Department of English History
The founding of the English Department at Rutgers College coincided with the beginning of a revolutionary era in the development of the discipline itself. Although Rutgers was founded in 1766 (as Queen's College), nearly a century was to pass before the study of English language and literature was to gain recognition and legitimacy in the academic world. Still, despite its gradual beginnings, the formal program of English at Rutgers was one of the first to be established in American universities.
After the resignation of John Forsyth, the first Professor of English Language and Literature, the department foundered. In 1864, the Reverend Theodore Stanford Doolittle was appointed “Professor of Rhetoric, Logic, and Mental Philosophy,” and charged with filling in the curricular gap in English. A small portion of his time went toward literature, but his main academic emphasis was on what would later become the fields of psychology and philosophy.
By 1906, Rutgers was no longer the classical college of yesteryear, but was still perched on the edge of becoming a center for modern education. Throughout the nation, institutions of higher learning were undergoing similar transitions, trying to define their roles for the new century.
Through the first decades of the twentieth century, Rutgers College became Rutgers University. For most of that time, the school was underenrolled and short on funds, and it was only the labors of the President, Trustees, and faculty that allowed it to survive and grow. Rutgers needed to find a formula that worked, and in the process, ended up moving in many directions at once.
Because of the student population boom, the New Brunswick campus found itself overcrowded. To gain extra space, Rutgers University merged with colleges in Newark and Camden, creating new campuses. In spite of the expansions, the University was still congested. However, the returning veterans seemed to set the tone for the University’s academic pace and social circuit through their maturity and enthusiasm. Despite the overcrowding, campus life flourished.
In the 1950s, Rutgers University faced many challenges. The United States was experiencing economic prosperity, but the Communist hysteria of the early part of the decade penetrated into higher education. All sorts of anxieties over new cultural and political ideas seeped into the Rutgers community, reshaping it.