Literary Lives: The Infant’s Grammar by Dr Alan Chedzoy

Character from a Victorian Picture BookIs it possible to teach English grammar in pictures? Some early educators thought so. This illustrated talk takes place on Thursday 14 September 2017 in the Dorset County Museum’s Victorian Hall and will present two nineteenth-century picture books which attempted to inculcate small children with an understanding of the most basic grammatical subject, namely the ‘parts of speech’.

The books introduced their readers to a cast of linguistic ‘characters’ including not only the parts of speech themselves, but also Bobby who hates grammar, and Dr Brown, a sort of resident pedagogue, who swishes his cane at the little dunces in his care.

Though displaying many delightful absurdities, these books exhibit a considerable ingenuity. Yet in doing so, they raise a number of linguistic and even philosophical problems, including issues of children’s conceptual development. How can we define a preposition to them? Should we even attempt to do so?

No previous knowledge of grammar is required from those who attend. Indeed, those who have forgotten the last shreds of their grammatical knowledge may regain at least a modest insight into the most elementary foundations of the subject.

This talk presented by Dr Alan Chedzoy is addressed to a general audience but may be of especial interest to teachers who find themselves obliged by governmental decree to explain English grammar to little ones.

The speaker Alan Chedzoy taught in secondary schools, and for eighteen years in teacher education. A graduate in literature and philosophy, his doctoral thesis related the theory of literature to educational philosophy. His work has been published in such educational journals as: The Use of English and The Oxford Review of Education. His recent years have been chiefly devoted to writing literary biographies, and as a member of the William Barnes Society is an authority on Dorset literature and dialect. His readings of the work of Thomas Hardy and William Barnes have been widely praised. The Gramophone magazine’s verdict on his recordings of dialect poetry was that ‘you will hear none better’.

The talk takes place in the Dorset County Museum’s Victorian Hall on Thursday 14 September 2017, 7.00pm for 7.30pm. The performance is FREE although a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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