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February 18, 2010

I'm still listening.

Please bear with me; my quote from Eric Havelock's The Muse Learns to Write is quite long this time. It's found on pages 86 and 87.

"The uniqueness of the Greek case needs to be understood. It is one which justifies the need for a special theory of Greek orality. 'The Homeric epics the need for a special theory of Greek preserved word...meet the following criteria of authenticity: 1) they have been framed in a society free from any literate contact or contamination, 2) the society was politically and socially autonomous both in its oral and literate periods and consequently possessed a firm consciousness of its own identity, 3) as far as responsibility for the preservation of its consciousness rested upon language came to be transcribed the invention necessary for the purpose was supplied by the speakers of the language within the society itself, 5) the application of the invention to transcribe anything and everything that might be both spoken and preservable continued to be controlled by Greek speakers."

I just found this process to be interesting because it meant that all of the power rested in the hands of the speakers and of the people that were delivering the oral messages. I have repeated myself about a thousand times saying that I think orality holds more precedence than written text, but the Greeks actually lived that! (Wow, I'm over excited about this.) But I really just found it to be so unique to find out that the Greeks had a system that only allowed certain things to be written down. I'm imagining living in that time and hearing a speaker that wasn't allowed to be written down...how amazing would that speech be? I'm guessing it was ground breaking, since orality was so precious and only an elite group of (men) could actually do that and be listened to, the Greeks were obviously on to something. Too bad we didn't take notice.

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