I haven't done this for a very long time, David (I went to pasture in
1994) but I remember trying to do this different ways and the most
successful was to have groups of three or four students work on a
passage outside of class and then "run" the discussion of the
passage(s) they read in class—including, mainly, fielding questions
about interpretation (e.g., "what's the effect of reciting it this way
rather than that").
On Jun 30, 2009, at 12:58 PM, David Wilson-Okamura wrote:
> For the last nine years, I have made most of my students memorize
> poems (or, in Shakespeare, speeches) and say them to me during office
> hours. I don't repent me of that, but I have been wondering, recently,
> where most of the effort goes. I think it is into memorizing. I value
> that -- what started me doing this, actually, was Helen Vendler's
> statement in her Sonnets book that not being able to recall a poem in
> its entirety was, to her, a symptom of something missing from her
> interpretation. Also, I like the intimacy of learning something "by
> heart"; you can study it on a walk, in the shower, in bed with the
> lights out.
> The problem with memorizing is that students don't make progress --
> not at least while I know them. There are, as we all know, techniques
> for memorizing speeches and for improving one's memory, but they
> really are a separate subject. What I can teach in these sessions --
> again, all of this happens during my office hours -- and always wish
> that I had more time and (their) energy for, is meter. If students
> came prepared to give a dramatic reading of the poem, there would be
> more for us to _work_ on during office hours. We could make progress.*
> Also they would be less nervous.
> I haven't tried this yet, so I don't know if it is a good idea. What I
> haven't figured out yet is how to grade a reading as opposed to a
> recitation. Currently, I give Cs for getting through the poem, Bs for
> getting through it cleanly, and As for artistry. (Where does
> interpretation fit into this? I can usually hear it in a student's
> voice when he doesn't understand what he's reciting, so those are the
> lines I will ask him about.) As my colleague across the hall Tom
> Herron can attest, a C recitation isn't pretty to listen to! But even
> so, a fair amount of work goes into it, and if nothing else the
> student and I get to have a conversation, one-on-one, about a poem or
> speech that he or she finds interesting.
> So much for recitations. What would be a C reading sound like? Surely,
> it would need to be more than just verbalizing a sonnet on the page.
> * Where I do see progress now: students come to the second session
> much better prepared to discuss the meaning of what they have just
> recited. I.e., they have looked up all the words they don't know, or
> that don't _quite_ make sense.
> Dr. David Wilson-Okamura http://virgil.org
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> English Department Virgil reception, discussion, documents,
> East Carolina University Sparsa et neglecta coegi. -- Claude