Recommendations for readings on grammar (particularly Smitherman)

I'm putting together a course pack of readings for a class I'm teaching in the fall called Functional Grammar. On deck are Rhetorical Grammar by Martha Kolln (though that's the textbook), "Authority and American Usage" by David Foster Wallace, and "The Principles of Newspeak" and "Politics and the English Language by Orwell. I'll also assign Silva Rhetoricae and Grammar Girl podcasts. I also want to assign at least one essay by Geneva Smitherman, but I don't know what would be a good one for an undergraduate course. Any recommendations?


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Grammar Girl

In my editing course, the weekly quiz has a question from Grammar Girl's most recent podcast! I love her. FYI, I use Carolyn Rude's Technical Editing, and I love it.

Have you thought of Hartwell's "Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar"?

How about selections from Joseph Williams' Style,? I think our most productive discussions in editing have been about the differences between grammar and style.

It's pathetic how little

It's pathetic how little fresh scholarship there is on the teaching of sentence-internal issues. Your course sounds great. You might want to take a look at Smitherman, Geneva. "Language and Democracy in the USA and the RSA." Language Ideologies: Critical Perspectives on the Official English Movement. Vol. 2. Ed. Roseann Duenas Gonzalez. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2001. 316-345.

Hartwell and Kolln

I second the Hartwell article, although I don't know enough about the goals of the course to know if it would be appropriate for these students. If nothing else, I think it would be fascinating to teach works from both Hartwell and Kolln in the same class. Hartwell has some harsh words for Kolln in his paper, and Kolln has a strong reply to him (see College English, Vol. 47, No. 8. [Dec., 1985], pp. 874-877).


Oh, and about "Politics and the English Language." It's a classic. My college advanced composition professor loved it. But I think it's grossly overrated.

When teaching first-year composition, I often start the semester with an essay that was deliberately written badly. I know the bad writing was deliberate, because I wrote it. Among other things, I attempt to argue that teen addictions are getting worse--but nowhere in the essay do I say how bad they used to be, only how bad they are now. The average eighteen-year-old college freshman can readily identify the problem here.

But generations of English professors have somehow overlooked the obvious point that Orwell casually refers to the decline of language, without showing that language was ever very good. If this casual reference were an irrelevant part of his argument, I could let it pass. But it's not. He argues that "the process is reversible," then attempts to tell us how. Aside from one passage from Ecclesiastes, which is hardly representative of writing from any age, he gives us no reason to believe we were ever any better off than we are now. If we are to reverse the process, then where, exactly, should we reverse it to?

He does offer a few good tips, but I don't know if it's worth reading the whole essay just for that.

Thanks for these recs

I'm not sure about Hartwell's article, but I'll think more about it. Have you used it in an undergraduate course before, Nels?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.