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Elitist orality and the triviality of writing

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Chapter Summary

It is no exaggeration to say that the question of orality and literacy is one of the major contributions of Classics to the contemporary discourse. The attitudes of the society to written and oral transmission could under no circumstances be influenced, as is often assumed to be the case with other traditions, by the relative novelty or the limited accessibility of writing. Although the choices ultimately made were different in each specific instance, in each of the cases under consideration it was taken for granted that oral transmission is by its very nature restrictive and therefore more suitable for allowing the elites to exercise control both over the dispersal of information and over the concrete form taken by it. As distinct from this, written transmission allows for mass circulation and consequently for radical democratization of the information involved.

Keywords: contemporary discourse; elitist orality; mass circulation; oral transmission; radical democratization; Triviality; Writing; written transmission



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