Can you hear the written word?

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No, I'm not talking about the word of Christianity's God, but I am talking about the numerous transcriptions, publications, and translations of the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, and all of the other books now in the world. Each of these works are texts that are separate from the verbal teachings and interactions that preceded them. Eric A. Havelock covers this issue, orality giving way to written words, in chapter 6 of his book The Muse Learns to Write.

"Jaques Derrida (1967) in effect poses the question: Can a (printed) text speak? and answers No!" (50). This quote, as well as the entire chapter, raised again in my mind the significant differences between printed text and oral communication. It also raised the question that has been driving the first section of my current class: What impacts did writing have on oral communication and how are both lines of communication interacting today. Some of my peers are strongly for one medium or the other, but I like to think that I can appreciate both pretty evenly.

I absolutely love to hear oral stories told to me, but Havelock addresses the problem that many cultures that once wholly relied on oral traditions to tell stories of their cultures were forgotten or became fuzzy due to the introduction of literate societies around them. So some of the stories I love most to hear, might not be anything close to their original form. However, even if I don't read to myself aloud like readers in the Middle Ages did, I still have a voice, my voice (that sometimes changes to fit different characters), is speaking the words that I'm reading in my head. So, I think texts can speak, whether or not it's your own voice reading them or not. And even though my favorite stories may not be exactly as they were upon their conception, I don't experience any less joy from hearing them now.

Then again, I definitely recommend looking at what my peers have written on this particular section and seeing if the words "speak" to you.

1 Comments

Shellie Polly said:

Maddie, I chose this quote as well. And I agree that when things are told to you they become fuzzy. I spent most of my blog defending writting, and you helped :) thanks. It's true, many people choose one over the other, but often times they are both incredibly reliable. And like you mentioned, with telling a story, it's like the telephone game, by the time it gets to you half the story has changed. So writing it down and passing it on can be a big help. Given, I would rather hear a story than have to read about it, incase I lost interest or something the person would be able to keep me in check and all, but they both have their benefits.

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This page contains a single entry by MadelynGillespie published on February 14, 2010 10:06 PM.

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