American Literature I (Fall, 2004; Seton Hill University)

22 September 2004

Due: Ex 1-2 (Close Reading)

Oral Interpretation Workshop

You don't need to prepare anything for this classroom exercise, which prepares you for the Dickinson & Poe Retro Lit Cover Slam.

I will give a few brief pointers for how to read literature aloud, in ways that help an audience to gain meaning from your voice.

Instructions for Assignment:

  1. Choose 3-4 minutes of literature written by Emily Dickinson and/or Edgar Allen Poe.
  2. You may form a small group and pool your time (6-8 minutes for two, 9-12 minutes for three) in order to present longer sections (such as a Poe short story). If you choose to act out a scene from a short story, feel free to cut narrative lines that are made unnecessary by your performance.

    For instance, Poe writes,

    "I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out --"Who's there?"
    But you could cut "and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out" and just perform the action and speak the lines as Poe describes them.
  3. Write and print out a blog entry in which you describe two or three significant informed decisions you made while preparing your oral interpretation -- decisions that demonstrate your developing understanding of the text. (If you had to look up a word or consult what scholars say about a particular passage, you are informing yourself. What decisions did you make on the basis of that information?)
    Suggested Blog Entry: Post the full text of your selection, and add hyperlinks that point to information that helped you make sense of various words and images in the passage.

  4. For your own use during class, prepare a script. Mark it up with notes and guides that will help you during your performance. (You might capitalize the words you want to emphasize, and reduce the size of words you want to say quietly. You could insert marks to indicate where you plan to pause for breath, whether you plan to gesture or move around the room.) On your script, write the definitions of unfamiliar words that your author uses... I might ask you to define them after your presentation..
  5. Prepare a clean, legible copy of the work(s) or selection(s) you are going to present. Include the name of the work, the date it was written, where it was first published, and just a few lines about why you chose the work. (Feel free to blog this, as well.) Bring 30 copies on the day you are scheduled to present.
  6. Right before you present, distribute to everyone (including me) clean copies of your text.
  7. After you presentation, hand your script to me. (Make sure it has your name on it.)