[Milton-L] memories

James Rovira jrovira at drew.edu
Thu Feb 26 10:12:29 EST 2004

Your thinking, Mr. Fleming, is still brutally either/or.  IF 
memorization is "learning" the poem, THEN we should be memorizing all 
the poetry we can.  There's no recognition of the possibility that 
memorization is One Type of learning among many, with its own unique 
advantages and disadvantages, so should be considered -along with- other 

The objection in an earlier post that it took up valuable classroom time 
seemed more to the point, if one accepts that memorization is among the 
least effective pedagogical techniques.  But it seemed to me that some 
professors were having students do their recitations during office hours. 

One caveat: I think memorization and recitation is irrelevant to the 
"hanging mobile" poems of e.e. cummings, for example -- any poem that's 
more visually than phonically oriented. 


jfleming at sfu.ca wrote:

> I think Greg Machacek must be right that the memorization-thread has 
> spun itself out. So, omnibus final replies -- unless anybody else 
> wants to keep talking about these issues -- from me:
> Greg writes:
> "I'm in complete agreement with the individuals who have noted that 
> *reciting* the poems effectively requires as much exercize 
> of           one's (higher level) interpretive skills as any other 
> form of          interpretation.  (Such exercizes used to be called 
> "oral interpretation,"           didn't they?)" Exercise of one's 
> interpretative skills, yes.  But "as much" exercise as "any other form 
> of interpre! tation"?  No. It is significant that such exercises were 
> called "oral interpretation" back in the pre-theoretical, 
> pre-professionalized, leather-patches, 
> meet-your-tutor-once-a-month-and-shoot-the breeze-about-cricket, 
> knocking-back-drinks-in-the-facuty-club, gentlemen-together day.
> And: "I feel like having a poem    memorized does represent *knowing* 
> that poem; indeed, I regard it as the      most complete form of 
> knowing I can achieve;  I know the poem."  Fair enough; but on this 
> argument a goal of our pedagogy ought to be to memorize as much as 
> possible, oughtn't it? Should ! the _PL_ classroom murmur like a madrasa?
> Gardner compares memorization/recitation of a poem to performance of a 
> piece of music: "The analogy is imperfect, but the point is this: the 
> music didn't emerge  until we belonged to it, and we didn't belong to 
> it until we had it memorized." I fear the analogy is very imperfect, 
> Gardner; because a literary text is hermeneutically different from a 
> piece of music. Moreover, your eloquent comment seems to me vulnerable 
> to the objection I raised above: if you are right, mustn't we spend 
> most of our time as teachers and students trying to memorize?
> Finally, Louis, wreathed in smiles, says that " Memorization...  makes 
> them pay    attention to more of what there is to pay attention to." I 
> have no problem with this formulation. But I still won't be doing it.
> W/gratitude to all,
> J
> Dr. James Dougal Fleming,
> Assistant Professor of English,
> Simon Fraser University,
> (604) 291-4713
> Laissez parler les faits.
>Milton-L mailing list
>Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu

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