[Milton-L] Memorized poetry

Mario A. DiCesare dicesare1 at mindspring.com
Fri Jun 15 19:46:48 EDT 2012


There are, or at least were, ways of making this work fairly well.  Back 
in 1943, as I began my junior year in a poor-boys prep school (our 
families paid between five and thirty dollars a month for tuition, room, 
and board -- but of course we worked hard on the school farm...), a new 
priest just out of semiary and full of beans decided to do something 
different with /Macbeth/.

l had little regard for Shakespeare in those days  -- the first two 
years had been pretty much a disaster.  But this new young priest, 
Father Joe Donahue, wanted to do things differently.  We were to read 
Macbeth in our class, and he was determined that this experience would 
not be the same as our experience with /Julius Caesar /in the previous 
year, as he'd heard of it from some of my more enterprising classmates.  
We started it in the regular morning class, but then he surprised us by 
suggesting that if anyone wanted to do some extra reading of the play, 
we might come to his rooms.  Four of us did.  A large box of succulent 
chocolates sat, open for all to see and lust after, on his coffee table, 
but we could not touch until we'd done our work.  We did our work.  The 
presence of the chocolates made the work pleasant, and /Macbeth/ finally 
turned me on to Shakespeare.  When he asked us to memorize speeches, no 
one objected, and we worked hard at it.

Joe died last year.  The news revived all sorts of  warm memories.

Mario

On 6/15/2012 7:30 PM, Carrol Cox wrote:
>
> 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.
>
> Carrol
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> *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 
> <mailto: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:
> EUR What specific pomes did you memorize / do you assign?
> * were you given / do you give any written instructions in 
> coordination with
> the assignment?
> EUR were you given / do you give a grading rubric?
> EUR was / is the assignment early or late in the term, or does it not 
> matter
> for you?
> EUR how did / does delivery of the recitation work? In class, in your 
> office,
> at a public event?
> EUR 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 <mailto: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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