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awaken in the reader emotions similar to those that originally possessed the author. Clearly, then, if one is to read literature, he must secure from the printed page the thought and the feeling. If he is to read it aloud, how can he make others feel as the author did unless he himself do so first?
The Basis of Appreciative Reading The fundamental requirement, then, for the appreciative oral reading of all literature is that the reader shall himself be filled with the emotion that possessed the author and that he has endeavored to convey through his work.
The last sentence contains the fundamental notion in all true reading of literature. But, just as there are hundreds of emotions—simple and complex, slightly felt and profound-so there will be a corresponding number of appeals to our literary sense. One piece of literature may move us to tears, another draw spontaneous laughter, and a third inspire us with the noblest of aims. In Browning's “How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix” we first realize what a tremendous feat the horse accomplished with apparent appreciation of the importance of the errand, and then we admire him as a hero; in Southey's “Battle of Blenheim” we learn how much suffering is caused by war and how baseless is the admiration of it by those who make it possible and suffer most from it; Lowell's “First Snowfall” brings the tears to our eyes as we sympathize with the father whose little girl lies
under the snow; in Lanier's “Song of the Chattahoochee” are given us the pictures along the stream's course, the sound of its waters, and a suggestion of how it feels as it slips out of the mountains and down to the sea.
Thus each poem centers about its own ideas and emotions. Each must be read in its own way; each must have its effect, which, of necessity, differs from all others.
The Whole and Its Details
Hence it is that often a piece of literature can not be appreciated at the first reading, however careful it may be. That may serve as a sort of preliminary survey, which must be followed by closer attention to details. It is the glory of true literature that, if the general view be had first, it will yield more and more pleasure as the reflective eye searches out its hidden wealth. But a formal recitation on detail after detail, without an understanding or an appreciation of what the whole poem is all about, usually deadens appreciation and enjoyment beyond hope of revival.
Such recitation on details is about as appreciative as a study of the single stones in a cathedral would be of the beauty of the building. It is not for a moment denied that the stones have interesting histories, wonderful structure, and a kind of beauty in themselves; however, each stone is used not for its own sake but for what it can contribute to the building as a whole. In like manner, words have interest in themselves, but they are usually written into a poem for what contribution they can make to the dominant impression. The beauty and interest of the detail should be appreciated, but chiefly as contributory to a general effect. The study of literature as well as of architecture should begin and end with a general survey.'
This constitutes one difficulty in the study of literature. Many readers who are bound by some “method," or "outline for study,” rebel at being called on to find each time for themselves what emotion is dominant and to respond fittingly to the emotional appeal. Many, indeed, are frankly unable to do this; and so, of course, are unable to read literature. “As has been said before, there is no appreciative reading of connotative material unless the reader contribute quite as much as the author.
Not only does literature make a diversity of appeals, but it will have very different reactions upon readers. In the first place, readers differ widely in experience—both in extent and in intensity. Some have seen mountains and the ocean, for instance, and some have not. Some have suffered keenly from grief, while others have lived lives of sheltered happiness. Some are subject to violent fits of temper; others, still, move forward as calmly as the "precession of the equinoxes."
And even among those who have apparently had the same experiences, there will be, upon reflection, the widest differences. Two men have seen mountains, but how
differently !-one with a bare recognition of big hills; the other with the unforgetting eye of appreciation, both of the whole grand picture and of the equally marvelous detail. Likewise two men have been bereaved in life. One submits to fate stolidly; the other suffers with indescribable pangs the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” And so with all experiences whatsoever, the reactions will vary with all men between the two extremes. This being true, no two readers will get exactly the same from any piece of literature. An understanding of this fact will make teaching more intelligent.
It must constantly be remembered that children have had relatively few experiences and most of these of a more of less superficial kind. The reading of literature will deepen their understanding of what they pass through and also give them a kind of vicarious experience that is extremely necessary in broadening life. But they cannot be expected to understand and appreciate numerous experiences that to the adult are every-day events. Literature of adult passions, for instance, or that filled with the ideas of immortality, can not possibly be read intelligently by a child. He may get something, some of the minor elements, from Coleridge's “Genevieve,” Whittier's “Barefoot Boy,” Browning's “Prospice,” or even Eugene Field's “Little Boy Blue,”—but surely not that emotion which lies at the core of each poem. The words are simple enough, but the experiences that they present are utterly beyond children in the grades. Tennyson's “Sir Galahad,” on the other hand, presents many difficulties in diction, but the emotions at the heart of the poem are readily responded to by boys and girls in the upper grades. If a child reads literature sufficiently well from his own understanding, it must treat either of his own experiences or of such others as he can easily imagine and comprehend from what he has seen and done. This is one, but not the only, explanation why children often fail to like poems that seem to us very beautiful.
Then, too, men vary widely in their ability to recall through the imagination their experiences. In many cases of course, this is due, as noted before, to the different intensities of experiences. But there is also a great variation in the way experiences that are practically the same are relived. Several girls have been in a runaway.
Years afterwards the incident is recalled by one as a hazy memory with no emotion; by another with great distinctness of detail, but with no emotion; two others feel almost the same physical fright and pain in recalling the incident that they felt at the time, yet one remembers the details minutely and the other with no exactness at all.
Reading Requires Time
Still another element enters into this imaginative appreciation—time. It takes time for the brain to sound profundities or appreciate subtleties of thought and for the imagination to recall the details of experiences, both physical and emotional. One