Elocutionary Arts

Exploring the lost practices and performers of recitation

Elegant Elocution > News > USC Dornsife

California’s poet-laureate for 2009-20012, Carol Muske-Dukes, was inspired by her mother’s recitation of poetry, which she learned in elocution clases.

Gustave Doré’s illustration for Edgar Allan Poe’s often recited poem, The Raven, engraved by Frank French, 1884.
"Till I scarcely more than muttered, ‘Other friends have flown before— On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.’”
Choral Speaking Ensemble, courtesy of Persuasive Speech Secrets.
Young adult author Maureen Johnson has apparently been studying the suggested facial expressions in Voice, speech and gesture; a practical handbook to the elocutionary art, comprising also selections in prose and verse adapted for recitation, reading, and dramatic recital (1912) edited by Robert D. Blackman.  The drawing on the right expresses “Devotion.”

Young adult author Maureen Johnson has apparently been studying the suggested facial expressions in Voice, speech and gesture; a practical handbook to the elocutionary art, comprising also selections in prose and verse adapted for recitation, reading, and dramatic recital (1912) edited by Robert D. Blackman.  The drawing on the right expresses “Devotion.”

Genevieve Stebbins (b. 1857, retired 1907), a major figure in the Delsarte movement.  She was the leading practitioner of statue posing, in performances that consisted of both speaking and movement.  Stebbins’s and her followers’ poses typically centered on female characters from the Bible or myth: Niobe, Miriam, Jephtha, Esther, Isis, Ariadne, Psyche, Ceres, Brunhilda, and Ishtar.  Stebbins performed and taught in New York.  She was the author of The Delsarte System of Expression, Society Gymnastics and Voice Culture, and Dynamic Breathing and Harmonic Gymnastics: a Complete System of Psychical, Aesthetic and Physical Culture. 

"Nobody’s Child" by Phila Case, in The New Century Perfect Speaker: a Complete Encyclopedia of Elocution, Oratory and Etiquette, Including After Dinner Wisdom and Humor (1901), edited by John Coulter

"Nobody’s Child" (Suggestion for tableau for the poem by Phila Case) in in The American Speaker by Henry Davenport Northrop
Flier for The Boston Entertainment Company, 1908-9, featuring Kate Morse Henderson (violin, violoncello, soprano), Ruth Burt Henderson (piano, reader, sketch artist) and Frank LeRoy Beck (reader, impersonator, and manager).  “The program will at once appeal to the lovers of good music and literature.”
"A Delsartean Plea" in The American Speaker by Henry Davenport Northrop
Pose for “Grief” in The Modern Elocutionist or Popular Speaker (1900), by Guy Steeley