Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wednesday with Words: On why we Ought to Memorize

Once again quoting from Carolyn Weber's wonderful memoir, Surprised by Oxford.  This quote came from a discussion in one of her Oxford literature classes after a student asked the professor why they had to do memory work.
 
"Consider how easy you have it,' he replied.  "Many of the Romantics knew much of Milton by heart – how can you study these writers if you do not know what was in their hearts as they themselves wrote?'  Then he added, thoughtfully, 'While you are at it, I also suggest that you memorize the first few chapters of Genesis.  So you know what was in Milton's heart too.'
 
'Why memorize it?  Why not just read it carefully?' argued Susan, our Yale 
graduate.
 
'Because what you memorize by heart, you take to heart,' replied Dr Nuttham simply.  "It shouldn't be called by 'rote' but by 'root', for you get at the source of the text, its foundation.  Once you really absorb the words, the words become you own.  Then, and only then, can you mull them over on your tongue, appreciate them as you would good wine, enjoying them as the company of a good friend.  Besides,' he added, 'we always value something for which we've had to labor."
 
                ~Carolyn Weber, Surprised by Oxford
 
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9 comments:

  1. Great quote! Based on that, I just placed a hold on a copy of this book at my library. :)

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    1. I hope you enjoy it, Nelleke! It will certainly make my best books of the year list this year, and possibly my best books of all time. Happy reading! :)

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  2. Wonderful! I love the idea of learning by root ... and learning by heart - to love that which we learn. Beautiful. She puts things so well.

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    1. She really does. That's part of what I loved about this book, there were so many insights all wrapped up in a good story and written so beautifully.

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  3. Love this! It's so true - what we memorize really becomes a part of us.

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  4. Valuing what we labour for - I've found this very true of children as they get older.

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  5. Well said and so true. Love the by "root" instead of by "rote".

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  6. Wonderful quote -- by root -- lovely. I've learned that myself lately, by memorizing longer passages of scripture. It changes you, having those words in your heart.

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