At Home in English
This introduction proposes that the discipline of English transgresses the norms of publicness and impersonality that govern other knowledge-producing occupations. English, it contends, has long been defined by its eccentric relationship to conventional schemes for segregating home life from professional, working life and feeling from knowing. Such boundary confusions are especially apparent when one considers how often contemporary media coverage of university English studies proceeds as though it were a given that the state of English professors’ hearts should be a matter of public concern: that the professorate does not love literature enough (or love as much as amateurs do) has long been a recurring complaint, contributing to the legitimacy crisis assailing the discipline at present. Previewing the chapters to come, this introduction traces these intimacy expectations to the late-eighteenth century moment when literature, shaped by the imperatives of a culture of sensibility, first began to take on its modern meaning.
Keywords: discipline, amateurs, professorate, love, work, legitimacy crisis, sensibility