The Glamour of Grammar (Kalamazoo 2010)

full name / name of organization: 
Irina Dumitrescu

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 – and Irina Dumitrescu (idumitrescu – at – by September 15, 2009. Papers will be a maximum of twenty minutes long.

Participant Information Form available at: