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Orality and Literacy (New Accents) New edition Edition
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New from Tom Wolfe
The maestro storyteller and reporter provocatively argues that what we think we know about speech and human evolution is wrong. Learn more
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Top Customer Reviews
McLuhan brought to my attention how media are not just passive carriers of content, but powerfully shape and influence it. Even more startling, he stated that media shape consciousness itself - they change the very people who use it. The tail wags the dog.
McLuhan's probes have their strength in galvanizing thought, not in the patient, careful arguing of a point. It's in this context I found Ong exactly what I was hoping/looking for. He tries to evoke an understanding of what is what like to live in a culture that had never known writing. He discusses how this affects each aspect of life, how it structures personality and identity, community, etc. (Not surprisingly, Ong was a student of McLuhan.)Then he discusses the shift to literacy, and how it affected identity as well.
I am used to academics writing in such a dense, convoluted style. Happily, this was completely absent from Ong's style. He manages to drop little insights about without belaboring them.
The great thing about a book like this for me - a layman - is that he manages to comment on apparently trivial, mundane features of daily life like calendars, lists, clocks, title pages in books - and show how they really manifest these huge, typically invisible trends in the changing of how we think about life and ourselves.
I loved this book - I will certainly read his earlier articles, since Orality and Literacy is mostly a summing of all prior research (as of 1982).Read more ›
In it, Walter Ong makes a valiant attempt to take us back to a time before text, to a place where we might imagine language as something heard and existing only in its moment, language as something without thee concept of words and letters to chop it up, language as something we hear without imagined structures learned from print, language as something replete with revealing repetitions to aid memory and understanding, something that values the familiar over the novel. He then slowly winds us forward, textual innovation by [con]textual innovation, to the edge of the cyber age, the next unwritten chapter along this vast track.
If you're a reader of books, I'm sure you'll be transported by this adventure beyond your cultural assumptions of what language is and can be. You may find yourself yearning for some of the human experience our world of convenient published accessible text may be denying us, or even hoping some of that experience is still available in specialist forms such as live performance, as I do.
Either way, you'll never hear a book like it.
Printing and computers emerged as technology. But so did writing. Writing is so natural to us that we forget it is a human creation - we can not even name what came before it (oral literature is a revealing oxymoron).
Ong convinces us that writing restructured our consciousness, and so does this little book. This technical, scholarly and at time tedious book is an eye opener. It shows that what seems like a given is possibly the most fundamental reshaping of ourselves in the history of humanity.
Those fond of Homer or Plato will wonder how they could have studied them seriously without the prism of orality vs literacy. The Iliad and Odyssey are oral poems - can we imagine what it takes to compose a tens of thousand words epic without taking a single note, without writing a single verse and without an outline? The Socrates discourses - discourses! - are the first steps of written analytic thoughts in a Society were rhetoric was king.
Beyond antic work the orality perspective is relevant for the full history of thoughts. Literature became less and less influenced by the oral constraints, shifting from the episodic epics to the modern well constructed novel. Teaching evolved from recitation and rhetoric to analytical thoughts.
Grasping orality allows a better understanding of human nature, not only by offering a glimpse of what primitive society's thoughts might be, but by putting the evolution of thoughts in a new light. Differences in today's societies often reflect their degree of literacy, i.e., the maturity of their written thought process.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Difficult book to read. I had to read most of it twice, probably because it uses a lot of terminology that I wasn't familiar with. But it was worth the effort.Published 8 months ago by BJO
If you want to blow your cranium wide open with considerations of the history and meaning of oral culture (vs. literary culture)... then this book will certainly do that. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Michael S. Vandy
Good basic primer on preaching. Recommended by a priest with his doctorate in homiletics.Published 21 months ago by John Pfeifer
But the writing in this book is less than impressive. As a literary scholar, the scholarship is okay, but Ong makes many claims without supporting them thoroughly with much... Read morePublished on August 27, 2013 by Amanda McAvoy
I started getting a bit deeper into rhetoric at grad school, and became a pretty serious devotee of a new orality growing out of computers and the Internet. Read morePublished on April 19, 2013 by Alex Acton
For those reviewers who found this book less than commendable: you need to broaden your horizons.
For me, Ong's book was an introduction into the way societies... Read more