New York University Professor Catherine Robson will deliver “Remembering the Memorized Poem: Recitation’s Legacy in Britain and the United States,” a lecture focused on the impact of mandatory poetry recitation in schools, on Wednesday, April 24, at 5 p.m. at New York University’s Jurow Lecture Hall, Silver Center for Arts and Science, 100 Washington Square East (enter at 31 Washington Place [wheelchair accessible]).
Few poems have worked their ways into as many hearts and minds in the English-speaking world as W. E. Henley’s “Invictus” and Rudyard Kipling’s “If –.” Robson will explore the rich particularities of the production and reception histories of these poems and use “Invictus” and “If–” to examine the nationally distinct after-effects of mandatory poetry recitation, the pedagogical exercise that once occupied a central position in American and British public education.
The evening will also include film clips of Ronald Reagan, Morgan Freeman, and Timothy McVeigh, who employed “Invictus” as his final statement before his 2001 execution, as well as poetry recitations by NYU students.
Robson is an associate professor in the English Department at NYU, where she specializes in 19th century British cultural and literary studies; she is also a long-time faculty member of the Santa Cruz-based Dickens Project. Author of “Men in Wonderland: The Lost Girlhood of the Victorian Gentleman” and co-editor of “The Victorian Age for the Norton Anthology of English Literature,” she has been working for the past few years with the support of fellowships from the NEH and the Guggenheim Foundation on the topic of poetry recitation. Her book on this subject, “Heart Beats: Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem,” was published in 2012 by Princeton UP.
The event, which is sponsored by the NYU College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Office, is free and open to the public. Call 212.998.8100 for more information. Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis. Subway Lines: 6 (Astor Place); N, R (8th Street)