- Series: New Accents
- Paperback: 216 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (July 21, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415281296
- ISBN-13: 978-0415281294
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 56 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Orality and Literacy (New Accents) 2nd Edition
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About the Author
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.
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The literacy part, not so much, although the transition from orality to literacy is very interesting.
A must read.
Finding his point is sometimes difficult. Ong's writing is highly academic, and it can be tough to understand what he is actually trying to say at times. Sentences can go on for paragraphs, and overuses of 'that' and other pro-nouns are abundant, and can thoroughly confuse the reader. Besides for the writing style, when you actually grasp a concept, the contextual information provided surly reinforces the idea.
Ong's main objective is to prove there is a difference in the way literate and non-literate people process and remember information, mainly in their environment. He does this with very strong logical arguments and well-studied information. One of the most interesting idea this book presents, is the idea of literacy turning people inward on themselves.
Even though this book was initially released before the massive expansion of the internet, this topic is almost more relevant now than it was at that time. Nearly everyone today has some sort of electronic media using 'print'(facebook, myspace) that makes any information you receive completely internalized. Ong backs this by writing about how sound is internalized as something coming from the real 'human' world. Words really exist as ink on paper in the real world, but without the meaning projected on them by us, they are essentially non-existent. However, an utterance will still be an utterance whether you understand it or not, that is to say you are still effected by it when you hear it.
Ong also refers to the epics of Homer, and the effect they had. This where the some of the most interesting content of the book lies. He says oral people did not have a way to remember, verbatim, things such as an epic so formulas and epitaphs were developed in order to come close to the original. Once writing was invented, these formulas were no longer needed, because writing serves as a function of memory, replacing older methods.
Although this book can seem repetitive, and at times is, "Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word" is definitely something every literate should read to get a better grasp on what is really behind the word.