"The art of teaching requires the instructor to guide his student to work independently to discover principles for himself, and in time to acquire the power of principles to the manifold situations which may confront him."
James Brander Matthews (1852–1929)
Columbia College 1871, Law 187
Regarded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as America’s leading authority on drama, Brander Matthews believed that performances, rather than texts, provided the key to proper understanding of the art form. An influential critic and writer who became the nation’s first professor of dramatic literature, Matthews established his scholarly bona fides with the 1881 publication of French Dramatists of the Nineteenth Century. Beginning in 1871 he adapted and wrote several plays, two of which—A Gold Mine (1887) and On Probation (1889)—enjoyed success around the country. Over his lengthy career he wrote additional books, numerous reviews, short fiction he called "sketches," and an early (and popular) literature text for high school students. As a member of numerous literary clubs, Matthews advocated for (and in 1893 was publicly feted by) realist writers like William Dean Howells and Mark Twain; he also served as president of the Modern Language Association (1910) and the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1913), and chancellor of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1922-1924). His autobiography, These Many Years, appeared in 1917.