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Orality and Literacy
Walter J. Ong
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Orality and Literacy

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,209 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews

This classic work explores the vast differences between oral and literate cultures offering a very clear account of the intellectual, literary and social effects of writing, print and electronic technology.

In the course of his study, Walter J. Ong offers fascinating insights into oral genres across the globe and through time, and examines the rise of abstract philosophical

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Published May 23rd 2002 by Routledge (first published January 1st 1191)
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"Literacy transforms consciousness, producing patterns of thought which to literates seem perfectly commonplace and 'natural' but which are possible only when the mind has devised and internalized the technology of writing."

That looks like a fairly succinct summary of these densely packed pages. Well done, whoever wrote the flyleaf introduction.

This is what academic writing should do: instruct, amaze, amuse, engage and shift the way you look at the world. 'Primitive' cultures do not 'lack' the s
Emma Sea
Aug 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is from 1982, and so Ong's critique of written texts is based on its Modernist characteristics - the way it represents a closed singular voice: authoritative, and not just unresponsive to the reader, but unaware of a reader other than in the most abstract and removed sense. With the rise of the internet these characteristics give way to limitless intertextuality. The written text is opened up to a multiplicity of voices that can respond immediately to a written text, that remix, reconst ...more
When I first read this book I was blown away by how I'd never considered what seems absolutely obvious: that the introduction of a technology like writing--whereby the relationship between people and their medium of thought, language, is radically transformed--would have profound effects upon the very way people think.

And then I read more, and thought about it more, and I think in some ways Ong seriously overstates his case, and in others he is just wrong. To support his claim that writing allow
Simona Bartolotta
Apr 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Extremely interesting. Some passages are fastidiously repetitive (one or two times I even guessed what it was going to say next) but it offers a lor of illuminating considerations about how and how deeply writing changed our world and our minds.
Jan 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Walter Ong believes that writing is the single most important technology created by man, because it has had the greatest effect in shaping human consciousness. He believes that individuals and cultures can be fundamentally divided between those that are primary oral (have never known writing) and those that are literate. The effect of literacy is to greatly amplify certain modes of thought: analytical, abstract, impersonal. Though writing itself dates to roughly 3500 B.C. when it was invented by ...more
Kelly Carter
Apr 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book stunned me by revealing how learning to read and write SHAPES YOUR MIND and makes you a different kind of human creature than one who is illiterate. Illiterate people may be high IQ and very clever, but without having learned to read and write, their conscious experience is very different from those of us who are literate. It changes how we must look at ancient people: we can't assume they were "like us" but simply "without out modern knowledge." No, they THOUGHT very differently. Read ...more
كارو بورا
من أعظم الكتب في تاريخ البشرية: الشفاهية والكتابية

هذا الكتاب مثل مناجم ذهب مكسوة بطبقة رقيقة من تراب التفاصيل. ما ان تنبش قليلا باصبعك حتى تكتشف الذهب.
لقد ضاعف الكتاب على قدرتي التحليلية وفهم الامور المعيشية البسيطة. بعد قراءته ستفهم شخصيات الناس بصورة افضل, وستفهم طرق تفكيرهم, وستفهم كيف تطورت الحضارات.

قد يظن البعض اني ابالغ, ولذا فاني احيلكم الى تدوينة تلخيصية (لحوالي 30 تدوينة في مدونة مبادرتنا من وحي الكتاب). وتحوي هذه التدوينة التلخيصية (بعنوان:"التاريخ يكشف استاره ويحدّث اخباره- كيف قبضت
For me, the concept of writing changing a society's perception of the world is almost common sense. However, academic linguists are a funny breed, including those I count as my friends, and somehow they didn't seem to pick up on this. Oral societies function differently than literate (or "chirographic," in Ong's more PC language) societies. I can leave my girlfriend a note saying "pick up fresh basil at the store, I'll be home at 7." Just illustrated the situation. Next.

Of course, if what Ong di
Michael Meeuwis
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't normally "do" academic books in my Goodreads account, because, like I think most people, I don't usually read them cover-to-cover. I'm making an exception for this book, both because I did read all of it--finding it fascinating--but also because I think some of you working outside of academia might find this fascinating. This is a book I wish I'd known about when I was writing my dissertation--is this one of those things that everyone's read that I, in my dilettantish way, just didn't? A ...more
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Authors of Non-Fiction do take note: THIS is how you impart information poetically, how you make your passion for your subject contagious.

Dec 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oral-traditions
I loved this book. Initially, I was intimidated by Ong's reputation and I was convinced I would be swimming in a morass of esoteric, dense, unfathomable, theoretical musings. Instead, I found his work very readable and informative. Even though I didn't agree with all of his ideas regarding the movement of societies from oral to written cultures, I still thought his views were compelling. It was a pleasant surprise. I started the book being afraid of the impersonal author known as "Ong," but I fi ...more
Apr 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okay, so this is a challenging read and was actually one of my college textbooks, but it taught me invaluable things about: the nature of communication, including interaction between people, and how meaning is constructed based on people having had an interaction/conversation in person; the nature of language and how words gain their meaning; how writing is actually a process of thinking; how both speaking and writing are transactional processes between speaker/writer and audience/reader.
Jul 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a surprisingly basic overview of orality. It's by no means even an essential book for its subject, and I'm not really sure why it's a classic. A few of the statements about Far Eastern writing are suspect ("Chinese character writing, like many other writing systems, is intrinsically elitist") which makes me place doubt on the ethnographic data. I expect "The Presence of the Word" to be better. ...more
Wens Tan
A fascinating account of how our ways of thinking and communicating changed when we shifted from a predominantly oral culture to a written one. Speech, once uttered, disappears. By holding the thoughts indefinitely in print, we can revisit them repeatedly, in an non-sequential analytical way. We can start questioning our past thoughts by re-reading them, when it would have been silly and tiring to keep talking to oneself.

Also an excellent example of concise, scholarly writing.
Jun 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: phd-books
very useful points, particularly that a literate society is a self-aware society, though it's a generality and I am somewhat uncomfortable with his justification for it.

the difference between oral and text-literate cultures though is gospel.

If you're studying digital media culture and social media communication it's a must.
Dec 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While one could fault Ong for his broad generalizations (and for misunderstanding the nature of Chinese writing), such criticism would be petty for a "big picture" book which synthesizes truckloads of previous scholarship in advocating for the importance of orality in understanding human intellectual history. Delivered with clarity and joy, a good introduction to the topic.
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book, the rare teaching text that both sums up the prior literature masterfully and offers up its own incisive analysis. I highly recommend this book for an introduction to the field. I will be following up the references in it for quite some time.
Jan 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Aaron by: Bridget Illian
Shelves: orality
Excellent overview of the differences between oral and literate cultures. A bit dated now, but still sheds plenty of light on the subject; good in interaction with Margaret Lee's Sound Mapping the New Testament.
Nov 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for anyone who has thought about how print shaped human destiny and thought processes. I love this book.
Sep 24, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In 17 (school) weeks I won't have to do required reading like this anymore.

I'm thrilled.
Patrick Stuart
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is too good, too dense and too short to easily review. It's hard to summarise something that is already a very able summary of a long career or to provide a doorway into something that is itself a doorway into an entire field. There's something quotable or interesting on every page and if I began then it would be hard to stop and here I would be typing out the whole thing for you.

The book is about the shift from an oral culture, one without writing, to whatever our modern one is, usual
Korhan Kalabalık
Özellikle sözlü kültüre, Ong'un ifadesiyle birincil sözlü kültüre, yönelik literatürün sunduğu pek çok bilgiyi bir arada bulabilmek ve Ong'un görüşlerini öğrenebilmek adına değerli bir kaynak. Edebiyatın ve iletişim süreçlerinin de sözlü kültürden yazılı kültüre geçerkenki değişimi, dilin bu esnada yaşadığı dönüşümü somut örnekler üzerinden temel bir ders kitabı gibi sizlere sunabiliyor. Bu özelliğiyle de pek çok sosyal bilimci için okunulması kaçınılmazlaş hâle gelen bir eser oluyor.
Barış Özgür
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
neden rft'yi küçümsüyorum? verbal behaviour denen nanenin en temel niteliklerinden bihaberler de ondan. elinden geliyorsa elinle, dilinden geliyorsa dilinle, hiçbir çaren yoksa kalbinle buğz edersin. verbal behaviour is too broad bro. elden, dilden ve kalpten çıkanın farkına dair sikertici bir inceleme. rft ne diyenler, galleria'ya, capacity'ye falan gitsin amk, ne işiniz var burda.
Gary Bruff
Walter Ong might not have been the first to contemplate how writing rocks our world, but I suspect he might be the best. Orality and Literacy is a book about orality/aurality as a way of life and about literacy as an overarching technological transformation of that way of life. Literacy is an epic triumph that led to the end of the age of epic poetry. No longer would people (re-)produce their oeuvre of 'literature' through the memorization of prodigious 'texts', nor through a spontaneous adaptat ...more
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scholarly, media
I read this book in order to shore up a few holes in my media studies readings, and I found more or less what I was expecting--an account of writing and oral communication that is a little dated, but clearly lays the foundation for much of the contemporary theory. Someone I was discussing the book with made the comparison to Marshall McLuhan, and I think that's fairly apt; Ong's tone is similar to what you'd find in a work like The Medium is the Message, but where McLuhan's writing tends to be f ...more
David Montgomery
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a five-star book in terms of its content: Ong's theory about the orality-literacy binary is illuminating, if oversimplified.

His main argument: that oral speech and written word are not merely two different ways of expressing the same thing, but qualitatively different with far-reaching implications. Drawing on literary analysis and anthropological studies in pre-literate societies, Ong argues that oral culture is driven by the inability to ever "look something up." As a result, oral cul
Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
sebuah cerita tentang kesan
Andai aku bisa menyebut tulisan ini sebagai ulasan, atau review, atau resensi.
Tapi sepertinya tidak. Aku tahu batasan-batasanku. Aku tahu kesukaan-kesukaanku. Aku tahu batasan-batasan dunia di luar sana. Ulasan, review atau resensi bukanlah apa yang hendak kutulis.
Dari tak banyak buku yang pernah kubaca, tak banyak lagi yang menimbulkan dan meninggalkan kesan begitu mendalam hingga boleh dibilang menentukan arah dan pilihan-pilihan hidupku.
Dalam kelompok buku yang kus
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Notes from final:

Ong presents a notable exploration of writing’s potentiality in transforming human consciousness. Writing provides the mechanism to note thoughts down that would otherwise have to be retrieved from memory – hence, it takes that away something that, if writing weren’t a tool, would have had to been repossessed. Therefore, writing, as Ong sees it, is technology. The same could not be said about the spoken word, for it is the visual apparatus that writing presents which stores the
Maria Castro
I have so much to say about this book!
A history of writing as the technology that shaped our modern day (western?) individuality...
From the moment I finished reading it I could classify everyone, from friends to foes, according to their closeness or distance from either the oral or literary culture.
I'm one of those sad people that read too much at an early age and is now trying to run the path back to some kind of oral life skill.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Preface to Plato
  • The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man
  • The Printing Press as an Agent of Change
  • Remediation: Understanding New Media
  • Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation
  • Writing Machines
  • A Rhetoric of Motives
  • The Language of New Media
  • The Book History Reader
  • The Singer of Tales
  • The Rule of Metaphor
  • The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450-1800
  • After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation
  • The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information
  • Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace
  • Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning
  • On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction
  • Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History
“Sight isolates, sound incorporates. Whereas sight situates the observer outside what he views, at a distance, sound pours into the hearer. Vision dissects, as Merleau-Ponty has observed (1961). Vision comes to a human being from one direction at a time: to look at a room or a landscape, I must move my eyes around from one part to another. When I hear, however, I gather sound simultaneously from every directions at once; I am at the center of my auditory world, which envelopes me, establishing me at a kind of core of sensation and existence... You can immerse yourself in hearing, in sound. There is no way to immerse yourself similarly in sight.
By contrast with vision, the dissecting sense, sound is thus a unifying sense. A typical visual ideal is clarity and distinctness, a taking apart. The auditory ideal, by contrast, is harmony, a putting together.
Interiority and harmony are characteristics of human consciousness. The consciousness of each human person is totally interiorized, known to the person from the inside and inaccessible to any other person directly from the inside. Everyone who says 'I' means something different by it from what every other person means. What is 'I' to me is only 'you' to you...
In a primary oral culture, where the word has its existence only in sound... the phenomenology of sound enters deeply into human beings' feel for existence, as processed by the spoken word. For the way in which the word is experienced is always momentous in psychic life.”
“Indeed, the diary demands, in a way, the maximum fictionalizing of the utterer and the addressee. Writing is always a kind of imitation talking, and in a diary I therefore am pretending that I am talking to myself.” 1 likes
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