CSULA Department of English | Subtitle

Professor Emeritus Paul Zall, whose early work on Wordsworth's critical opinions remains central to Romantic studies (and whose later work on American historical figures has been equally influential), recalls the difficult circumstances and the amazing scholarly achievements at CSULA from 1950-1980:

They all laughed at Offramp U perched ungainly atop the confluence of Long Beach and San Bernadino Freeways. In the beginning we were Language Arts not English. Our governing agency was the State Board of Education, and our first president the ex-Superintendent of Schools at San Francisco. Our mission was teacher training not scholarship. Otherwise we were Los Angeles State College of APPLIED Arts and Sciences.

 

I came here with a few articles already published in the learned journals--two in PMLA--but recruited to teach technical writing. So was Norman Fruman, later to become our best known scholar/critic. Vilma Potter, later a prolific scholar of African-American writers, was recruited to handle our Freshman English when we abruptly switched to lower-division programs (having been only upper division and MA before).

Despite constraints of heavy teaching loads, a central administration headed by historian John Greenlee and Conrad scholar John Palmer lent moral support to research and publication. Palmer's own book on Conrad proved publication possible even here. So did Chair Charles Beckwith's edition of John Gay's work show how you could do basic research at nearby Huntington Library and still satisfy the accountants from the State Board of Education.

Perhaps the most celebrated was Norman Fruman's groundshaking study of Coleridge's plagiarism. This went into multiple translation worldwide and to this day remains a formidable book for anyone working in Romantic poetry. No less influential was Dick Lillard's Eden in Jeopardy, pioneering work on what man has made of nature's bounty, and his book about autobiography which President Kennedy chose for the White House library.

David Kubal's book on George Orwell sustained the quality of cultural criticism seen most recently in Peter Brier's book about Howard Mumford Jones, which reviewers have praised for restoring common sense to contemporary criticism. Herb Landar's book on language and culture similarly received wide and favorable response, along with offers from such prestigious schools as the University of Indiana.

Even Nina Auerbach, who left for the University of Pennsylvania, now renowned for her work in Victorian and women's studies, got her start here. And the list goes on: Sid Richmond on Malamud; David Laird on Shakespeare and Willa Cather; Saralyn Daly on Katherine Mansfield; Sandy Sandelin on pop fiction; Dan Amneus on Shakespeare; Jack Rathbun on American critics.

My own books have been said to have revised our thinking about Franklin, Wordsworth, Lincoln, Mark Twain, and who knows what others. But I'm sure my former colleagues would concur that our best productions were scholars like Fred Burwick, Eric Birdsall, and Don Wayne along with a host of others who got their jumpstart here at Off-ramp U. We showed 'em all!