Oral Interpretation of Literature with Professor Julia Keefer

NYU SPS Credit and Non-Credit
Saturday afternoons at 2 pm 2016-2017

Bring Literature to Life in a non-threatening, fun, intellectually-stimulating way for international students, SPS credit students, local adult students, and business people to improve oral communication and learn more about global literature!

Course Description: Oral interpretation is not just reading aloud. It is an art form, requiring total synthesis of mind, body, and voice. The interpreter is an instrument; she/he recreates the words of the author, using all the skill at her/his command. Students must articulate clearly, project their voices effectively, and immerse themselves intellectually and emotionally into their material. The aims of the course are to enlarge, broaden and deepen student’s appreciation of literature through analysis and performance. Oral Interpretation is a highly experiential course that introduces the skills of literary analysis for the purpose of oral interpretive performance, balancing written analytic skills with vocal development and practical performance techniques. Students identify rhetorical and lyrical structures, allusions, narratives, and potential ambiguities in order to articulate an intention; determine and produce corresponding delivery styles; and learn how meanings can be enhanced or altered through delivery techniques. Students will explore analysis and performance aspects of short fiction, poetry, speeches, and dramatic literature.

Course Readings will be assigned but you can also read your own work or pick your favorite authors. Suggested Readings: Oral Interpretation Edition: 12th Year: 2010 Authors: Gura, Timothy and Lee I. Charlotte Publisher: Allyn & Bacon
Materials: Handouts of prose and poetic texts. Selections from: 1) MacArthur, Brian. The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Speeches. London: Penguin, 1999. 2) Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology, ed. Shane Weller. Dover, 1992. 3) Shakespeare, William. The Complete Works. 4) Turkel, Studs. Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. New York: The New Press, 2004. 5) Dove, Rita. The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century Poetry. London: Penguin, 2011. Texts include, but are not limited to, the works of Shakespeare, Edgar Lee Masters, Sayd Bahodine Majrouh, Langston Hughs, Martin Luther King, Patrick Henry, John Updike, Edgar Allen Poe, Maya Angelou, and contemporary global authors.

Course Objectives:  To analyze, process, and develop the performance qualities of multiple genres of literature in a supportive environment


Classes will begin with core and breathing exercises, postural work, and voice and articulation drills. Students will analyze selections from several points of view – the author’s intent (message/point of view) and the role of the interpreter in projecting the author’s ideas. Students will also study the techniques of performance and the different approaches to reading prose and poetry. In class, a discussion will center on the analysis of a single poem. For example, an entire group might offer various ways in which a single poem might be interpreted or the entire class will read a poem together in one voice. There will be individual presentations as well.

1. Lectures

2. Small Group Work Sessions

3. Hands on Demonstrations for Breathing, Core Exercise, and Pronunciation     

4. Research Projects

5. Reading and preparing pieces

6. Presentations to be facilitated by students

7. Evaluation of performances

8. Readers Theater

 9. Movement Exercises

Criteria for grading oral presentations:
Preparation: Readers should demonstrate a familiarity and dexterity with, and an understanding of, the material being read.
Energy: Readers should have an appropriately high level of energy in their delivery and demonstrate an enthusiasm for their selection.
Posture and Movement: Readers should maximize good posture and eliminate ticks and nervous mannerisms
Volume: Readers should demonstrate an appropriate loudness that is suitable to their material, their audience, and the space in which they are presenting.
Projection: Similar to volume, but refers, not to loudness, but to power. The power with which your voice is “broadcast” should be suitable for the audience, material, and space.
Clarity/articulation: The reader’s words should be easily understood, things to avoid include muffling, mumbling, garbling, or otherwise obscuring the audience’s easy understanding of what you are saying. Dialect/accent: In general, we will all strive to use the “Standard American” version of the English language but individual accents and dialects as well as performance of global poetry in the original language are encouraged for diversity. Appropriate vocal choices: These include the variety of decisions made by the reader with regard to all of the above, plus pacing, quality, and tone.

At the completion of this course, the student should be able to:
a. Recite and perform excerpts from stories, poems, and plays to communicate the context of literary works to the audience.
b. Develop a detailed analysis of each text, defining the intellectual, emotional, and aesthetic components of a literary work.
h. Demonstrate methods to think carefully and precisely about performance choices.
n. Use the voice and body effectively through practical performance skills which can be used in any arena.

OUTLINE OF INSTRUCTION: I. Basic Principles 2. Analysis: Content and Structure 3. Major Aesthetic Components of Genres and Literary Styles 4. Major Structural Components of Texts 5. Volume and Projection II. Interpretation of Prose 1. Style 2. Diction: The Choice of words 3. Tone Color: The Sounds of Words 4. Oral Histories 5. Short Stories 6. Narration III. Interpretation Of Drama 1. The Nature of Drama 2. Acting versus Interpretation 3. Structural Elements of a Play 4. Analyzing and Working a Scene 5. Rhythm and Style 6. Memorizing Lines 7. Embodying Characters 8. Gender Roles IV. Interpretation of Poetry 1. Classification of Poetry 2. Figurative Language 3. Structure of Poetry V. Group Performance 1. Readers Theater