At its heart, declamation requires the cultivation of two skills. One is synthesis. To declaim is more than mere mimicry. A student must take an author’s piece and make it his or her own. They must adapt the speech for their speech patterns, voice, and posture. They must bring the speech to life for a new audience in a new time and place.
The second skill is memory. We live in an age when we have access to a staggering amount of humanity’s knowledge. With such easy recourse to information, we might be tempted to ask- “Why memorize? Why take the time and trouble to remember anything if we can look it up?” In Greek mythology, Memory is recognized as the mother of the Muses, those personifications of the aspects of human art and culture. Science, music, history, literature, art- all of them are the offspring of memory.
Anthony Esolen explains, “a developed memory is a wondrous and terrible storehouse of things seen and heard and done. It can do what no mere search engine can do. It can call up apparently unrelated things as once, molding them into a whole impression, or a new thought. Without the library of the memory, the imagination simply does not have much to think about, or to play with.” In sum, we must fill our storehouse with knowledge and experience so that when we create or discuss or write, we can actually have an available supply of resources with which to build.
The works chosen and declaimed this year include the admonishing, the instructive, and the inspiring. They represent the best of many very good and very beautiful declamations already performed at Veritas this month. Our hope is that you will enjoy our students as they present the fruits of their synthesis and memory.
Congratulations to Callie Stage (1st Place), Avah Polis (2nd Place), Lillian Wack (3rd Place)