Memorized Speech

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The Memorized Speech


Assignment requirements:

6 minutes

Purpose: To learn by studying a master rhetor. In this
speech your aim is to find a speech that interests you enough to work with it awhile, then to memorize 6 minutes of it and interpret it. (See Helps below for tips on how to perform the speech.)

Paperwork: Submit a copy of your speech 3 days prior to your performance.

Pointers: You will receive a lot of pointers in class about
how to memorize a large text. One thing to consider at the outset: it takes
time. To do this well, you need to “live with the literature.”  Read it aloud, once when you arise, and once before bedtime, for more than a week.  Get familiar with the piece. Work with it. Understand it. Intimately.  So . . . don’t put it off until the last minute!


The rationale for this speech is quite
simple: to learn by studying the rhetoric of past masters. Visit the speech links provided, and select a speech of interest to you. Select a portion of it that can be performed in 6 minutes (including a brief, extemporaneous introduction that sets the tone for the speech). The key to doing well on this assignment is to practice the speech, out loud, a couple of times a day for at least one or two weeks. Listen to yourself. Is your inflection appropriate (i.e., does it reflect the intended meaning of the speaker? Emotion?) Does
the rhythm enhance or detract from the performance? Are you pronouncing
words correctly? Do you understand the significance of the
problem to which the speaker addresses him or herself? Through
studying a little bit about the historical context of the speech you should gain an appreciation of the challenges with which the speaker was faced and that appreciation should influence the manner in which you
perform the piece; your inflection.


The object here is not simply, to be able to recite the speech from memory. It is not about memorizing, then regurgitating, text.  You have to perform it. Present it in such a manner that you believe you capture the intended meaning, appropriate emotion and inflection of the original event. Do not
over-dramatize the piece. Interpretation of literature is not about turning
“I Have a Dream” into some sappy televangelist-style drivel. It’s
about getting your audience so caught up in the author’s intended meaning
and emotion that they can actually be, if they will supply the imagination,
transported to a place where they experience, in a living way, the beauty,
tragedy, or outrage the author intended that they experience.

Select and “cut” your speech a couple weeks before your performance, then, twice a day, every day, read it aloud. (We will discuss how to cut the manuscript.) When you are really comfortable with your inflection, and so on, you’re ready to perform the piece. If you’re still struggling with memorization, pronunciation and inflection, you’ll only embarrass yourself. Nobody will get caught up in your performance if you’re still trying to memorize it.

Come to class for coaching on how to memorize large amounts of text and how to deliver a speech like yours. I realize you probably have never memorized so much before. That’s one reason I assign it. Another reason is that this is the threshold to what you will no doubt consider a very worthwhile learning experience. Please reserve judgment on the difficulty and the “pay off” of this speech until after you’ve done all three of the core speeches in this course. Thanks. Finally, realize that there will be in class time available for coaching and practice, and I’m always available for coaching.