English Studies in Australia: Repositioning the Subject
The academic institutionalisation of English studies is a relatively recent phenomenon, with Oxford University having inaugurated an Honours School of English Language and Literature in 1893, many centuries after the establishment of Classics, with the greatest years of professional growth in Britain and North America being around the middle years of the twentieth century. Initially, schools of English were constructed to formulate and consolidate a national narrative of cultural identity: as Krishan Kumar has observed, it was towards the end of the nineteenth century, under the influence of racial theory, that Anglo-Saxon literature was invoked as a point of 'origin' for English studies (206). But the subject's exponential expansion after World War II was driven more by confidence (to the point sometimes of smugness) about the status of English as queen among humanities subjects, as Aquinas had once called theology the 'queen of sciences'.
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