Berlin, James A. (1942-1994) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
James Berlin was a faculty member in the Department of English at Purdue University from 1987 to 1994. He was a nationally renowned educator and scholar in rhetoric and composition, valued for his leadership in the development of a cultural studies approach to teaching writing. He was also known for his scholarship on the history of rhetoric and composition theory.
Berlin was born in 1942 in Hamtramck, Michigan. He attended St. Florian High School, where he played football and basketball. He entered Central Michigan University on a football scholarship, receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree and graduating summa cum laude in 1964. Berlin began teaching in elementary schools in Flint and Detroit, Michigan. In 1969 he entered graduate school at The University of Michigan, working towards a degree in English. He received his Master of Arts degree from Michigan in 1970, and his Ph.D. in Victorian literature from there in 1975. His doctoral dissertation was on the relation of German Idealism to Tennyson, Browning, and Arnold.
After he received his Ph.D. he accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Composition at Wichita State University (1975 until 1981). While at Wichita State, Berlin served as the first director of the Kansas Writing Project. Berlin later worked as Associate Professor of English at University of Cincinnati (1981-1985), where he was also Director of Freshman English. In 1985 he joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin as a Visiting Associate Professor of English; at the same time he was serving as a visiting professor at Penn State University. Berlin joined the Purdue University faculty as Professor of English in 1987.
Berlin was a member of the National Council of Teachers of English, the Modern Language Association, the Ohio Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts, the College English Association of Ohio, and the Rhetoric Society of America. He published numerous journal articles on rhetoric and teaching composition, and was the author of Writing Instruction in Nineteenth-Century American Colleges (1984) and Rhetoric and Reality: Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1900-1985 (1987). Berlin died suddenly of a heart attack on February 2, 1994. He was survived by his wife, Sandy, and his sons Chris and Dan.