orality and literacy

## walter j. ong ### les belles lettres, 2014

orality of language

“we’ve all heard that an image is worth a thousand words. but if that’s true, why make it a saying?”

all thought is analytic: is divides its object in smaller elements.

writing has extended orality, by turning oral art into a “scientific” art

there is no such thing as “oral literature”

modernity discovering “primary orality”

researchers would attribute to oral poetry the qualities that made sense within their own standards

orality is parataxical (contextual) and aggregative (rather than sequential, rigorous, deductive)

orality has its own specific means of expression, and greek oral philosophy is already influenced by the written word

the move from the “savage mind” to the “rational mind” (levi-strauss) has been shown by goody to have been a switch between oral thinking to written thinking

psychodynamics of orality

we know what we remember: mnemotechnics and formulas

it helps to recall (oneself), and then to restitute (someone else)

oral communication gathers and unites people (through the unity of sound, of conscious emitting and receiving of sound)

example: “it is by seeing one that one knows which color a bear is” example: “can you explain to me what a tree is?” “to do what?”

auto-analysis is hard for oral peoples, since this requires some sort of distancing from the self

de même que les lettrés prêtent aux interprètes oraux des talents de lettrés, les interprètes oraux prêtent aux lettrés des talents caractéristiques de l’oralité

memorization is under the influence of social pressure: one remembers what the audience wants to hear

nature doesn’t have “facts”: these only come from imagined statements by humans to refer to the homogeneous network of the realities which surround them.

le lectorat vs. l’auditoire

writing restructures the mind

it transformed the human consciousness

texts are by nature unchained (insoumis) -one cannot talk to the author

plato: - writing is inhumane - it destroys memory - a written text does not react - a written text cannot defend itself

paradoxically, it is because plato could write that he could articulate his thoughts against phonocentrism

the paradox is that the text’s inertia, its withdrawal from the actual world, its rigidity, all this guarantees that it will endure in a lot of different contexts

writing is a coded system of visible marks, through which a writer can determine the precise words that a reader would generate from a text (that’s a very social definition of writing, even if you’re talking/writing to yourself). there is a requirement of universal humanity for the functioning of speech (from soul to soul)

communication is intersubjective, but the medium isn’t (it’s just inter-, i guess)

grammaire > grimoire > livre de magie (magic book)

goody studied the poetry of tables and lists (calendars, etc.). example of the torah

boustrophédon: reading C code in spirals

the novel took some time to create a fictional stance for the reader (after having worked on genres, character development and plot development). in finnegan’s wake, the role of the reader is that of the fictional reader.

modern, written english has been worked on for five century by clerks and scholars

but still, oral remains

space and meaning: - the index (lists) - the book as container (therefore needs a cover page) - signifying surface (illustration and technical verbalization allow for the development of science) - typographical space (layout becomes a mean of expression: blank space)

print also developed private life (private reading, easier to carry, easier to get lost in it), along with private property: typography becomes a product (and a product which doesn’t deal well with the unfinished)

print also gave birth to the ideas of originality and creativity (things that “come out of nowhere”)

the “public of readership” is composed of readers who follow the continuous, coherent train of though of a distant writer, and could accept her perspectives

as for the digital, it introduced us into “secondary orality”: - participatory - collective - present moments - formulas (memes)

we are facing the outside (social selves, presentation), because through writing we’ve already faced the inside

oral memory, plot and characterizing

of course, storytelling changed not just because of oral->written, but also because of religious, political and cultural exchanges, among others

-> the whole section is about the metamorphosis of storytelling (poets, bards)

the original voice of the oral narrator has taken on different shapes by becoming the silent voice of the writer, while the distance introduced by writing invited different kinds of fictionalization of both the reader and the writer decontextualized

the heroic deeds of the oral hero have been replaced by the inner, subjective conscience of the written hero. the “three-dimensional character” is a product of writing, a psychological mechanism that is dependent on our medium for expression. in History, we’ve moved from accounts of battles to accounts of psyches.

and now avant-garde lit has to destructure or blur out its stories, cause it’s fckn lost :(

some ideas

romanticism and technology go hand in hand (cf. new criticism)

all text is built on a pre-text

to be interpreted, it must possess a link (lien) with the reader (what is the nature of that link?)

“against” structuralism: the ability to mend mistakes and pick up as one goes (oral poet) is one thing that distinguishes the expert from the incompetent.

the challenge is to understand reception in the light of our knowledge regarding the evolution of noetic processes since primary orality until advanced literacy and next? speech, writing, code