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!