The Value of Reading Aloud

Leonardo Bruni, de Studiis et Litteris IX:

“It will also be useful to the reader if she reads aloud. For, there are not only in poetry, but also in prose, certain rhythms and sounds measured and understood by the sense of the ear, as well as certain inflections and gradations, such that the voice is lowered, and then raised; there are also cola, commata, and periods stitched together with a marvelous harmony, which will appear in every excellent writer. When reading aloud, then, she will comprehend all of these things better, and she will fill her ears with a certain harmony, which she will perceive and imitate when writing later. It will also follow from this habit of reading aloud that she will bring out words at their proper time, and will not hasten through them when delay is needed, nor will she delay when haste is required.”

Renoir, ‘The Reader’

Quin etiam contenta interdum voce legere iuvabit. Sunt enim non in versu modo, sed etiam soluta in oratione numeri quidam et veluti concentus aurium sensu dimensi et cogniti flexionesque et gradus aliqui, ut modo se demittat vox, modo attollat, colaque et commata et periodi miri concinnitate inter se connexa, quae in optimo quoque scriptore maxime apparent. Ea igitur, cum alte legeret, manifestius deprehendet replebitque aures veluti harmonia quadam, quam et sentiet postea scribens et imitabitur. Illud praeterea ex hac lectione consequetur, ut verba suo tempore proferat neve properet, cum immorandum sit, neve immoretur, cum properandum.

See alsoDon’t Bother Me, I’m Reading!

One thought on “The Value of Reading Aloud

  1. I was struck by Bruni addressing a female reader, as it seemed an improbable courtesy for a man of his era. Investigation turned up this abstract from an article by Virginia Cox in Rhetoric magazine (Vol 27.1 Winter 2009).

    “It is often claimed that Italian humanists disapproved of the study of rhetoric for women, seeing it as transgressing the social-ethical norms that reserved the public virtue of eloquence for men. A key piece of evidence adduced for this view is a passage in Leonardo Bruni’s De studiis et litteris, which appears to exclude the study of rhetoric for women on precisely these grounds. This paper challenges the conventional interpretation of this passage, arguing instead for a satirical reading. Far from proscribing rhetorical study for women in De studiis, it is suggested here, Bruni advocates an innovative humanistic model of rhetorical education, using the choice of a female addressee to underline the novelty of this ideal.”

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