh, 2011.