chapter  II
2 Pages

II.6 Grammar


To begin with the acculturative role of the grammar school: in recent years, scholars such as Katharine Breen and Lynn Enterline have drawn attention to the way that the grammar school led to the acquisition of a particular habitus, an internalized set of habits, dispositions and values that governed one’s behaviour in the world. Breen puts it thusly: ‘As he acquires the habitus of grammar, the student does not merely learn rules but is himself regulated, made regular by the language he studies and the discipline of the classroom in which he studies’.2 The term habitus invokes the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, who argued that social reproduction and subject formation took place by means of habituated behaviours like those acquired in the schoolroom. But as Bourdieu

himself borrowed the term from scholastic philosophy, it also has a basis in the period’s own discourses and allows scholars to employ a simultaneously theoretical and historicist approach. Indeed, medieval and early modern schoolmasters frequently associated training in the rules of grammar with the production of orderly subjects in a way that anticipates Bourdieu. And, as Enterline shows, the habitus acquired through grammar school instruction had a significant emotional dimension. As the exercises of the schoolroom involved frequent declarations of the love and devotion that the student owed to the master, in addition to the ever-present fear of corporal punishment, the grammar school cultivated dispositions towards ways of feeling as well as ways of acting: ‘the school’s theatrical forms of corporal and verbal discipline might incline its students towards emotionally charged practices of imitation, personification, and multiple identifications in adult life’.3