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Again, it is believed that class-room speaking will be best directed toward the cultivation of good speech habits if the attention of the entire class is concentrated mainly, at any one time, on the application of a given principle, or related set of principles. Coöperative exemplification is likely to result in more permanent impressions.
Furthermore, the choice of material for such practice speaking must be made with care. If a class is given free range in selection, it will not, it cannot bring in successive groups of passages which will aptly illustrate the chief phases under consideration as the work progresses. According to the writer's experience, student choice, in general, is apt to be either careless, lacking in definite purpose, badly adapted to specific needs, lurid, or otherwise unsatisfactory for anything like systematic training.
The practice passages, it is felt, in addition to being carefully chosen, should be sufficiently brief to permit of thorough preparation, to give frequent opportunities to each member of the class, and to allow the instructor time for a brief definite criticism in every case.
In preparing the text in accord with these ideas, the writer is, of course, largely indebted to successive classes of students. The character of the book has been determined by their reactions, their limitations, their capacities, and the results which they have shown from various methods of attack. At the same time, a large debt is gratefully acknowledged to an extensive bibliography, which has from time to time afforded suggestion, confirmation, illustrative material, and in some cases, perhaps, a warning.
Rather than that of adding to the already elaborate array of vocal principles, the present task has been to choose and to exclude, to stress certain aspects (such as the sounds of the language — the basic factor of good speaking), and to present with relative simplicity other elements (such as inflection) – all with a view to practical utilization by the student, not only during his course, but, especially, afterward.
The special feature is the combination of principles with classified selections for practical application. For reasons stated above, the length of these passages is a compromise between the familiar, brief reading-exercise and the more elaborate selection of the usual collection. As to the general character of the passages, effort has been made to provide groups which afford variety, interest, and literary excellence.
Part II deals with visible expression. It is generally admitted that good gestures help to vitalize, illuminate, and emphasize verbal expression. And if students of the art of speech-making can be led to understand the underlying principles of gesture, and the reasons for its expressiveness, a notable improvement of their style of delivery can be effected. In our instruction and our textbooks dealing with this subject there has been a tendency to inform the student, ex cathedra, that he should use such and such a gesture on this and that passage. In thus performing the function of trainers only, we get more or less mechanical results on the passages in question, but we do not give the insight which enables the student to apply the gestures to similar or analogous ideas wherever expressed. To tell him, for example, that “thousands of acres" may be indicated by a broad sweep of the hand is surely less beneficial than to lead him to understand that the passage of the hand through space conveys to the audience the idea of extent. Speaking generally, it is not so much by teaching specific gestures as by pointing out the significance of various positions and lines of movement,
and by helping the student to comprehend why these movements aid his words in conveying certain ideas, that we can get the most valuable and lasting results.
Partly because of the ill effects of dogmatic methods or occult and metaphysical systems, a feeling has become widespread that gesture is a product of instinct and cannot be profitably taught. For this attitude I can see hardly more reason than for the view that singing, painting, and other arts are natural instincts and cannot be taught. People often have a gift for one of these arts; they have personality to express in their performances, and poor instruction may hinder their progress. Yet none will deny the desirability of study in these fields. Nor is the case different with respect to gesture. Even if it were true that there are as many effective styles of gesture as there are speakers, there are, nevertheless, in gesture as in other arts certain technical features and general principles which the student should master as a basis for his own particular mode of expression.
This is particularly desirable in the case of manual gestures, which are so frequently neglected or misused, but which may be employed to great advantage. Facial expression, when a speaker is in earnest, is usually instinctive, and obvious in its meaning; a smile, a frown, a sneer accompanying a welcome, a threat, a sarcastic remark are natural manifestations. But the most effective manual gestures are not always products of instinct. The chief aims of this section are, therefore: to discuss the technic of gesture; to indicate the signification of the various positions and forms of the hand; and to determine the reasons for their expressiveness.
Part III aims to embody in clear and concise form the essentials of subject matter and construction. No attempt is made to add to the bibliography of oratory, which
is already adequate. This can hardly be said, however, of the bibliography of practical address. A few admirable books on this phase of public speaking have appeared within recent years, but much that is helpful in the way of new viewpoints and new methods of presentation remains to be written. To distinguish between the aim of the writer on oratory and the purpose of the present treatise, I quote from a book,* recently republished in this country, which represents the oratorical viewpoint:
“Once face to face, and at grappling point with his idea, he (the orator] will forget everything else. He will no longer see anything save the thought which he has to manifest, the feeling of his heart which he has to communicate. His voice, which just now was so tremulous and broken, will acquire assurance, authority, brilliancy; if he is rightly inspired that day, if light from on high beams in his intelligence and warms his soul, his eyes will shoot lightning, and his voice the thunderbolt; his countenance will shine like the sun, and the weakness of humanity will undergo its transfiguration. He will stand on the Mount Tabor of eloquence.”
The above represents a noble and inspiring conception of the speaker; to say anything further on that phase of the subject would, I am afraid, be in the nature of an anti-climax. But such a point of view is not calculated to minister to the requirements of the great body of students, teachers, lawyers, doctors, businessmen, and similar everyday people who will never have occasion to scale the heights of eloquence, but who often need to express their ideas clearly, forcefully, and attractively to their fellowmen. It is to such that the following pages are addressed.
The material used represents, in the main, a condensation and arrangement of the notes and criticisms which
*"The Art of Extempore Speaking,” by Abbé Bautain.
the writer has found most helpful to classes of college students, business and professional men in developing their ability to speak effectively. One of the convictions which this experience has instilled is that in teaching public speaking it is easy to play a part in making “over-instruction the bane of modern education," as Professor A. M. Hitchcock has trenchantly put it. Too many details, too much insistence on the delicate shades of effect, either in lectures or textbooks, are apt to discourage and confuse the student. On the other hand, the subject may be presented in such a vague and sketchy way as to provide him with no substantial guiding principles and aids in the actual practice of speaking, which must, of course, constitute the backbone of his training. The writer has tried to avoid these extremes, and hopes that the result may be of service to those who are interested in practical, extempore address.
J. A. M. COLLEGE OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, 1994.