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The Teaching ArchiveA New History for Literary Study$
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Rachel Sagner Buurma and Laura Heffernan

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780226735948

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226736273.001.0001

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Caroline Spurgeon, The Art of Reading (1913)

Caroline Spurgeon, The Art of Reading (1913)

(p.25) Chapter 1 Caroline Spurgeon, The Art of Reading (1913)
The Teaching Archive

Rachel Sagner Buurma

Laura Heffernan

University of Chicago Press

Caroline Spurgeon devised her 1913 Art of Reading course at Bedford College for Women to guide beginning students through the process of academic research. She began by teaching them how to pull a volume off a library shelf and ended by modeling the creation of personal indexes with her own letter-press-printed notes on John Ruskin’s Unto This Last. For Spurgeon, this seemingly informational work of indexing enacted John Henry Newman’s ideal of liberal education as the “extension” of knowledge. Indexes demystified literature, showing students how a work was made and how to make it differently. Spurgeon and her team spent the 1920s and early 1930s indexing Shakespeare’s corpus in preparation for her major work, Shakespeare’s Imagery and What It Tells Us (1935). Indexing the vehicles of the plays’ metaphors—the stars, jewels, and seas that seem to exist only to lend their properties to lovers’ eyes or enemies’ ambitions—Spurgeon located the plays’ most literary parts in the material existence of Shakespeare’s everyday world. Some critics disparaged Spurgeon’s masterwork as merely informational, but seen in the context of her teaching, the conceptual claims behind her work’s referentiality snap into focus.

Keywords:   Caroline Spurgeon, research, Shakespeare, Bedford College for Women, John Henry Newman, indexes, John Ruskin, extension education, undergraduate research, referentiality

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