[Milton-L] Memorized poetry

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Fri Jun 15 19:30:49 EDT 2012

What one memorizes in high school doesn’t necessarily remain with one. My speech teacher in h.s. arranged for a couple of us to ‘entertain’ some local music club. I had to memorize some rather long poem by Lowell (the old fart, not Robert). I don’t even remember the title of the poem or what it was about, yet I had it well memorized in 1946.


I did memorize quite a few fragments on my own, & they were useful in getting me through my first night in the polio ward. But I don’t remember now what they were.





From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Michael Gillum
Sent: Friday, June 15, 2012 11:03 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Memorized poetry


For decades I have been assigning memorization in course that include lyrics.


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 college. 


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
€ 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.


Angelica Duran
Associate Professor, English and Comparative Literature
Director, Religious Studies Program
Purdue University
500 Oval Drive / Heavilon Hall
West Lafayette, Indiana 47907
<duran0 at purdue.edu>

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