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NOTE: To change the image on this slide, select the picture and delete it. Then click the Pictures icon in the placeholder to insert your own image. TEACHING GRAMMAR IN LITERATURE AND COMPOSITION CLASSES: ADDING MEANING, NOT STRESS Heather Harris, Assistant Professor, English Greg Campbell, Instructor, English The Community College of Baltimore County
Why Grammar Instruction? Our students need it If not now, when? Our students want it (seriously) Ease of grading after instruction
Incorporating Grammar Lessons Do not devote entire classes to it Admit that grammar is not easy, but it can be easier… Admit that we will not always know all the answers, and agree to do your own homework
Incorporating Grammar Lessons Start by giving them a “cheat sheet” or some place to get started ahead of time Open an anonymous online forum for questions so as to avoid “feeling stupid”
Incorporating Grammar Lessons Let the lessons arise naturally or follow your own “natural progression” Remember, if you stress about it, they will stress about it!
Incorporating Grammar Lessons Focus on the fun stuff Make it a starting point Ask the students to find these A grammar assignment they will actually want to do!
The Fun Stuff “Well done steak” vs. “Well done, steak” “Let’s eat, grandpa” vs. “Let’s eat grandpa” There are many of these, and they show the very real nature of the function of grammar
The Fun Stuff The room they had had had had a very bad draft. Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. vs. Furiously sleep ideas green colorless. (Noam Chomsky)
The Fun Stuff Jennifer Hudson and Boost Mobile gave us this gem: Where you at? (Where’s your verb?) What’s wrong with this movie title? Two Weeks Notice (Weeks’)
Building Confidence `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe "Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!"
Grammar & Syntax as Your Allies Good writing is structured in a way that reinforces the content, so the reader understands the writer’s intentions on more than one level.
Grammar & Syntax as Your Allies INTERPLAY: What is the effect of the way grammar and syntax is used in the following excerpts? How does it reinforce the ideas and themes of the piece? Note: Comma rules are often in flux and/or outright ignored. Why?
Examples from Literature Henry James 19th Century Realism: Henry James had the utmost respect for the traditional rules of English grammar, but here James writes a single sentence with a total of 29 (correctly used) punctuation marks. Our students will legitimately ask “Why?” Why not break the sentence down, make it simpler? What is the effect of this construction?
Examples from Literature The Wings of the Dove (1902): With which he had it again all from her—and this time, as it seemed to him, more than all: the dishonour her father had brought them, his folly and cruelty and wickedness; the wounded state of her mother, abandoned, despoiled and helpless, yet, for the management of such a home as remained to them, dreadfully unreasonable too; the extinction of her two young brothers—one, at nineteen, the eldest of the house, by typhoid fever, contracted at a poisonous little place, as they had afterwards found out, that they had taken for a summer; the other, the flower of the flock, a middy on the Britannia, dreadfully drowned, and not even by an accident at sea, but by cramp, unrescued, while bathing, too late in the autumn, in a wretched little river during a holiday visit to the home of a shipmate.
Examples from Literature James Joyce Early 20th Century Experimental: Joyce’s Ulysses is often considered the greatest novel of the last century-- and one of the most difficult to read. In this excerpt, Joyce shows a total disregard for all things punctuation in the final chapter. Before we can call this experiment a success or a failure, we need to try to understand what he was attempting. Why did Joyce write this way? What is the effect?
Examples from Literature Ulysses (1922): they’re all so different Boylan talking about the shape of my foot he noticed at once even before he was introduced when I was in the D B C with Poldy laughing and trying to listen I was waggling my foot we both ordered 2 teas and plain bread and butter I saw him looking with his two old maids of sisters when I stood up and asked the girl where it was what do I care with it dropping out of me and that black closed breeches he made me buy takes you half an hour to let them down wetting all myself always with some brandnew fad every other week such a long one I did I forgot my suede gloves on the seat behind that I never
Examples from Literature Virginia Woolf Early 20th Century Experimental: Though they both conducted experiments with grammar and syntax, Woolf and Joyce have significant differences. How does it make the reader feel to read this sentence aloud and silently to him/herself? Why did Woolf write this sentence on the first page of the novel?
Examples from Literature To the Lighthouse (1927) p. 1: Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let future prospects, with their joys and sorrow, cloud what is actually at hand, since to such people even in earliest childhood any turn in the wheel of sensation has the power to crystallize and transfix the moment upon which its gloom or radiance rests, James Ramsay, sitting on the floor cutting out pictures from the illustrated catalogue of the Army and Navy Store, endowed the picture of the refrigerator, as his mother spoke, with heavenly bliss. It was fringed with joy.
Examples from Literature Ernest Hemingway The Classic Masculine Construction: The War is on. What is the effect of a shorter sentence? How does the construction belie the content? Why set up the contrast? Despite the terse constructions, Hemingway actually writes a few run-on sentences below. Why?
Examples from Literature For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) p 197: No, he thought, I am lonely. But so are all the soldiers and the wives of all the soldiers and all those who have lost families or parents. I have no wife, but I am glad that she died before the movement. She would not have understood it. I have no children and I never will have any children. I am lonely in the day when I am not working but when the dark comes it is a time of great loneliness. But one thing I have that no man nor any God can take from me and that is that I have worked well for the Republic. I have worked hard for the good that we will all share later. I have worked my best from the first of the movement and I have done nothing that I am ashamed of.
Examples from Literature Joan Didion Mid/Late Century Modern: Didion drops a few commas in this sentence, but she observes most of the rules of classic English syntax and grammar. Why compose this long sentence? How does it compare to Woolf’s, particularly in the way it handles emotion?
Examples from Literature Goodbye to All That (1967) p. 1: When I first saw New York I was twenty, and it was summertime, and I got off a DC-7 at the old Idlewild temporary terminal in a new dress which had seemed very smart in Sacramento but seemed less smart already, even in the old Idlewild temporary terminal, and the warm air smelled of mildew and some instinct, programmed by all the movies I had ever seen and all the songs I had ever heard sung and all the stories I had ever read about New York, informed me that it would never be quite the same again.
Examples from Literature J.M. Coetzee Late Century/Millennial Modern Realism: Even as commas go out of vogue, some are using them to great effect. What is their effect in this passage? Why use so many of them in a relatively short sentence?
Examples from Literature Disgrace (1999) p. 1: For a man of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well.
Examples from Literature Cormac McCarthy Late Century/Millennial Gothic/Western/Post- Apocalyptic: McCarthy is notoriously spare in his use of punctuation. He dislikes commas and quotation marks in particular, and he also goes without attributions (he said, she said) in this line of dialogue. Why? What is the effect?
Examples from Literature The Road (2006) p. 10: He was a long time going to sleep. After a while he turned and looked at the man. His face in the small light streaked with black from the rain like some old world thespian. Can I ask you something? he said.
Examples from Literature Okay. I’m going to blow out the lamp. Is that okay? Yes. That’s okay. And then later in the darkness: Can I ask you something? Yes. Of course you can. What would you do if I died? If you died I would want to die too. So you could be with me? Yes. So I could be with you. Okay. Yes. Of course. Are we going to die? Sometime. Not now. And we’re still going south. Yes. So we’ll be warm. Yes. Okay. Okay what? Nothing. Just okay. Go to sleep.
Examples from Student Writing Once students begin to feel comfortable with how grammar works, they benefit from looking at their own writing and the writing of their peers for evidence of the interaction between structure (grammar and syntax) and content. After recording, Ace edits to finalize the song. If these guys get known, their “how I made it” story can’t be about poor “’hood” problems: if you have a portable studio in your trunk, you’re not struggling. (Medina’s paper on hip hop coming out of suburbia)
Examples from Student Writing As I was sitting in the hallway by the waiting area, a little girl came to sit next to me. She asked me who I was and who I was here to see, but I told her no one. I said I was just there to observe the jail because I was typing a paper for my college English class. She said, “You are in school?” I replied “yes,” with a smile on my face. I glanced into her big brown eyes that were filled with curiosity. I never asked her name because I simply did not want to know. It could have touched a soft spot deep down in me because I saw a part of me in her. I could just imagine how she felt if she was there to see her father behind that caged barrier. (China’s paper on daughters with incarcerated fathers)
Examples from Student Writing Revising China’s paragraph for impact and clarity: As I was sitting in the hallway by the waiting area, a little girl came to sit next to me. She asked me who I was and who I was here to see, but I told her no one. I said I was there just to observe the jail for my college English class. She said, “You are in school?” I replied, “Yes.” I glanced into her big brown eyes that were filled with curiosity. I never asked her name; I did not want to know. It could have touched a soft spot deep down in me because I saw a part of myself in her. I could just imagine how she felt if she were there to see her father behind that caged barrier.
Examples from Student Writing Piper is 5’3”, mixed African American and Caucasian with curly brown hair dyed blond at the tips. She has hazel eyes and dimples. Piper was wearing a tan leather jack, dark wash jeans and matching high heel boots. She smelled like something familiar from Bath and Body Works. Piper, whose real name is Sandra, used to work at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club. (Nicollette’s paper on women who work in strip clubs) (Strunk & White: “the proper place for what is to be made most prominent is the end.”)
Thanks for Joining Us! Questions? Comments? Concerns? Feel free to contact us to discuss our strategies or to get a copy of this presentation! Heather Harris: HHarris@ccbcmd.eduHHarris@ccbcmd.edu Greg Campbell: GCampbel2@ccbcmd.eduGCampbel2@ccbcmd.edu