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NDERGRADUATE criticisms perhaps are apt to be

hasty and a little too severe. The facts of any affair or state of affairs are either not presented at all or appear in a one-sided manner to the college. The present conditions of undergraduate literature are perhaps not definitely known, and will bear some explanation.

There are thirteen strictly editorial positions (i. e. exclusive of the Record art editorships) on the three papers, the LIT., the Courant, and the Record, which from the present Junior class are filled by exactly six men, five of whom fill two or more of these positions. This is not the outcome of three strong competitions, from which these men have emerged distinctly above the average undergraduate editor, but it is, on the contrary, the direct result of competitions, in one of which at least it seemed likely that the last place would not be filled at all. Certainly it is evident, then, that one, or all, of the papers must suffer. Such conditions as these have never before existed. They would seem to indicate that interest in undergraduate literature is at its lowest ebb.

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Why is it, and what are we going to do about it? It seems probable that this lack of interest is but a part of the general slump in scholarship which Yale has taken of late years. In the eighties and nineties it was considered, among undergraduates, a high honor to be elected to Phi Beta Kappa or to the LIT. It is no longer so. The men with large personalities, if they write at all, now "heel" the News instead of the LIT. But this is a mistake, for it requires ability of a much higher order to edit a literary magazine than to edit a newspaper, and the intrinsic value of consistent work in a literary line is above the value of consistent reporting for the same or a much longer time. This precedence of the News to the LIT. cannot, of course, be changed in a year, nor in two or three. It can only be brought about by a more general and real interest in undergraduate literature. Someone asks if there are enough men in college who care about amateur literary work to make this change, provided their interest can be aroused. Most decidedly there are. But among many of them exists a certain false modesty. They ridicule the idea that they possess any ability to write at all, and never really having tried, they never know. Or, perhaps if once they do try and their contributions are rejected, as anyone's first contributions might well be, they fail to come for criticism, and give up altogether, even though urged to try again. It is a pitiful spirit. Each year there are contributions thrown into the waste basket which have lain in the LIT. office for months; contributions which often show that their authors might, with reasonably consistent effort, have stood a very fair chance of making the board. And these men would be glad to make the LIT. if they could, they are fond of books, they are not indifferent. Then there is another class of men who are indifferent-to everything. They are neither studious, athletic, nor musical. They take part in nothing. They are throwing away opportunities, perhaps are wasting time. But that is not strictly to the point.

Yale University •40


May 1905]

For Undergraduate Literature.


These men who can write if they will-how shall we persuade them to do so? How shall we convince them that they can write? There is just one way,-a compulsory Rhetoric course, coming in Freshman year. Half of the Sophomore class takes Rhetoric optionally, and finds it very much of a drudge. But it is no harder or more uninteresting than the other requirements of Freshman year. And if it is hard, it is very much more important. I have never quite understood why Latin and Greek should be required subjects for Freshman year and Rhetoric, which in connection with the study of English literature is so important for a full understanding and appreciation of the language, should be made an optional in Sophomore year. But granting that Latin and Greek are absolutely necessary in Freshman year, what is there to prevent one hour of Rhetoric? If all other subjects must have full three hours a week, why then cut down the Freshman English course to two hours.

Furthermore, it is a very noticeable fact that the LIT. competition from any one class is never in full swing until the middle or latter part of Sophomore year. Perhaps one or two men who have some ability or ambition appear in Freshman year, but the majority of the "heelers” do not begin to contribute until the fall or winter of the following year. I doubt very much if this majority would contribute at all if it were not for the impetus given it by the Sophomore—the elementary-Rhetoric course. Again, why cannot this elementary Rhetoric course come in Freshman year? There seems to me to be no better proof of the necessity for it than the number and quality of the contributions to the LIT. from 1905 during the management of the 1905 board. From a total of eight Senior contributors during that year there were no less than twenty-two accepted articles, one-half of the total number of accepted articles from the entire class during the whole two and a half years of its competition. Three of these eight contributors had as many or more accepted articles as the last man to be elected to the board from 1905. Furthermore, sixteen of

these twenty-two articles, that is, eight-elevenths of the whole were accepted during the fall and winter of that college year when the competition from 1906 was closest. Evidently these men were just a year behind in their development. Moreover, they were working for what? Not for editorships, of course, but for Chi Delta Theta. Well, what is Chi Delta Theta? Nothing but a simple acknowledgment of a man's ability to use the King's English and a pen and ink. It is not a social organization in itself, nor does it secure for anyone extra social recognition, for the society awards which the College has to make are distributed almost before the Chi Delta Theta competition begins. These eight men, therefore, and those others, who were not so fortunate as to have articles accepted, wrote because they liked to. How much better would it have been to have had them begin writing a year earlier to have had the elementary Rhetoric course come in Freshman year and the courses in Story and Essay-Writing and in Verse Composition come in Sophomore year? And those other men, who will not,—at least at first will not, write because they like to, who must have some substantial reward held out to them more than membership in Chi Delta Theta, who, if they do take the Rhetoric course in Sophomore year, are apt to think that it is too late to try for the LIT.-these men will start on the same basis, as nearly as possible, with the ambitious individual who begins in his Freshman year without benefit of a Rhetoric course. Certainly the competitions for the LIT. will be larger and much more closely contested,—and the LIT. will be much better.

Perhaps, now that I have said thus much, someone is going to ask whether I expect everyone to turn to and grind for the LIT.. Or someone is going to say "I don't see that the LIT. is any worse than it ever was." No, I do not expect everyone to turn to and grind for the LIT. But I should like to see a little more active interest in the undergraduate literary and quasi-literary publications at Yale. It is all nonsense to say that there is no place for the Courant.

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