[Milton-L] Memorized poetry

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Fri Jun 15 12:02:40 EDT 2012

For decades I have been assigning memorization in course that include

1. I think it is important to allow students wide latitude in what to
memorize, since the poems will be stuck in their heads forever. I ask for a
poem or selection (from the syllabus) of 14-20 lines. Sometimes I specify
iambic pentameter, because it's important that they learn to hear that
particular music. I wouldn't specify *Paradise Lost*, because it is the
hardest metrical verse to memorize, owing to the enjambments and long
complicated sentences with moveable elements.

2. Not in writing, but I repeatedly emphasize that to memorize language,
you must repeat it out loud. (Some people will attempt useless tactics like
writing it out.)

3. I don't grade it, but assign full points for just getting through the
poem. I allow second tries. I make a further deduction from their
participation grade if they don't even attempt the assignment.

4. It should be far enough into the course that students have had the
chance to find that they like a poem. Most people can learn a sonnet in an
hour or so.

5. They recite privately in my office. Many kids are anxious enough even
without a larger audience. However, I call on all students to read verse
aloud and repeatedly during class. I coach the mumblers to try again, read
big, don't isolate that enjambment, etc. I think speaking verse adequately
should be a learning objective in courses that include poetry.

As to my experience as a student, I was asked to memorize in high school 50
years ago and can still say the verses. I was not asked to memorize in

On Thu, Jun 14, 2012 at 4:40 PM, Duran, Angelica A <duran0 at purdue.edu>wrote:

> Dear scholars,
> I am interested in finding out about the experiences you have had with
> either assigning or being assigned to memorize early modern British poetry,
> Milton or other.
> I would appreciate it if you could respond off-list to any or all of these
> questions:
> € What specific pomes did you memorize / do you assign?
> * were you given / do you give any written instructions in coordination
> with
> the assignment?
> € were you given / do you give a grading rubric?
> € was / is the assignment early or late in the term, or does it not matter
> for you?
> € how did / does delivery of the recitation work? In class, in your office,
> at a public event?
> € any neat or funny anecdotes?
> I memorized poetry in high school and college, then have elected to
> memorize
> for my graduate qualifying exams and have memorized a 14-21 line snippet
> nearly every semester since becoming a faculty member 12 years ago. I
> assign
> memorization and recitation, usually with first recitations in class and
> final recitations at a low-key campus, public events. I'm considering
> extending the assignment to my graduate courses.
> Many, thanks.
> Adios,
> Angelica Duran
> Associate Professor, English and Comparative Literature
> Director, Religious Studies Program
> Purdue University
> 500 Oval Drive / Heavilon Hall
> West Lafayette, Indiana 47907
> U.S.A.
> <duran0 at purdue.edu>
> <http://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/directory/index.cfm?personid=80>
> <http://www.cla.purdue.edu/religious-studies/>
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