Orality and Literacy

This is my first time reading Ong’s Orality and Literacy, in spite of his prevalence within the T&T coursework. Before I get into specifics, I feel like Ong’s work is a foundational T&T text, and helps the reader gain an understanding of how the human mind has changed based on the shift from an oral culture to a literate one. After reading Bolter’s Writing Spaces last week, I am interested in the connection between remediation and Ong’s discussion of the differences between orality and literacy. Bolter mostly looks at media, and in particular writing and reading across mediums, and he cites Ong several times throughout his text. After discussion in class on Tuesday night, I agree that reading Ong before Bolter would provide a stronger context for the types of shifts that Bolter discusses, especially when it comes to the idea of closure within print mediums. In Chapters 5 and 6, Ong discusses the creation of the longer form print narrative and the affordances that each offer the creator and the receiver. He compares the “closed” structure of print (which can support a long, carefully plotted narrative) to the episodic oral poem, an “utterance” (p. 123) shaped by each singer or poet that recited it and the situation at hand and rarely, if ever, performed all at once. In his discussion of the narrative, Ong also cautions against applying narrative ideas to oral composition, as “it hardly does justice to describe it as a varying form of an organization it does not know and cannot conceive of” (p. 140). After finishing Orality and Literacy, I want to read Gregory Ulmer’s Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy, which analyzes the shift to electronic literacy. Since Ong’s text was written 30 years ago, he did not have the opportunity to fully explore the shift from literacy and the impact of the electronic text on communication or cognition, but Ulmer continues the conversation in his research.

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