[Milton-L] Memorization

John Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Sun Feb 22 19:11:41 EST 2004


I'm all for Memory, Mother of the Muses.  I first asked students to
memorize twenty lines of poetry in a seminar I taught in 1999 (after
about 15 years of university teaching).  The class was a seminar on
Marlowe and Milton, and students could choose either Marlowe or Milton,
twenty lines of the student's choice.  I expected howls of protest, and
did encounter some anxiety, but every student without exception loved
doing it (even those who forgot their lines).  I have always included
this component since, usually asking for a recital in the final class,
when the students are comfortable with each other, and where there is a
celebratory mood, with food and drink.  I don't see it as learning by
rote, but learning by heart.



-----Original Message-----
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
[mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Carol Barton
Sent: Sunday, February 22, 2004 6:17 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Memorization

I'd agree with Kent that rote memorization (without understanding) is a
pointless task, and I would guess that even a bright 10th grader would
lack
the maturity or the comfort with Elizabethan text to comprehend Hamlet's
philosophical disquisition on suicide and the inertia caused by
over-cautious contemplation of future action in any serious sense. I
think
those of us who are advocating memorization mean commission to memory
accompanied by the kind of profound analysis that makes the words part
of
the reciter: not mere sounds, like an empty catechism
(ibelieveinonegodthefatheralmightymakerof heavenandearth), but living,
vibrant speech, rendered such because the student has made it meaningful
for
himself or herself.

The opposite situation may have been at the root of a rather interesting
ad
for a retirement village seen by a former colleague of mine in an
airline
flight magazine. Underneath an aerial photo of the beautiful wooded
campus
with its swimming pool, tennis court, golf course, and recreation center
was
the caption, "A fine and private place"---perhaps the result of
memorizing
rather than understanding Marvell's poem?

Best to all,

Carol Barton


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