Reflective Log for the Early Modern Book Club

When I picked this module, I was not sure what to expect.  I decided to pick it to fill the Renaissance-sized gap within my academic repertoire. Now that I am at the end of the module, I am glad that I took it. As the module progressed, I learnt just how much I take my speaking voice for granted. The module made me become aware of the subtle nuances present within the reading voice and how I can recognise them. Whilst we studied many different texts, I will only be discussing the texts which informed my understanding the most. This means that I will not be discussing all of the texts that we are studied, but only the ones that I found the most important.

Right from the start, this module was completely different to anything that I have done before. We began by studying Anne Karpf’s essay: the Human Voice: The Story of a Remarkable Talent. I was surprised by how much I take my speaking voice for granted. It has never been something that I have been aware of before. I was shocked, when she argued that we do not have a field of language for voice and there is a much greater emphasis on sight, rather than sound.  I also liked her ideas concerning how you speak differently to different people. For me, this makes the voice a special phenomenon. It is unique to each separate person.

In week two, we studied how children learned to speak in school.  We also learnt how a performative aspect has always been attached to orality. Within Lynn Enterline’s Shakespeare’s Schoolroom, I liked her arguments for how children were taught to learn through repetition and performance.  A teacher would say a phrase and make the class repeat it.  If one child failed, they would then be corporally punished in front of their class-mates.  I liked Enterline’s argument until she started discussing how corporal punishment was becoming eroticised.  I found this to be a sudden and strange change of pace.

Week three was my favourite week, as we were given the opportunity to submit poetry of our choice to be studied. I submitted my own performance poem Grow a PairI enjoyed reading out my own poem and I was adamant that I read it out, as I was the only person I trusted to read it in the necessary tone of voice for it to be truly understood. There are certain sections that have to be read in a particular way to be properly appreciated. I found this to be a great exercise, as it allowed me to put my learning into practise. It helped to put Karpf’s argument, that we lack a field of language for the voice, into perspective. We put so much emphasis on visual media that we neglect the importance of sound. It was also fantastic to be able to perform my poetry for others and hear their positive reactions.

In the next week, we studied original pronunciation in William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.  We were instructed on how to speak it, which I found particularly interesting.  To me it sounded like a modern-day country West Country accent. It surprised me to learn how the meaning of a word could change depending on how you pronounced certain letters within it. It has never been something I have been aware of before.  However, after I became aware of it, I found myself attempting, with varying success, to read Love’s Labour’s Lost in original pronunciation and see what difference it made.

In week six, we studied William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We also went to York, where we went to York Cathedral and the Holy Trinity church. Similarly to week three, I found this useful, as I was able to put my learning into practise. In the Holy Trinity church, I performed my poem Country Roads in the pulpit. I was surprised by how well my voice carried across the church.  This was a helpful exercise in demonstrating the effect of reading spaces and how reading in different locations can affect the meaning or tone of the voice. I think that when a preacher was reading out in a pulpit, it would have sounded like the voice of God descending from Heaven. I do not think the same effect would be present if he were speaking with his congregation in a conversational manner.

In week seven, we studied Elizabeth Cary’s closet drama the Tragedy of Mariam and the female voice in writing.  What struck me was how powerful the female voice, especially within Salome.  I thought that she was the text’s true antagonist.  I felt that her feminine voice and femininity were far more powerful than Herod’s masculinity and masculine voice.

Next we moved onto something that I have been aware of, but not ever fully engaged with: tone in poetry.  We studied this idea in relation to our own poetry. I submitted my poem Falling Petals, which is my best poem tonally speaking. Similarly, to week three, I really loved reading it out and hearing the group’s positive reaction. I thought it was great how the others identified the poem’s experimental structure, which I think is one of the poem’s most important sections. Again I wanted to read Falling Petals myself, as it would allow me to emphasise the parts that I felt were significant. This was especially important considering how personal Falling Petals is to me.

In conclusion, I felt that this module has improved my awareness of the “reading voice,” which is something that I have always taken for granted. It has given me many new ways to consider something that I have never thought about. Although, I did not know what to expect when I took this module, I am glad I did. It introduced me to a whole new critical field of study that I was not aware existed. It has raised my awareness and has encouraged me to appreciate my most important tool: my speaking voice.

Word Count: 1000

‘I confirm that this piece of work contains no plagiarised material and that I have read and understood the section on Plagiarism in the School Style Guide.’

*Author’s Notes*

This reflective commentary was written for my Early Modern Book Club module.  This was a different module where I learnt about the birth of the reading voice in literature.  It was different to anything I’ve done before.  In this essay, I explored my personal thoughts and opinions about the module and how I felt that I have transformed or matured during its duration.  It’s not an academic essay as such, but more a formalised diary entry.

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