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Bring Back the Out-Loud Culture

Page history last edited by Stuart Froman 9 years, 9 months ago

Excerpts from a 1985 Donald Hall essay in Newsweek titled “Bring Back the Out-Loud Culture.”


"...Before the late 1920s unease and 1930s, American culture was out loud. We continually turned print into sound. Mother read or recited to infant. (memorization allowed entertainment even while both hands made bread.) Grandfather read from Prohet and Gospel; his grandson performed chapters from Scott and Dickens. At school we recited in chorus multiplication tables, state capitals and the Latin declensions. We studied spelling, Shakespeare and history by committing them to memory. When we stopped memorizing and reciting literature, our ability to read started its famous decline. It was the loss of recitation – not its replacements (radio, film, television) – that diminished our literacy...


"If when we read silently we do not hear a text, we slide past words passively, without making decisions, without knowing or caring about [the words’ tone]. In the old Out-Loud Culture, print was always potential speech; even silent readers too shy to read aloud, inwardly heard the sound of words. Their culture identified print and voice. Everyone’s ability to read was enhanced by recitation. Then we read aggressively; then we demanded sense...


"As children speak poems and stories aloud, by the pitch and muscle of their voices they will discover drama, humor, passion and intelligence in print. In order to become a nation of readers, we need again to become a nation of reciters."

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