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The selections in the present volume, designed primarily for the discussion and practice in college classes of the art of composition, have been arranged under a scheme which the editors believe to be new. There are nine related groups. Each successive group represents a different phase of life, beginning with character and personality, and concluding with art and literature. The whole together, as the table of contents will show, thus presents a body of ideas that includes practically all the great departments of human thought and interest.
It is evident that certain ideals of teaching composition underlie the scheme. The editors believe heartily with Pater that “the chief stimulus of good style is to possess a full, rich, complex matter to grapple with”. Instruction in writing, it is to be feared, too often neglects this sound doctrine and places an emphasis upon formal matters that seems disproportionate, especially when form is made to appear as a thing apart. Form and content go together and one must not suffer at the expense of the other. But a sustained interest in the ways and means of correct expression is aroused only when the student feels that he has something to express. Instructors often contend indeed that the ideas of undergraduates are far to seek, and that most of the time in the class-room is therefore best spent upon formal exercises and drill. The editors do not share this view. They believe that there is no class of people more responsive to new ideas and impressions than college students,
and none more eager, when normally stimulated, to express themselves in writing. They have therefore aimed to present a series of related selections that would arouse thought and provoke oral discussion in the class-room, as well as furnish suitable models of style. In most cases the pieces are too long to be adequately handled in one class hour. A live topic may well be discussed for several hours, until its various sides have been examined and students are awakened to the many questions at issue. The editors have aimed, also, to supply selections so rich and vital in content that instructors themselves will feel challenged to add to the class discussion from their own knowledge and experience, and so turn a stream of fresh ideas upon "stock notions". Thus English composition, which in many courses in our larger institutions is now almost the only non-special study, can be made a direct means of liberalization in the meaning and art of life, as well as an instrument for correct and effective writing.
The present volume therefore differs from others in the same field. Many recent collections contain pieces too short and unrelated to satisfy the ideals suggested aboveideals which, the editors feel sure, are held by an increasing number of teachers. And older and newer collections alike have been constructed primarily with the purpose of illustrating the conventional categories,--description, narration, exposition. Teachers of composition everywhere are becoming distrustful of an arrangement which is frankly at variance with the actual practice of writing, and are of the opinion that it is better to set the student to the task of composition without confining him too narrowly to one form of discourse. The editors have deliberately avoided, however, the other extreme, which is reflected in one or two recent volumes, of choosing pieces of one type to the exclusion of all others. In collections of this kind variety in form and subject-matter is fully as important as richness of content. Instructors who believe in the use of the types of discourse as the most practicable means of instruction,
will find all the types liberally represented in the present volume. And in order to meet their requirements even more adequately, the editors have included two short stories at the end, as examples of narration with a plot.
Much attention has been given to the suggestions at the end of the volume with the aim of making them practically serviceable and, at the same time, as free as possible from duplication of class work. This aim, the editors came to believe, could best be attained by providing for each group of selections definite suggestions of theme-subjects to be derived by the student from supplementary readings closely related to that group.
F. W. R.
G. R. E. MADISON, WISCONSIN,