Weathers — “Grammars of Style: New Options in Composition”

“[Grammar B] is an altogether different ‘grammar’ of style, an alternate grammar … with characteristics of variegation, synchronicity. Discontinuity, ambiguity, and the like.”

What draws me to this quote from Winston Weathers’ “Grammars of Style: New Options in Composition” is its definitional nature. Although I work not to be essentialist or insist on some sort of purity of language or meaning; like Burke, I see definitions as those difficult “break-throughs” that we ought always to strive for even if they don’t always “click” (“Definition of Man”).

What Grammar B seems to break through is that crustiness and inarticulation I feel myself when I comment on student writing. I know exactly what Weathers is getting at here in terms of opening the door beyond conventional or traditional Grammar A style.

In the past, my comments have been something like: “Sure, you can repeat yourself, but, as a writer, I like to know why I might be repeating myself; what impact do I want to have on the reader?” or “If you are going to break the ‘rules’, make sure you have good reason.”

So when I encounter something like Weathers’ Grammar B, I do a little mental jump for joy because, hey, now I have a way of articulating more clearly what it is I’ve beem trying to tell students about their writing.

Where this definition is “clicking” less for me is in that term “grammar.” If I take that work denotatively, I’m talking about a set of rules for style B. What Weathers offers here, though, is less rule-bound and more descriptive in nature: Grammar B is discontinuous, ambiguous, synchronous, and so on. Weathers then goes on to give examples of how these states are achieved in practice with forms and techniques like the crot, labyrinthine or fragmented sentences, lists, double voices, repetition, synchronicities, and collage or montage.

But are there “rules” that hold Grammar B together? I’m not entirely sure rules are necessary here, and maybe thinking in terms of rules is against the less logic-bound nature of what Grammar B seems to be focused on.

But I do think, in terms of pedagogy and articulation, if the term “grammar” is going to be borrowed to describe a different kind of style,  then there is some opportunity to figure flesh out what kind of rules might be holding Grammar B together. Hard and fast rules? Probably not possible – Grammar A and Grammar B seem like delineations with fuzzy boundaries, so I wouldn’t expect rigid standardization. But it seems to me like heuristic-like list of characteristics Weathers’ presents as constitutive of Grammar B could be explored even further to discover not only what holds them together, but also if there might be a Grammar C, D, E, or maybe even a Grammar Blue.

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