The ALSC’s most recent issue of Forum, “The Latest Illiteracy,” has garnered a mention in Mark Bauerlein’s blog on The Chronicle of Higher Education Website. In his piece, Bauerlein assesses the latest debate over William Strunk Jr. & E.B. White’s The Elements of Style, coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of its release. His focal point is the dialog between Geoffrey K. Pullum and Andrew Ferguson regarding EOS’s legitimacy as a pedagogical text. The findings presented in Forum are cited as further confirmation that a decline in the quality of the English language is a very real phenomenon, one that Elements of Style has for a half-century acted against as a minor but dependable force.
The Association of Literary Scholars and Critics understands that it has an obligation to direct some of its force, time, and imagination to the bad examples that are set, as against the good example that the Association itself tries to set, for instance in its journal, Literary Imagination, and at its annual conferences. It was in this spirit that the Forum series has come about. Forum No. 3, The Latest Illiteracy, now brings together many instances of, as well as some reflections on, how different—largely, how much worse—things are these days, both in print and in speech. The underlying questions are the enduring ones. Really worse, not just different? What is the evidence? Is it merely that all of us are getting older, and that the invocation of a golden age is becoming more of a lure? Is it not the case that in the Paston Letters, as long ago as the 15th century, the complaint was being voiced that servants be not so diligent as they were wont to be? Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose?