Next Tuesday at Goldsmiths I’m going to do  a grammar workshop for the other people on my Art Writing course. We’re on our Christmas holidays now but we want to keep meeting up anyway even if the tutors aren’t there. We’re going to each muster some field of special expertise or interest, one by one, and show it to everyone else. The Tamarin Grammar-In (I didn’t name it) is the first one of these meetings, and I’m not sure how to put it together.

I want to give an idea of the ‘Transformational Grammar’ I studied during my Italian and Linguistics degree, and to contextualise it briefly and broadly within a wider idea of what Linguistics is and how grammar fits into it. The trouble is that I finished that degree in 2004 so I’m really rusty, and even if I were freshly graduated I’d still only have limited undergraduate knowledge of the field. The blind leading the blind.

Nevertheless, the things I’ve learnt about grammar have been very important in my subsequent work, and the knowledge is useful to me even though it’s fragmented and, probably, largely incorrect. Is it reasonable to want teach this knowledge to the rest of the course? Is it bad knowledge? Would it be wasting their time? Of course all knowledge is thin and sneaky and has these unfinished edges, but it’s acknowledged that there’s some point at which some nuggets of knoweldge get the status of being worth teaching. Teaching is something more than telling. Teaching something does two things: it shares certain information, and it frames the information as being worth sharing. When you just tell something, there’s still an assumption that the information is worth sharing, but that assumption isn’t as underlined as it is in a teaching structure.

What if I tell them about grammar, without teaching it. I think it would end up being anecdotal. It would end up being about me knowing about grammar. The information would be waved in front of them without allowing them to have it for themselves. No. I want to teach it: to make it so they can have the understanding too, and I want them to have the understanding of this grammar because of how much I enjoy having the understanding of it myself, and because a few times some of them have asked me to say more about it. Well, better a live sparrow than a stuffed eagle. The only thing to do is show what I know. I can’t try to resurrect things that weren’t in my head in the first place. More later on this.

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