This classic work explores the vast differences between oral and literate cultures and offers a lucid account of the intellectual, literary and social effects of writing, print and electronic technology. In the course of his study, Walter J. Ong offers fascinating insights into oral genres across the globe and through time and examines the rise of abstract philosophical and scientific thinking. He considers the impact of orality-literacy studies not only on literary criticism and theory but on our very understanding of what it is to be a human being, conscious of self and other. This is a book no reader - or writer or speaker - should be without.
Table of Contents
General Editor's Preface; Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. The Orality of Language: The literate mind and the oral past; Did you say 'oral literature'?; 2. The modern discovery of primary oral cultures: Early awareness of oral tradition; The Homeric question; Milman Parry's discovery; Consequent and related work; 3. Some psychodynamics of orality: Sounded word as power and action; You know what you can recall: mneumonics and formulas; Further characteristics of orally based thought and expression (I) Addictive rather than subordinative (ii) Aggregative rather than analytic (iii) Redundant or 'copious' (iv) Conservative or traditionalist (v) Close to the human lifeworld (vi) Agonistically toned (vii) Empathetic and participatory rather then objectively distanced (viii) Homeostatic (ix) Situational rather than abstract; Oral memorization; Verbomotor lifestyle; The noetic role of heroic 'heavy' figures and of the bizarre; The interiority of sound; Orality, community and the sacral; Words are not signs; 4. Writing restructures consciousness: The new world of autonomous discourse; Plato, writing and computers; Writing is a technology; What is 'writing' or 'script'?; Many scripts but only one alphabet; The onset of literacy; From memory to written records; Some dynamics of textuality; Distance, precision, grapholects and magnavocabularies; Interactions: rhetorics and the places; Interactions: learned languages; Tenaciousness of orlaity; 5. Print, space and closure: Hearing-dominance yeilds o sight-dominance; Space and meaning (I) Indexes (ii) Books, contents and labels (iii) Meaningful surface (iv) Typographic space; More diffuse effects; Print and closure: intertexuality; Post-typography: electronics; 6. Oral memory, the story line and characterisation: The primacy of the story line; Narrative and oral cultures; Oral memory and the story line; Closure of plot: travelogue to detective story; The 'round' character, writing and print; 7. Some theorems: Literary history; New Criticism and Formalism; Structuralism; Textualists and deconstructionists; Speech-act and reader-response theory; Social Sciences, philosophy, biblical studies; Orality, wriitng and being human; 'Media' versus human communication; The inward turn: consciousness and the text; Bibliography; Index.
Walter J. Ong is University Professor Emeritus at Saint Louis University, USA, where he was previously Professor of English and Professor of Humanities in Psychiatry. His many publications have been highly influential for studies in the evolution of the consciousness.