Prufrock's Page

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Form Over Content

Stanley Fish, dean emeritus at the University of Illinois, has this thought-provoking article in the New York Times where he asserts that writing students ought to master the rudiments of grammar and construction before attempting to put their opinions down on paper:

"You can imagine the reaction of students who think that 'syntax' is something cigarette smokers pay, guess that 'lexicon' is the name of a rebel tribe inhabiting a galaxy far away, and haven't the slightest idea of what words like 'tense,' 'manner' and 'mood' mean. They think I'm crazy. Yet 14 weeks later - and this happens every time - each group has produced a language of incredible sophistication and precision."

By the end of the semester, one of his students is emboldened enough to ask: "Is it all right if we use the same root form for adjectives and adverbs, but distinguish between them by their order in the sentence?"



Post a Comment

<< Home