Spring  2006
Pétur Knútsson     

05.16.36 Seminar, and  05.16.37  Seminar Project:  (2.5 credits each)
Illiteracy, Orality, Literacy and Textuality

Seminar

 In this seminar we’ll be looking at the various stages of orality, literacy and textuality, and especially the dynamics of transition between these various stages. In the early sessions, say the first 4 weeks of the course, we shall map out the areas we feel we have time to cover and distribute them between the participants, who will be expected to lead their own sessions on their chosen topics. A detailed timetable for the later sessions will be worked out by week 4. You should note that there is a heavy reading list in this course, and I you will need to complete at least a first reading of Ong (1982) before the course begins
I shall be posting a more detailed reading list HERE before too long.

Please notice the change in the name of this seminar. Since suggesting it to the Department and getting it printed in the University Calendar, I have re-read Ong and re-membered his rejection of the term “illiteracy” in favour of “orality”: we must try not to see orality from the viewpoint of literacy. One of our most difficult tasks in this seminar will be to try to tune in to the world-view of cultures which have not yet had their mind-set completely reframed by the advent of writing, to understand Ong’s term “orality” without any reference to literacy. As we shall see, this is virtually impossible for us.

    However, I have not been able to change the Icelandic name for this seminar: Ólæsi, læsi, texti. How can we translate “orality”? Munnleg menning? Munnleg hefð? Hin munnlega heimsmynd? Any suggestions?  - email me at peturk@hi.is.

- Áslaug has suggested munnmæli. The only difficulty here is the word already has the meaning "rumour",  "hearsay" (orðasveimur, orðrómur). On the other hand this isn't far off the mark: one of the essential characteristics of orality is that "truth" and "runour" are not so clearly distinguished as in literacy: all oral narration is hearsay ....

I have a suggestion too. The Icelandic for bilingualism is tvítyngi. Couldn't we make a back-formation and say that tyngi meant "linguality" - the attribute of having language - which in its simplest form is orality? The word linguality doesn't often crop up in dictionaries, but OED gives it as appearing in Funk's Standard Dictionary 1893 (!). Ong doesn't use the word - perhaps he should have!