VVP: Art 434 & Engl. 410

Website for Vision Voice and Practice: An Interdisciplinary Course in Art and Creative Writing

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Walter Ong on the power of the grapholect

I've been reading Walter Ong's best known book, Orality and Literacy. Given the attention we give in this class to crafting images and writing, I thought I'd put something down here here. The analysis is more complicated and nuanced than this passage might suggest.
Though words are grounded in oral speech, writing tyrannically locks them into a visual field forever. A literate person, asked to think of the word 'nevertheless,' will normally (and I strongly suspect always) have some image, at least vague, of the spelled-out word and be quite unable ever to think of the word 'nevertheless' for, let us say, 60 seconds without adverting to any lettering but only to the sound. This is to say, a literate person cannot fully recover the sense of what the word is to purely oral people.

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