The Importance of Recitation in Studying English Literature

Payel Chakrabarty, Bhatter College, Dantan

The verb form of ‘recitation’ is ‘recite’ and this originated from the combination of the Latin prefix ‘re’, meaning ‘again’ and ‘citare’, meaning ‘to summon’. Therefore, summoning again from memory is recitation. A recitation, in general sense, is an act of reciting from memory or a formal reading of verse or other writings before an audience. Recitation means re-creation of poems. It is an oral device to tell some verbal text in a new mood or in a new way. The art of recitation had long been a precious art before the arrival of the print culture when poetry was mainly oral and performative in nature.

Now-a-days, it is a popular art form in Bengal. The reciters recite poems or prose on stage with some modern instruments. Recitation got a new dimension by the performance of sonorous drama artists especially in “All India Radio”. They generated a new window of performing art. In this procession Birendra Krishna Bhadra is a pioneer.

Recitation is an important and effective mode of English learning:

Recitation is one of the important and effective modes of learning a language and appreciating a piece of literature. Sometimes, students are asked to strengthen and enlarge basic knowledge and develop the basic abilities of listening, speaking, reading and writing. However, in the actual teaching process, reciting, this ancient and effective mode has often been overlooked easily. It is the basic means of training language ability.

Recitation is helpful for students to practice natural language and raise social ability:

The famous educator Wei Shusheng says: “The sense of language has also been strengthened by reciting more”. In the process of English learning, the language material that students use are fairly rich but students see them approximately, hear them roughly and read them slightly. Poetry leaves no deep impression on students. Therefore, in speaking, they have to speak correctly, in writing they have to write very fluently and express smoothly which increase students’ self-confidence and actual social abilities and improve their English level greatly.

Recitation is a cultural nutrition and a cultural basis:

In England and even in entire Europe, in a class of language teaching, reciting is greatly welcomed. Pupils are asked to recite The Bible at the beginning of their study by teachers. Of course, they are not required to understand, only to recite. Thus, while gradually students draw cultural nutrition from the studying a language, at the same time they also experience the culture and customs of their country and gain different cultural influences.

Recitation is helpful for students to raise their abilities of solving actual problems and creativity:

Memory is the foundation and store-house of thinking and imagining. If students’ minds are empty of thoughts, they will not be able to express themselves in English. Suppose, a student is asked ‘What can we do to protect the water on our planet?’ and about ‘the importance of water’ which is concerned with language utilization and language recognition in articles. If the student knows much of the text, s/he can utilize the language materials skilfully and through imagination, they can imagine boldly how to protect water-resource with the recognized language. So, they can speak out their own opinions freely to prove their creativity and practical abilities. Otherwise, they will become unable to give the right answer.

Recitation is a rhythmical process to grow the power of pitch-volume in students:

Recitation has its own rhythm, music, sounds and beats. Rhymes are important for language development, cognitive development, social and emotional development. The rhythmical structure of the stanzas creates a familiar content for unfamiliar words. Moreover, reading rhymes aloud or repeating rhymes helps the students to practice pitch, voice inflection and volume.

Breath coordination, tongue and mouth movements are made easier by the musical structure of the rhyme. It helps the students to understand when they need to breath and for how long.

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify and use the individual sounds or phonemes in spoken words. Through rhymes, students can understand that these are words which are similar in sound but with a different meaning. They learn what a pattern is and become capable of recognizing patterns.

Recitation helps to grow the sense of metre in students:

The musicological papers on recitation of poetry address the relationship between the linguistic and musical rhythms. For example, we can read Thomas Gray’s poem Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard in this way:

The cur/few tolls/ the knell/ of part/ing day,

The low/ing herd/ wind slow/ly o’er/ the lea,

The plough/man home/ward plods/ his wear/y way,

And leaves/ the world/ to dark/ness and/ to me.

Thus, rhyme and subject together are used to identify the form in poetry. Often, deviations from the expected form are more important to the poet’s artistry than a poem’s regularity. Besides, a good reciter should know about the metrical nuances during reciting the text.

Recitation helps to draw a lively picture into the minds of the students:

Recitation can allow students to paint sketches of their lives, using metaphor, imagery and symbolic language, to describe painful experiences or parts of themselves. For example, when we recite William Wordsworth’s celebrated poems like “The Solitary Reaper”, or “Lines Written A Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”, Lucy Poems etc, we can see the beautiful, calm, natural imagery, the vivid picture of a girl. Again, when we read loudly Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poems like- “Christabel” or “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, we can clearly visualise a medieval setting and also realize the mystery and supernatural elements. Besides, when we recite William Blake’s poem “London”, we hear the woeful cry of the chimney-sweepers, the distress and dismal condition of the common people.

Teachers’ role in recitation for students’ overall development:

Teachers’ recitation may pass the ideological affiliation of a text more clearly so as to strengthen teaching effects greatly. At the same time, teachers’ recitation may enhance students’ interest and promote them to recite actively, enthusiastically and also to participate in various recitation contests. “Poetry Out Loud” (POL) is a national recitation contest for high school students. The competition is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. It began in 2005 and continues to build on the resurgence of poetry as an art form. POL encourages students to study and memorize poems. Participants also develop confidence and improve their public speaking skills.

In fine, although there are various advanced teaching means in modern times, recitation is also worth advocating vigorously. So, in the process of reciting we should combine the feelings, attitude and cultural consciousness with the ability of learning language and the knowledge utilization which can help students in their overall development.


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Payel Chakraborty teaches in the Dept. of English, Bhatter College, Dantan.

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