Presence of the Word – Back to Oral (Not)

October 21st, 2010

Ong, Walter J. The Presence of the Word: Some Prolegomena for Cultural and Religious History. The Terry Lectures. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967.

As I’ve noted many times through this blog, I am not suggesting through my focus on this unique form of aural/visual communication that we are on some track to return to the oral. This could never happen; we cannot unknown what we know. (Actually, the OVC does not even suggest that, since it uses text as well as audio/video.) Ong also notes that there is no way we are returning to an earlier oral-aural world. “There is no return to the past. The successive verbal media do not abolish one another but overlie one another” (9). This point relates to remediation (see Bolter and Grusin) and the discussion of new media finding origins in earlier media. Additionally, oral-aural cultures had very different thought processes and relations to communication, time, and memory to which we could not return having the innumerable recorded artifacts and the recording mindset that we do in this era. Read the rest of this entry »