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classroom offers little incentive to such full and spirited utterance, and efforts at intense expression are pretty apt to savor of pretense and declamation. The style of speech appropriate to classroom practice is of a simpler, quieter sort. Yet the lack of stimulus, the routine nature of the work, the often perfunctory character of the preparation, tend to a cold, self-critical, and restrained style, with a consequent restriction of vocal action. And instead of acquiring a flexible, free, and varied utterance, the student is in danger of dropping into a hard, mechanical, and dull manner of speech.
Moreover, in oral-composition and public speaking courses, the vocal aspects of the problem can ordinarily receive but a limited consideration by reason of the complex nature of the work. The attention of teacher and pupil alike is divided between subject matter of the speech, the problems of grammar and rhetoric, and oral delivery. But no servant can serve two masters at the same time and serve both well. Certain it is that no student can attempt to accomplish three things at once and attain a very high degree of efficiency in all or any one. Nor can the teacher give adequate criticism and instruction in all points simultaneously. It naturally follows in such courses that attention is centered more on the problems of composition than on oral expression or vice versa, or that time is divided equally between the two, with a consequent loss to each. Even under these difficulties, the work has distinct advantages and a practical value which no one will question. The contention here advanced is that, under these circumstances, there is not reasonable ground for assuming that such courses afford sufficient training in oral expression to justify giving them precedence over courses in reading aloud.
Nor does abundant practice in expressing one's own thoughts in speech render unnecessary the training to be derived from expressive reading aloud of what others have said and have been at pains to say well. For reading affords distinctively valuable discipline in at least three respects : it brings the student into direct and vital contact with the thought and experiences which stimulate the mind, quicken the imagination and the emotional nature, and widen the range of his knowledge and interest; it trains him to accuracy of observation and to certainty of understanding which precludes superficial attention and “snap judgment”; and it provides the best kind of training of the expressive powers of the voice.
The greater part of the literature read in schools belongs to that class of writing which De Quincey calls the literature of power, as distinguished from the literature of mere knowledge. The literature of knowledge treats of facts as such; the literature of power holds and moves and inspires men by virtue of its truth, its beauty, its imagination, and its feeling. It tells us how men think and feel and how they relate themselves to other men and to the world in which they live. Obviously one who reads with full understanding must exercise the imagination and the sympathies, and must hold them subject to the influence of what he reads. New experiences are thus made his through contact with the thought and experience of the author and, as when Keats “ heard Chapman speak out loud and bold," a larger world extending beyond the little circle of his everyday life, it opened to him. But the range and power of such literature are seldom realized by the student until he hears it read aloud, or he himself attempts to express its thought and spirit. The printed word is given reality and life when it is uttered by the living voice.
Moreover, reading aloud trains the student to accurate observation and close scrutiny of what he reads. Ask the student who is in the habit of “ skimming over
" whatever is put before him to state the thought of what he has just read, and rarely is he able to give anything better than a vague, disconnected statement of it; but let the student be subject to the exacting study which good reading aloud requires, and he is prepared to give a better account of his reading. The pupil who has an idea that the only requirement for reading aloud is to look at the book and “read it off,” soon finds that he is in error. For no one can read aloud well who has not a sure grasp of the thought, and few students, untrained in reading aloud, have the ability to get from the printed page all that it has for them. Especially is this true of poetry and finer forms of literature.
Now, the adequate rendering of the thought of the printed page makes demands on the voice such as oral composition and ordinary classroom speaking rarely make. For, in reading literature, not ideas alone are to be stated, but imagiration and spirit are to be revealed as well. Without these, poetry becomes dry as dust, and prose “ vain bibble-babble.” All the expressive powers of the voice are called into action when one reads a poem like Lowell's Vision of Sir Launfal, or a narrative like Irving's Rip Van Winkle or Dickens's Christmas Carol. Indeed, the vividness and impressiveness of such literature depend largely upon the true, unaffected voicing of it.
Professor Dowden in his New Studies in Literature remarks : “Few persons nowadays seem to feel how powerful an instrument of culture may be found in modest, intelligent and sympathetic reading aloud. A mongrel something which, at least with the inferior adepts, is neither good reading nor veritable acting, but which sets agape the half-educated with the wonder of its airs and attitudinizings, its pseudo-heroics and pseudo-pathos, has usurped the place of the true art of reading aloud, and has made the word recitation a terror to quiet folk who are content with intelligence and refine ment.” Though happily the airs and attitudinizings of the inferior adepts are seen less often than formerly, and they no longer meet with the unqualified approval of even the half-educated, it is doubtful whether we realize now, any more than when Dowden wrote, the educational and the cultural value of reading aloud. Anyhow, good reading is rarely heard in the school or the home or elsewhere. And though our students are possibly better prepared to stand before others and make a talk or give a formal address than they were ten or twenty years ago, few of them can read a page of print with clearness, ease, or naturalness.
Again to quote from Professor Dowden : “ The reading which we should desire to cultivate is intelligent reading, that is, it should express the meaning of each passage clearly; sympathetic reading, that is, it should convey the feeling delicately; musical reading, that is, it should move in accord with the melody and harmony of what is read, be it verse or prose.” If this sort of reading were cultivated wisely in our homes and schools, another generation would perhaps find good reading more generally practiced than now, and an understanding and love of good literature more prevalent among young people than at the present time. It is the hope of the author that this book may be instrumental, even in a slight degree, in stimulating interest in reading aloud and in simplifying some of the problems of teaching it.
The study of reading aloud is concerned with three problems, namely: thinking, feeling, and style of speech. Of these, thinking is of prime importance and demands first consideration. While enjoyment through awakened imagination and feeling is the ultimate purpose of literature, it is the author's ideas and the information he gives us which call these faculties into action. As children we did not rejoice at the deliverance of Robinson Crusoe from his island until we were told that the ship was ready for his rescue and that he was so overcome that he was at first ready to sink down with surprise.” We are not struck with horror at Macbeth's crime until we are told that she is about it.” So, in reading aloud, the listener can derive little pleasure from what he hears unless the sense of it is made clear to him. Interest and enjoyment wait on understanding
An attempt to arouse the emotions in reciting a piece of literature before one understands it or knows what the emotions are about, like an effort at fine writing when one has nothing to say, expresses nothing so much as vanity and poverty of thought. One suspects that a good deal of the elocutionary affectation of the past was due to this sort of perversion.
But no reading is adequate which fails to express the spirit of what is read. Every thought, if it really means anything to us, arouses some kind of emotional reaction. We relate ourselves to it in some way. The thought of home awakens feelings of tenderness; of a game of football, interest or enthusiasm ; of a hard lesson, dread or determination. Abstract ideas, unrelated to our experience, concern us little : 4 x 4 = 16 is a matter of slight moment to us unless it means dollars, or years of life, or miles yet to be walked. We become “ absorbed ” in a story when, as we read on, we adjust ourselves to its characters, and its ideas and incidents become vivid and real to us. And the sympathetic reader will not utter words merely, nor ideas alone as a series of cold statements, but thought with the feeling it awakens.
The style of speech of each individual is largely a matter of mental habits, of feeling, temperament, and character. “Style is the man himself.” True it is, that the man is