Walter Ong published Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word in 1982, synthesizing his career-long concern with the impact of the shift from orality to literacy on various cultures. Scholars of African American literary and cultural studies were coming to redefine their field around the terms orality and literacy at around the same time that Ong published his book; but where Ong stressed historical change or the fall from orality to literacy, African Americanists tended to accent their mutual mediation. This article explores the way that African Americanists, in stressing mediation, return orality and literacy to the concerns of Ong’s ostensible field: media studies.
Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy (1982)
Stephen Best is a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a member of the Representations editorial collective. His books include The Fugitive’s Properties: Law and the Poetics of Possession (2004) and None Like Us: Blackness, Belonging, Aesthetic Life (2018).
Stephen Best; Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy (1982). Public Culture 1 May 2020; 32 (2 (91)): 431–439. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-8090173
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