[Milton-L] Memorization

Beth Quitslund quitslun at ohio.edu
Tue Feb 24 14:29:08 EST 2004

This thread interests me for the ways that it resonates not only with 
Reformation debates about set prayers, but also more specifically about 
singing psalms. There are actually very few tracts in published in England 
that argue against the validity of psalm singing, but the number of 
defenses of psalm singing indicates that someone was uneasy--either the 
hypothetical opponents or the proponents themselves. One of the sites of 
anxiety was how singing the text affected the congregants' understanding of 
it, and hence its efficacy as both prayer and pedagogy. Of course many 
early 17th-century English people must have had the Anglo-Genevan psalter 
memorized, so the unease applies to both mechanical reading and to rote 
singing of the words. (Lots of discussion of the psalms from the 16th and 
17th centuries remind me of an old joke about Unitarians; Q: Why don't 
Unitarian churches sing well? A: Everyone is reading ahead to see if they 
agree with the words.) On the other hand, proponents of psalm singing 
pointed to the advantages that came with great familiarity as well as the 
more easily recalled metrical versions (the ability of psalms to substitute 
for profane songs in everyday life, the community that emerges from the 
whole congregation performing the same text, and others).

I don't have any momentous conclusions to draw from any of this, except 
that there is an argument to be made for a musical Paradise Lost in rhymed 

Beth Quitslund

At 01:11 PM 2/23/2004 -0500, you wrote:

> >heh...I wonder if the different attitudes here are divided
> >Catholic/Protestant lines?
> >
>Where would that come from, and who do you guess would be pro
>or anti memorization?
>And which side would Anglicans be on?
>Cynthia A. Gilliatt
>English Department, JMU
>JMU Safe Zones participant
>"You have made God in your own image when God hates the same people you 
>hate." Fr. John Weston
>Milton-L mailing list
>Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu


Beth Quitslund
Assistant Professor of English

Department of English
Ohio University
Athens, OH 45701
phone: (740) 593-2829
FAX: (740) 593-2818

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