[Milton-L] Memorization

Kent Lehnhof krl3 at duke.edu
Sun Feb 22 17:40:57 EST 2004


Hi all,

Although I can readily perceive the value of having certain passages of
poetry deeply ingrained and readily accessible, I'm not quite as
enthusiastic about memorization as the majority. I memorized Hamlet's "To
bo or not to be" for a 10th grade course and have been unable to really
read those lines ever since. As soon as I hit the first phrase the little
recording trips in my mind and I just recite the words internally as my
eyes follow along on the page. Once I reach the conclusion of the
soliloquoy, the rehearsal concludes and I can continue reading. This seems
to be the case in all of the instances wherein I have consciously set out
to memorize a passage.

One of the things that excites me about Milton in particular and
literature in general is the Protean way in which the text alters and
acquires new meanings over time. Memorization--at least for me--seems to
fix the text in a way that forecloses future discovery.

I often give my students the option of performing passages before the
class in lieu of one of their writing assignments, but I am hesitant to
impose memorization more generally.

Kent Lehnhof


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