In-Class Presentations and Analyses
Why Practice "Performing" the Text?:
Modern literary analysis generally agrees that every time a reader reads a text, the reader "performs" the text, much like a musician performs the notes on a piece paper to make the music come alive. Because almost all the literature of the pre-Modern era was meant to be performed aloud, all members of the class will be asked to choose and to perform a passage or short complete work which s/he thinks is important, excellent, puzzling, or otherwise a useful way to begin discussion.
Why Only Part of a Text?:
This performance project also requires students to re-read the assignment selectively, to exercise their evolving literary taste in deciding what parts of a work are most important. For this reason, it is very important to explain your choice of the selection of the text that was performed. After the reading, explain why this passage is useful as a place to concentrate on for the study of the work in question, as a place from which you might achieve an original insight, and a place from which you can see helpful connections made to other works/authors we already have read.
What to Analyze About Your Performance?:
An important reason for these in-class presentations is to give you practice in close-reading analysis. Reading part of a work (or all of a short work) out loud should give you an intensive and exhaustive encounter with the author's word choice, the arrangement of the words in artfully constructed sentences, and the rhetorical/poetic/dramatic relationship these words might have with the whole work or with the author's other works. Close-reading analysis treats every word and phrase as significant evidence of author's aesthetic choices, the fundamental traces of their art. Only when you can read this way are you really capable of reading as carefully as an English major should read. Remember, we are talking about the difference between strolling through the Amazon jungle like a tourist, glancing here and there but never looking intentionally to understand what one sees, and investigating that same patch of jungle as a biologist or chemist might, searching for evidence of how it works and what that means.
Click here for the criteria I will use for evaluation of performances and interpretations, and additional advice about how to prepare your passage and your analysis.