Here’s the graduate seminar I’ll be teaching next semester:
Literary scholar Nicholas Hudson has recently repeated media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s assertion that “European intellectuals achieved a clear perception of ‘orality’ only after their own world had been engulfed in print.” In the middle of the eighteenth century, British actor and elocutionist Thomas Sheridan wrote with amazed respect about “the power which words acquire, even the words of fools and madmen, when forcibly uttered by the living voice.” For Sheridan, as for many of his contemporaries, the speech of preachers, politicians, actors, barristers, and even everyday people was a threatening and unruly force compared to the presumably ordered presentation of information through writing and print. The spoken word had been an essential part of human communication for thousands of years, yet the advent of the printed word and widespread literacy in eighteenth-century Britain dramatically reoriented attitudes towards speech. Students in this course will consider just how “clear” the perception of orality might have been among literate people in this period as they study developments in oral and literate practice in eighteenth-century Britain. We will learn what scholars have had to say about orality and literacy, and we will read the works of eighteenth-century poets, dramatists, rhetoricians, clergymen, and cultural commentators.
Course requirements will include class presentations, a take-home exam, an annotated bibliography, and a final research paper building upon the research completed for the annotated bibliography. This course will be rewarding to students interested in the eighteenth century, literary history, rhetoric, media studies, cultural studies, and critical literacy studies.
This sounds great. Lucky students!
I am doing some work on the “oral/print divide” in popular texts; maybe I will contact you when I am further along.
Thanks, Miriam! The director’s cut of the course description was longer
We will cover a number of topics, including the following:
We’ll probably also discuss the cultural anxiety over religious “enthusiasm” by looking at some well-known conservative responses to evangelicalism, and we’ll consider some of the moral (in addition to political) responses to the stage (paging Jeremy Collier).
A list of the big wig theorists on orality and literacy would include Walter Ong, Eric Havelock, Jack Goody, and Albert Lord & Milman Parry. Adam Most recently, the work of Adam Fox on early modern England has been very interesting.
And here are some additional finds. Let me know if you need help finding a copy of each:
ìTechnology Inside: Enlightenment and Romantic Assumptions of the Orality/Literacy Schoolî
Oxford Literary Review 21 (1999): 57-72.
ìLinguistic Colonialism and Primitivism: the Discovery of Native Languages and Oral Traditions in Eighteenth-Century Travel Books and Novelsî
Anglia: Zeitschrift fur Englische Philosophie 106.3-4 (1988): 338-359.
ìThe Rhetoric of Orality in Defoeís A Journal of the Plague Yearî
Conference of College Teachers of English 58 (1986): 36-39.
Revising oral theory : formulaic composition in Old English and Old Icelandic verse
New York : Garland, 1998.
MNL PR179.O7 A25 1998
Bradbury, Nancy M.
Writing aloud : storytelling in late medieval England
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c1998.
MNL PR275.O72 B73 1998
Gellrich, Jesse M., 1942-
Discourse and dominion in the fourteenth century : oral contexts of writing in philosophy, politics, and poetry
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1995.
MNL PR275.O72 G45 1995
Earnest games : folkloric patterns in the Canterbury tales
Bloomington : Indiana University Press, c1987.
MNL PR1875.F67 L5 1987
Opland, Jeff, 1943-
Anglo-Saxon oral poetry : a study of the traditions
New Haven : Yale University Press, 1980.
MNL PR203 .O6
Oral poetics in Middle English poetry
edited by Mark C. Amodio with the assistance of Sarah Gray Miller.
New York : Garland Pub., 1994.
MNL PR317.O72 O7 1994
Smith, Bruce R., 1946-
The acoustic world of early modern England : attending to the O-factor
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1999.
MNL PR428.P65 S65 1999
“Biases of the Ear and Eye: ‘Great Divide’ Theories, Phonocentrism, Graphocentrism & Logocentrism,” a useful website by Daniel Chandler (lecturer in the Department of Theatre, Film & Television Studies at University of Wales, Aberystwyth.)