Remember This

Hi again. Here are the guidelines for your memorization assignment, as we discussed on Thursday. The purpose of this assignment is simply to give you the experience of memorized performance, and the opportunity to think about how memorization works and the effect it has on the performance and the text.

The first part is memorizing and performing a text. It can be anything you want it to be: a poem, a song, a story, a rant, or the telephone book, including things you have written yourself. I want to know what you have chosen in advance, and I want you to provide me with a copy of the text. Your performance should be approximately three minutes, and I’ll be looking for signs that you didn’t just memorize, but that you also rehearsed, and that you gave some thought to the style of your performance. I’ll ask you to stand, and not to use paper. Try practicing in front of a mirror. We’ll be doing these performances throughout the rest of the course, and I’ll post the names of the people performing each week on the blog. Let me know which day you’d like to go. If anyone feels that they can’t manage performing in front of the class, there is the option to do it on video.

The second part is writing a response paper (approximately 1000 words) about your experience with the first part. How did you go about memorizing your text? What was difficult or easy about it and why? How do you think it changed your relation to the text? Did the experience cause you to reflect on any of the ideas that have come up in our readings? This paper will be due one week after you do your performance.

For those of you who haven’t done this sort of thing much, perhaps you are wondering, how do you memorize a three-minute text? The simplest and truest answer is probably, “any way you can.” I begin by reading the text out loud several times, to hear how it sounds. Then I read each sentence or line out loud repeatedly, committing them to memory one at a time. Then I recite gradually larger pieces from memory, until I can recite the whole thing. I find, and this has been demonstrated in some studies, that moving around makes it easier to remember things, so try standing in front of a mirror and using some simple choreography, such as hand gestures. There are many more complicated tricks for memorization, of course. Here is an interesting site that discusses some common memory techniques. If anyone else has any suggestions, please feel free to post them here.

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  • Listening “Literature” implies a written text. But what about the audiotext? Why do we refer to the “audience” (from the Latin audiens, listening) of a literary work? This course is about listening to literature and reading performance. ____________________________________
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