The New Literary Scholarship, the Contextual Point of View, and the Use of Special Collections



The title of Bernard Bergonzi’s recent Exploding ElIglish perfectly captures the author’s ambivalence concerning the changes in the study of English literature during the past twenty years; in one sense the field exploded out of the narrow confines of Eng. Lit. and became more stimulating, but in another it exploded self-destructively, like a grenade. Circa 1960, Bergonzi tells us, English was “a genuine humane discipline, self-respecting, enjoyable, expanding, with methods that were established and familiar.”1 Many special collections librarians can share his evident regret for a world in which “the English synthesis”2 was still whole.

All too suddenly for many . . .

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