Thursday, January 20, 2011

Correct Positions for Public Readings

Disdain: One of the Four Correct Positions
in Public Reading ©SB 
Spring brings book launches and writers on tour with new releases. And public readings bring questions about proper elocution form and etiquette.

(Unless, that is, my 1922 guide is out-of-date...)

And so, when you are reading:
  • How should you stand? 
  • What emotions should you display? 
  • What qualities are most important for your voice to convey?  
  • And what about grace? 

"Is grace of speech a necessary opponent of clearness? Is it not rather a charm which adds to effectiveness in expression? A live, original narrative, a well-worded description, or a bit of figurative language bordering even on the poetical, may seem not to bring any definite results in the struggle for bread and butter which engages the mass [...], but clearness of tongue and pen can never fail to make that struggle easier."

Ah, grace! A quality never mentioned in any of my writing classes and one I'm pleased to bring to public attention again, thanks to my find last weekend: Volume II, Practical Home and School Methods (Holst Publishing; Chicago, Toronto; first edition, 1911; my copy, 1922). Three dollars to the cashier at Regina's Value Village — a highly reasonable price for its handwriting instruction alone (my cursive is shockingly poor)  —  and this prize was mine.

And now, back to the other questions.

After grace in speech and writing, a reading should convey Detailed Shades of Expression: "If the main thought of the reading can be produced through an understanding of time, pitch, tone, quality, and force, the meaning within the sentences will often take care of itself. But if [the reader] fails to do this, the matters of grouping, subordination, and emphasis should be dwelt upon." 

So far so good... I hope. (Everyone still with me? The best is yet to come.)

What about those emotions?

Well, what else would any public reader try to convey, except for:
  1. Designation
  2. Disdain
  3. Fear, and 
  4. Meditation? 
As for the details of posture and pose, see my picture from Practical Methods, below: 

The correct positions for public readings ©SB 

The fact that poetry preceded prose In the origin of Literature indicates the natural desire of mankind for beauty.   (from Vol. One, Practical Home and School Methods. ©1910. Holst.) 


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