Monday, May 18, 2009

Reading Aloud

Over at Antiquitopia, Jared Calaway has reproduced the entire text of a great article from the New York Times, Some Thoughts on the Lost Art of Reading Aloud, by Vernon Klinkenborg. Calaway echoes my own earlier observations on the communal nature of reading in antiquity by saying "it was taken for granted" then. And Klinkenborg's article points out that this public communal aspect of reading predominated into the 19th century. Calaway concludes his post thus:

We always read out loud in my classes. Even when I have my students break up into smaller groups, I request them to read the passages aloud to one another. There IS something lost when just reading silently. Especially when you are reading something in its original language, you have to feel the rhythms of the language with your own tongue sometimes to discover the great effect it can have. It is also true: fewer and fewer people really know how to read. Read slowly, read carefully, and read aloud--its a rather sensuous experience.

I must agree. I've been getting my students to read aloud some of the set readings for each week. And both the Hebrew course I taught and the Hebrew courses I took as a student we read aloud from the set Hebrew text each class (in the course I taught it was Ruth). Reading aloud you get a feel for the cadences of the language and when I read a text in a different language, especially if it's a different script such as Greek, Russian and of course Hebrew, I always attempt to vocalise it, even if it's under my breath. And I was fortunate to be part of a History of Literary Criticism reading group for 2-3 years at University of Qld. We started with Plato and when I stopped we had reached Sir Philip Sidney and other 16th & 17th century texts on literature. Every meeting we took it in turns reading aloud from that week's reading/s and discussing as well. The best way to learn.

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