Monday, August 16, 2004

All the world's a stage,
And all the men are merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.
William Shakespeare
In a conversation on the side of the volleyball court yesterday, James Brink made a keen observation that there is a definite lack of memorization required in English courses. We came to agree upon this conclusion based on the fact that, while both English majors (or rather, a former and a current English major), the only part of the above quotation that either of us could recall was the first two lines. This I consider quite regrettable, considering that the above verses are known to those who have never even considered studying literature, and who have no interest. I have not been in a class requiring memorization of poetry or passage since Grade 12, and I must say that I miss it sorely. My highschool English teacher, of whom I am quite fond, was, herself, quite fond of memorization. We began grade 9 by memorizing various passages from Merchant of Venice, and wrapped up Grade 12 with performances of Macbeth. Outside of the memorization for class, I participated in drama for four years, and relished receiving a new script every year to delve into.
Once at Redeemer, however, I realized that with the exception of learning 72 different dates and what they signified for History 107, I really have not memorized anything substantial. While I do think that for some, it is useful to know when the Turks fought which war and what year which dynasties ruled the whole of Eastern Europe, I would rather have a store of Robert Frost, Shakespeare and Dr Zeuss from which to draw. (Now, by this I'm not saying that I want to be ignorant of the world, just that when my mind is a-wandering, I find more amusement in recalling verses than dates.)
Who is to blame for this lack in memorization? Certainly not entirely the professors of my English courses, and most definitely the majority of the responsibility can be placed on my own shoulders. I suppose that if I were truly passionate about literature and the power of words, I would put the onus onto myself and spend hours a day memorizing. But I don't. And herein lies the problem: I quite believe that I am truly passionate about literature. It would have been nice to have been required to memorize something in my 20th C Lit course, for right now the only phrase that comes to mind is "Convergence of the twain," which is the title of a poem written by Thomas Hardy. I'm an awful English Major. The poem that I did memorize in Eng 104 is, strangely enough, my least favourite of them all:

So much depends upon the Red wheelbarrow,
Glazed with Rainwater,
Standing beside the white chickens.
There are so very many passages that I would like to memorize. When I quote Shakespeare, I want to be able to say something more significant than "But soft, what light through yonder window shines! It is the East, and Juliet is the sun," or "Good MADam IF by ME you'll BE adVISEd, let's MOCK them STILL as WELL know AS disGUISEd..." However, there are also so many books that I would like to read, and the more I read the more I would like to commit to memory. How do people have time for all of it?

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