[Milton-L] Re: Memorization and K. Jackson

Andrew Zurcher aez20 at cus.cam.ac.uk
Wed Feb 25 11:16:36 EST 2004

I usually ask students to write a Spenserian stanza, and to memorize some
Milton (usually PL, about 20-25 lines). I found these exercises, as an
undergraduate, to be _very_ helpful in understanding how verse is put
together (even more helpful than, say, a careful reading of John
Hollander's Rhyme's Reason), and the gobbets of Milton, Dante, Chaucer,
Shakespeare, Spenser, Homer, Horace etc. that I learned as an
undergraduate, and (try to) continue to record now, have stuck with me,
and often prove helpful.  Students sometimes complain beforehand at being
asked to write and recite poetry, but they have always been excited about
it afterwards. Once they get going with stanzas, they often can't stop.

Incidentally, as editor of the Edmund Spenser Home Page, I have founded in
collaboration with the International Spenser Society an annual student
prize for excellence in writing Spenserian stanzas. The first competition,
2004, will be judged by Harry Berger (Santa Cruz), and is open for
submission until 25 March (Lady Day) 2004. If you have any likely
(undergraduate or graduate) students, feel free to point them to

Andrew Zurcher
Gonville and Caius College
Cambridge CB2 1TA

> I would like to second Steve Fallon's suggestion, and perhaps the list
> might even compromise on the question: why not ask students to write a
> sonnet (especially in a Ren Lit class) that scans and makes sense AND
> ask them to memorize, say, one sonnet by Wyatt, one by Sidney, one by
> Shakespeare (or two or three), and one by Milton (how rousing might be a
> football player's version of "Avenge O Lord")?
> But we shouldn't ask sophomores to write a villanelle.
> Roy F

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