Current PhD Students

Lola Boorman

Thesis Title

“Make grammar do”: the institutional and pedagogical impact of grammar on modern and contemporary American literature.


Dr Adam Kelly


In How to Write Gertrude Stein claims that ‘grammar is a folder’, containing the entirety of American history and thought. Yet grammar is rarely considered a fundamental component of American literary history. Recent scholarship has explored the institutional connections between modern literature and creative writing instruction, with Mark McGurl’s seminal work The Program Era tracting the history of the university MFA and its impact on post-1945 ltierary production. Yet despite being more deeply ingrained in the institutional history of the US academy, the role of grammar instruction in shaping American writing remains largely neglected. My project aims to recover the relationship between grammar and modern American literature through an examination of three authors who engage with grammatical and linguistic ideas as themes of their writing: Gertrude Stein, Lydia Davis, and David Foster Wallace. In doing so I hope to provide an alternative literary history which recognizes and analyses grammar as a fundamental component of literary creation.