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The History of the University of OxfordVolume VII: Nineteenth-Century Oxford, Part 2$
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M. G. Brock and M. C. Curthoys

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780199510177

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199510177.001.0001

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(p.397) 16 English
The History of the University of Oxford

D. J. Palmer

Oxford University Press

Although English Literature was first included among the subjects for the pass examination in 1873, and English Language and Literature was introduced in the special examinations for women in 1881, the significant starting point of the development of modern English studies at Oxford University was the establishment of the Merton Professorship of English Language and Literature. Created by statute in 1882, it was the outcome of various representations made to the 1877 Commission, though it did not conform exactly with any of them. Indeed, both the title of the new chair and the duties prescribed for its holder were somewhat unrealistic as well as imprecise, for ‘English Language’ was generally understood to mean the philological study of Old and Middle English, while ‘English Literature’ as an academic subject was widely and loosely conceived as an aesthetic and cultural engagement with great authors, useful as examination fodder for pass candidates and women, entrants to the civil service, and students in the civic universities.

Keywords:   Oxford University, English Literature, English Language, English studies, curriculum, examinations, women, civic universities

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