Recitation was a vital part of the curriculum in education in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. It not only enabled students to gain practice in addressing groups in public, but also provided models for the study of accent and elocution – vital skills in the days before public address systems were universally available. Accordingly, a number of “reciters,” or collections of texts suitable for recitation, were published in this period. The Coo-ee Reciter, published in 1904, was one of the most popular of these collections in Australia. In the words of the anthologist it contains a variety of “humorous, pathetic, dramatic and dialect recitations and readings” by Australian, British and American authors.
Inevitably, these collections featured many items that featured the events and attitudes of the period. While many of the pieces can make no claim to be great literature, they do have great value as windows into the experiences, expectations and aspirations of the people at the time.
– Summary by Algy Pug
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