Laura Lisabeth deposited When William Strunk Was A Philologist He Thought of Grammar as a Folder in the group RCWS History and Theory of Composition on MLA Commons 5 years ago
In this paper, I show how, as a philologist, William Strunk’s approach to language was a rich historical and rhetorical experience far from the prescriptivism E.B. White ascribes to him in the first edition of The Elements of Style (1959). An interesting historical parallel exists between Strunk’s tenure as a PhD student in philology at Cornell and Gertrude Stein’s undergraduate years at Harvard during which these two influential figures of American language culture encountered the static epistemology of current-traditional rhetoric. In her own writing handbook, How To Write, Stein describes her idea of “inventional” grammar (Sharon J. Kirsch): “Think closely of how grammar is a folder” (Stein 110) This is a way of thinking about language as the site of knowing that is strikingly similar to the philologist’s understanding of language as historicized and conditional. This paper questions what gets authorized and passed along as writing pedagogy and what is left out of how we permit students to think about language.