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A new book spotlights the groundbreaking work of longtime Lafayette faculty member Francis Andrew March, the world’s first professor of English.

Francis A. March: Selected Writings of the First Professor of English, published by Lafayette for the Friends of Skillman Library, is edited by Paul Schlueter and June Schlueter. Paul Schlueter has published widely on modern literature and other subjects. June Schlueter, Lafayette’s provost and Charles A. Dana Professor of English, is a specialist in Renaissance and modern drama.

As a member of the Lafayette faculty from 1855 to 1906, March pioneered the study of literary works in the English language. Adapting methods used in the teaching of Greek and Latin, he instituted a program in English at Lafayette decades before the subject was widely established in colleges throughout the nation.

“Though it is common for one academic generation’s leaders to be eclipsed by succeeding generations, some groundbreaking researchers have been so instrumental in advancing the profession that it is imperative they be remembered. Francis Andrew March (1825-1911), distinguished American philologist, lexicographer, educator, and professor of English at Lafayette College, is such a figure,” the Schlueters write in the book’s introduction.

March joined the faculty as a tutor in 1855. When the College appointed him Professor of the English Language and Lecturer in Comparative Philology two years later, Lafayette became the first college to establish formally a chair for the study of the English language and literature.

“March in his day was preeminent among both American academicians and scholars of language. . . . There is no dispute about the major role this distinguished figure played in the establishment of English as an independent discipline,” write the Schlueters.

“[March] was the first to teach a required Shakespeare course [and] first to teach Milton as well as a number of other English and American authors, including then-contemporary writers, at the college level. He was the first to study and write about the history of English from a historical perspective, thus establishing the ground from which most subsequent historical linguistic research sprang, [and] among the first to embark on then-uncharted linguistic frontiers such as spelling reform and phonetic spelling. [And he] formulated concepts about the teaching of English in college and about the role of liberal arts colleges that still resonate with relevance and original insights,” the editors write.

The volume includes essays by March on philology, lexicography, orthography, literature, education and philosophy, and the Civil War.

The Schlueters have collaborated on three previously edited works, The English Novel: Twentieth Century Criticism, vol. 2: Twentieth Century Authors (1982), Modern American Literature (Supplement 2) (1983), and An Encyclopedia of British Women Writers (1988, 1999).

Paul Schlueter’s books include The Novels of Doris Lessing (1973) and Shirley Ann Grau (1981), and his edited works include A Small Personal Voice: Essays, Reviews, Interviews by Doris Lessing (1974). He has published many essays on modern literature in scholarly journals and collections, as well as in such reference works as the Encyclopaedia Brittanica and various volumes in the Dictionary of Literary Biography series. He has also published extensively as a reviewer of books, film, drama, and classical music. Schlueter taught college English for many years before turning to research and writing. He holds a Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University.

June Schlueter, a member of the Lafayette faculty since 1977, holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Her books include Metafictional Characters in Modern Drama (1979), The Plays and Novels of Peter Handke (1981), Arthur Miller (with James K. Flanagan) (1987), Reading Shakespeare in Performance: King Lear (with James P. Lusardi ’55) (1991), and Dramatic Closure: Reading the End (1995). Her edited works include Feminist Rereadings of Modern American Drama (1989), Modern American Drama: The Female Canon (1990), and Approaches to Teaching Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (with Enoch Brater) (1991). She has published many essays and reviews on a range of early modern literature and culture and on modern drama.

Francis A. March: Selected Writings of the First Professor of English will be available through the Lafayette College Store, (610) 330-5513.

The Schlueters will speak about March’s status as a giant in 19th-century higher education and as the man responsible for positioning Lafayette’s English department among the most prestigious colleges and universities of his day on Friday, June 3, during Alumni Reunion.

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