Origin Stories and Dreams of Collaboration: Rethinking Histories of the Communication Course and the Relationships Between English and Speech
Abstract: Scholars exploring the history of collaboration between English and Speech have studied the “communication courses” that emerged in the twentieth century and combined instruction in speaking and writing. The history of the Verbal Expression course at the University of Illinois challenges our dominant narratives about the origins of these courses. For example, while most scholars pinpoint their origins to World War Two, our study of the Illinois course shows that it emerged as a result of the Great Depression and the general education movement. We offer a corrective to previous histories by showing how local, institutional structures and pressures often have as much influence on pedagogy and collaboration as do external disciplinary structures. We argue that such correctives are especially valuable at a moment when rhetoricians in English and Speech are becoming more invested in combing the past for ideas about how best to collaborate in the present.