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Student and Professor Collaborate on Published Essay
05.26.15 |
“Lindley Murray and the Grammar Wars,” an essay co-authored by Dr. Gary Grieve-Carlson and Nicole Wilhelm '15, has been published in the College English Association—Middle-Atlantic Group (CEAMAGazine, the journal of College English).

The idea for the paper originally came to Grieve-Carlson, LVC professor of English and director of General Education, when he first moved to Annville and a roadside marker near the intersection of Route 22 and Route 934 caught his eye.

“The marker tells us that the ‘famous grammarian’ Lindley Murray was born near that site back in 1745,” said Grieve-Carlson. “The idea that a grammarian could be famous struck me as odd, so I was hooked.”

Born near Harper Tavern, Lindley Murray is a local historical figure, but has since faded into obscurity. The central idea of the paper focused on why a grammarian so famous that he was once a household name became relatively unknown.

“It was interesting to learn that Noah Webster hated Murray and accused him of stealing from his (Webster’s) books,” said Wilhelm. “Webster had written a grammar book, as well as his famous dictionary, but Murray’s grammar outsold Webster’s by a wide margin. I loved learning about how our perception of English grammar has changed over the years, and I became pretty fond of Murray as I learned more about him.”

“Murray gets mentioned in novels by Herman Melville, James Joyce, Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and George Eliot,” said Grieve-Carlson, “but became so obscure that many people around here have never heard of him, though he was born in Lebanon County. We argued that his obscurity is a result of the 'war' between the prescriptive and descriptive grammarians.”

The paper took about a year to research and write. Grieve-Carlson and Wilhelm started by compiling a list of primary and secondary sources that would be applicable to their research, traveled to Swarthmore College to look at letters written by Murray, and even found multiple editions of Murray’s grammar books in the archives at Bishop Library.

“Co-authoring a paper is always difficult,” said Grieve-Carlson. “However, the good thing about co-authoring is that you have somebody to bounce ideas around with. It was helpful to have somebody to talk with about the topic, and together we were able to articulate the central claim we wanted to make in the paper.”

“I liked that Dr. Grieve-Carlson seemed to really value and respect my opinion even though I'm only a student,” said Wilhelm. “Working with him gave me a lot of confidence in my academic work. It’s rare for undergraduates to get published in this capacity. I couldn’t have done it without Dr. Grieve-Carlson and I'm really thankful I had the opportunity to do this project with him.”

Grieve-Carlson and Wilhelm also have a second paper on Lindley Murray, focusing more on the historical background of Murray and his work, which is currently under review at the Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies.



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