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COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY LEE EMERSON BASSETT
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The Riverside Press
THE aim of this Handbook is to present, in as concise form as clearness permits, the principles of natural expres sive reading aloud. The book is the outgrowth of several years of classroom instruction and practice based on the theory that effective oral expression is the result of clear thinking; that the principles underlying conversation, the most natural and unpremeditated form of speech, apply with equal force to the voicing of the thought of the printed page; and that the ability to read and speak with clearness and force comes, not from a knowledge of rules of speech, but with the education of mind, imagination, and emotions, and the devotion of one's best mental and spiritual energies to the task of communicating thought to other minds.
The text differs from others chiefly in method of treatment. Technical vocal exercises, and comment on enunciation and pronunciation, instead of being put at the beginning of the book are put at the end, on the ground that expression is concerned primarily with ideas. If technical drill is given a prominent place in oral instruction, especially at the outset, the student is pretty sure to assume that the whole problem of expression is a matter of mere mechanical expertness in the use of voice, tongue, and lips But natural and spontaneous expression is not secured in this way, as the artificialities of elocution of the past have demonstrated. The accurate utterance of words is largely a matter of imitation and mechanical skill, but, like correctness in spelling, the accomplishment is incidental to the expression of thought.
This book will not be found dogmatic in the matter of technic of vocal expression. I have endeavored throughout to demonstrate that effective speech is not gained by imposing rules upon utterance, but by allowing the mind to express itself freely and normally through tone. In the majority of cases faulty utterance may be traced to vague, confused thinking, or to a lack of interest in what is spoken. When thought is clear the voice tends to go right.
Furthermore, I have departed from the custom, usually followed in texts on this subject, of laying first emphasis on the emotional values of selections studied. Clear understanding is the basis of sane, convincing speech. Appreciation and feeling follow the thought. The attempt to force or simulate emotion about something not clearly understood is demoralizing to the student, and inevitably results in vain and artificial expression.
Part I is devoted to a discussion of the problem of thought-getting, and of the modulations of the voice which give evidence of well-ordered thinking and serve to make the meaning clear to others. Part II is devoted to the problem of the imaginative and emotional response to thought, and to those modulations of tone which reveal feeling and render speech impressive. Part III deals with the technical problems of tone production and of forming tone into words.
The task of the teacher and the problems of the classroom have been constantly held in mind in the preparation of this Handbook. I have endeavored to offer such suggestion and help as may serve to lighten the teacher's labor without imposing hard and fast methods of instruction or procedure or encroaching upon the freedom of the individual teacher in the use of this text. At the end of the book a section has been devoted to suggestions to teachers and to a program of recitations and assignments covering the entire contents of the volume in a series of carefully planned lessons. Frequent references are also made to the particular principles involved in the various assignments. It is not assumed that this program will be suited to all classes and situations, but it is hoped that it will afford valuable assistance to the teachers in adapting the material of this book to the daily needs of the class.
Adequate illustrative material is offered with each chapter for all ordinary needs of a course in reading aloud, so that assignments outside the book need be made only at the option of the teacher. For the most part, only selections of proved literary merit have been chosen. In the experimental use of a wide range of literature in class work
a I have learned to rely more and more upon standard authors whose work, by reason of its truth, strength, and beauty, has stood the test of time. A course in reading aloud affords the best opportunity, and oftentimes the only opportunity the student has, for becoming acquainted with good literature and for cultivating a taste for the best that has been written. While my aim has consistently been to provide material illustrative of the various aspects of the problem of expression, as discussed in the several chapters, I have made the selection in the hope that many passages of beauty and charm may be retained by the student long after the particular phases of the study which they illustrate have been forgotten.
Acknowledgments are due to those authors and publishers who have generously granted permission for the use of copyrighted material. My obligation is noted in connection with the selections used. I am also indebted to Houghton Mifflin Company for the privilege of extensive quotation from their publications of the works of Longfellow, Lowell, Whittier, Emerson, Holmes, Harte, Sill, George Arnold, Warner (In the Wilderness), Crothers,