by Karl Steel, on behalf of Erik Butler and Irina Dumitrescu
CFP: The Glamour of Grammar (Kalamazoo 2010)
(With apologies for cross-posting)
If conventional, twenty-first-century thinking holds that grammar is a dull set of descriptions and prescriptions consisting only of skeletal schemes of morphology and syntax, it is worth remembering that these structures have crystallized out of a more dynamic mass of language. Grammar is theory—a way of seeing patterns and paradigms that only become visible when one steps back from mundane, everyday exchanges (which for the most part do not extend beyond immediate concerns—and can often be negotiated nonverbally) and seeks to comprehend the rules that permit more complex interactions.
Grammar, then, is not the province of pedants. Instead, it is a generative matrix for projects of inquiry. Just as mathematics and music have structures that provide the basis for more complicated operations (e.g., multiplication tables and scales), what the French call the “human sciences” (sciences humaines) and the Germans the “sciences of the spirit” (Geisteswissenschaften) rely upon grammar—elementary patterns distilled from the best exemplars of linguistic performance, literary or otherwise—to actuate their potential.
This panel takes its inspiration from the learned and stimulating explorations of medieval grammatical culture by scholars such as Martin Irvine, Vivien Law, and Rita Copeland. The session will be open to a variety of approaches: inventive readings of grammatical texts, discussions of medieval literature about grammar, literary analyses that are particularly attuned to questions of grammar, philosophies of grammar, and the relationship of 'grammatica' to literary theory, composition, and pedagogy. We hope for careful, reflective, and playful approaches to "la grammaire, qui sait régenter jusqu'aux rois!"
Please send your abstract and the Participant Information Form to Erik Butler (hbutle2 – at – emory.edu) and Irina Dumitrescu (idumitrescu – at – smu.edu) by September 15, 2009. Papers will be a maximum of twenty minutes long.
Participant Information Form
Thank you, Karl, for posting this. I should probably also mention that this session had Babel-ey beginnings -- it was at Nicola's "Glossing is Glorious" conference that Erik and I realised we share an interest in grammarous literature!
The supposed banality of grammar calls to mind Nietzsche preface, and the remarkable seduction of Grammar:
"Speaking seriously, there are good reasons why all philosophical dogmatizing, however solemn and definitive its airs used to be, may nevertheless have been no more than a noble childishness and tyronism. And perhaps the time is at hand when it will be comprehended again and again how little used to be sufficient to furnish the cornerstone for such sublime and unconditional philosophers' edifices as the dogmatists have built so far: any old popular superstition from time immemorial (like the soul superstition which, in the form of the subject and ego superstition, has not even yet ceased to do mischief); some play on words perhaps, a seduction by grammar, or an audacious generalization of very narrow, very personal, very human, all too human facts."
Something of which Wittgenstein made quite a big deal.
"Seduction by Grammar"... BGE, I love it!
Beautiful session, congratulations, applause, and bows to Organizers! And gorgeous comment. Seduction by grammar. . . I am thinking Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto. . .
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