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TIME-BINDING IN ORAL CULTURES.

Time-binding is the quintessential human activity. As Alfred Korzybski argues, time-binding is the characteristic that separates human beings from other forms of life: "... the human class of life differs from animals in the fact that, in the rough, each generation of humans, at least potentially, can start where the former generation left off..." (1) Time-binding is a product of society, but it is not a necessary prerequisite. Many animal species, such as bees and apes, are social, but they are unable to engage in time-binding. Human societies do engage in time-binding, and it is for this reason that cultures develop. A culture is an experiment in the storage of information for reuse. (2) When this experiment is successful, the culture becomes something greater than the society that produced it. A society is space-bound and exists only at a particular point in time; cultures span time and maintain a continuity between the past, the present, and the perceived future. A culture connects societies over time. A successful experiment in time-binding has survival value, supplementing biological evolution with cultural evolution. It is the fine-tuning of the human species.

A successful experiment will result in improvement in the human condition, in things getting better, in what we refer to as progress. The essence of time-binding is expressed in Isaac Newton's often-quoted observation: "If I have seen further... it is by standing upon the shoulders of Giants." Human societies are able to engage in time-binding because of our capacity for symbolic communication. Through language, information may be transmitted from one individual to another, and in this manner, from one generation to the next. Society makes symbolic communication possible. (3) Symbolic communication makes time-binding possible. Time-binding makes culture possible. Information is stored for reuse in a symbolic form.

Time-binding can be self-reflexive. Just as it is possible to talk about talking, it is possible to apply the process of time-binding to time-binding, and consequently improve our ability to store information for reuse. Writing, printing, photography, motion pictures, sound and video recording, and computer storage all have furthered our ability to bind time. In adding to society's storage capacity, each of these technologies has altered culture. Each time-binding technology has its own unique impact on societies and cultures. However, all of these technologies also have something in common in that they store information outside of the human memory. Ever since the development of writing circa 3500 B.C.E., the human species has grown less and less memory-dependent. It is difficult for us today to imagine what it is like to be dependent on memory for our time-binding. We can surmise that the first time-binding societies had a very limited storage capacity, mostly survival-oriented. And anyone who has played the game of 'telephone' is aware of the difficulty in maintaining fidelity when information is passed from individual to individual by word of mouth. It seems as if there could not have been much change in this condition until the creation of memory-independent time-binding. However, change did occur before the time that writing was invented. The process of time-binding was applied to time-binding itself. Although still memory-dependent, techniques were developed to aid the human memory. These techniques, mnemonics, were central to the formation of the type of culture that many scholars refer to as oral.

Oral Mnemonics

Oral mnemonics are a set of techniques which allow information to be placed in a form that is easy to remember. The techniques of poetry, such as rhythm, rhyme, and various forms of repetitions and parallelisms, are oral mnemonics. Eric Havelock describes the techniques of oral poetry as a "total technology of the preserved word." (4) In an oral culture, poetry performs the same functions as our encyclopedias and textbooks. The information embedded in the poetic form is information that can be stored for reuse. With the development and diffusion of writing, mnemonics become somewhat obsolete, and the techniques of poetry become associated with aesthetics. Even so, they retain their mnemonic function. In our literate culture children learn the alphabet and alphabetical order by reciting the letters in a singsong, and they are taught that, "In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Persuaders use these techniques as well. Many years after the advertising campaign people still remember the slogan, "Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should." Whether read or heard, information encountered in this form is hard to forget.

In an oral culture, the simplest form in which knowledge is stored is the saying, e.g., proverbs, maxims, adages, aphorisms, epigrams, etc. Haste makes waste. A stitch in time saves nine. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. The saying is easy to remember, but it is limited in the amount of information it contains. Longer forms were developed over time, from short lyric and narrative poetry to the epic, accompanied by an overall increase in the number of poems. (5) This process takes place very slowly, over many generations. As the length and number of forms increased, the oral tradition as a whole becomes increasingly difficult to manage and preserve, and it is necessary to improve on the mnemonic techniques as well. This occurs through the development of meter and a system of formulas and formulaic expressions.

Meter is a specific type of rhythm, one that is repeated without variation. In other words, meter is simplified and formalized rhythm. Lengthy oral narratives are characterized by this kind of consistent rhythm, such as dactylic hexameter in Homeric verse, although the specific meter varies among cultures. While a literate poet may use a variety of meters in different poems, or vary the meter within the same poem, or forgo the use of meter altogether, the oral poet only works with the traditional meter of his culture. On the other hand, it is not uncommon to find a mistake in the meter of the poem, an extra beat or syllable. (6) The literate poet can return to his text and reread and rewrite it; the oral poet cannot. Literacy allows for a kind of perfection in the meter of poetry that is not possible in an oral culture.

Consistent rhythm is, of course, easier to remember than variable rhythm. Also, the formalization of rhythm limits the choice of words. The language must be made to fit into the rhythm. Reducing the possible word choices provides the redundancy necessary to memorize longer narratives. And, as Milman Parry observes, because the meter in oral poetry severely restricts the choice of words, it consequently restricts the meaning:
Homer... assigned to his characters divinity, horsemanship, power, and
even blond hair, according to the metrical value of their names, with
no regard to their birth, their character, their rank, or their legend:
except in so far as these things were common to all heroes.
Except, that is to say, in so far as these things are interchangeable.
If being 'divine,' for example, has about the same value as being
'king' or 'horseman' or 'blameless' or 'strong' or any of the other
qualities indicated by the generic epithet, then the poet was led by
considerations of metre to stress one of these qualities for a given
hero more than another. (7)


With certain qualifications, Parry is saying that in oral poetry, the meter is the message.

Related to the technique of meter is the use of music. Oral poetry generally is not recited: it is sung. Homer sings of the wrath of Achilles, and in the language of the Iliad and the Odyssey no differentiation is made between a singer and a poet. Parry and Albert Lord describe the oral poets of Yugoslavia as "singers of tales" who accompanied themselves on a stringed instrument. Havelock states that in an oral culture, musical ability is synonymous with the ability to compose oral poetry. (8) He also notes that in Greece up until the fifth century B.C.E., musical and unmusical were used as metaphors for educated and uneducated, an interesting parallel to our own use of literate and illiterate. (9) Music helps the oral poet to keep the rhythm of the meter. Unlike literate societies, music is subordinate to poetry in oral culture:
The original Greek music was composed to accompany oral recitation of
verse, and was the servant of the diction, not its master. It was
required to conform to the rhythm of the words, rather than have the
words laid on the rack to conform to the music. (10)


Moreover, music and speech are never entirely oral. Language and paralanguage both involve a kinesic element. For a human being to produce a sound requires the movement of many parts of the body, including the diaphragm, lungs, and rib cage, as well as the throat and mouth, the larynx, tongue, teeth, palate, and lips. Havelock points out that rhythmic vocalizations will produce repetitive body movements, both in the mouth, and in the rest of the body. (11) Therefore, the mnemonic device of meter is not just an oral technique, but a kinesic one as well. The rhythm is maintained through body movements such as gesture, rocking back and forth, and dancing. (12) In addition, body movements may be applied to objects for the same purpose. Any object may be transformed into a percussion instrument. Musical accompaniment using string and wind instruments also involve body movements, such as fingering, strumming, picking, and blowing. Poetry, music, and kinesics all work together to keep the rhythm.

As music and body movements serve the meter, so does the diction. In formalizing the rhythm, meter also formalizes the language to which it is applied. Much of Parry's research was focused on the relationship between meter and formulaic language. He defines formula as "a group of words which is regularly employed under the same metrical conditions to e press a given essential idea." (13) In other words, the formula is a technique used to fit information into the poetic meter. Lord states that the most common formulas in epic poetry are those for the names of the actors, the main actions, the time, and the place. For example, in order to fit a particular name into the meter of a line, the name will be given an epithet that, in combination with the name, will produce the desired number of syllables. The choice of the epithet will be based on the number of syllables needed, not on the particular meaning (as noted above). Formulas provide the oral poet with ready-made phrases, a necessity considering that during oral performance and composition there is no time to stop and think about which words to use. As Walter Ong notes, the oral poet uses formulas as units in the same way that we use words. (14)

Parry points out that the large number of formulas used by oral poets fall into a limited number of patterns. (15) Otherwise, they would be too unwieldy. Similarly, Lord states that the oral poet does not learn a large number of different formulas. (16) Instead he learns the commonest formulas, and these provide the basic pattern for creating others. In other words, the singer uses a substitution system. The formulas themselves are used to create larger units that are also formulaic. According to Parry, sentences and verses are also fixed, and oral composition mostly consists of grouping or stitching together entire fixed verses. (17) Thus, the sequences of lines also fall into patterns. Epic poetry is also formulaic in its use of themes, which Lord defines as "... repeated incidents and descriptive passages in songs." Examples of themes include the council, the gathering of an army or a large number of guests for a wedding, preparations made for assembling hosts, how each group arrives, the challenge, the battle, and descriptions of individual heroes, horses, arms, and castles. In addition to the repetition of themes within a song, themes are also repeated among songs, and exist somewhat independently of the song itself. (18)

Oral composition is formulaic on every level, from the formula itself, to the sentence, to the verse, to the entire theme. The formulaic techniques are not the product of an individual, but of generations of singers. The development of this system is a type of progress that occurs in oral cultures; it is a manifestation of self-reflexive time-binding. The language of oral tradition is not the language of everyday speech. Parry refers to Homeric diction as an artificial language (19), and Lord suggests that the techniques employed constitute a kind of grammar superimposed on the grammar of the language. (20) Alternately, we might refer to this artificial language as a system of mnemonics, or as mnemonic media. To a member of a literate culture, techniques such as meter and formulas are not so much media as style. And it is true that in writing, the use of meter and formulas are one of many stylistic possibilities. In oral culture, however, these techniques are more than mere style; they perform the function of preserving information. In an oral culture there is no fixed text, no written language available for easy reference, no way to look something up. Information cannot be stored outside of the human memory. According to Ong, the only solution is to "think memorable thoughts." (21) Mnemonic media allow a member of an oral culture to think memorable thoughts, as well as allowing information to be preserved over time, transmitted orally from generation to generation. They limit the amount of noise in the system. Kirk estimates that non-poetical stories and accounts could not last for more than two or three generations without significant loss of detail. He states:
... poetry, with its fixed lines and fixed phraseology, is transmitted
much more accurately than prose, and it is in general true that the
stricter and more complicated the verbal medium the greater the detail
and purity with which its content is transmitted. (22)


The Oral Singer

As the system of mnemonic techniques grows more complex, and the length and number of songs increase, the oral tradition becomes more difficult to learn. Consequently, specialists in the oral tradition appear. In a literate culture, disregarding the minority of illiterates, every member of the culture knows how to write, and utilizes this ability to some extent (e.g., to write letters). Nevertheless, it is only a small group of individuals who write the longer, more complex works that we call literature. The situation is similar in an oral culture. We can assume a minimum level of competency in mnemonic media among all members of that culture. Adults would be familiar with most of the forms of the oral tradition, certainly with proverbs and other sayings, but also to some extent with longer narratives. However, parallel to authors in literate culture are the small group of specialized singers in an oral culture.

In his study of oral singers in Yugoslavia, Lord reports that they are not members of any one particular social class, nor do they form a specialized occupation. According to Lord, the only professional singers, that is, the only singers who earn their living by singing, are beggars. (23) On the other hand, Kirk argues that the singer is generally a professional or semi-professional, due to the need for constant practice. (24) Similarly, C.M. Bowra notes that the singers described in the Odyssey, Demodocus and Phemius, were professionals. (25) He argues that while oral poetry was first sung by amateurs in ancient Greece, a professional class eventually developed, dependent on princes for patronage and livelihood, and whose social position was similar to that of seers, doctors, and craftsmen. "The existence of a professional bardic class is a commonplace of history." (26) Certainly this professional class may have coexisted with amateur singers. Singing can be both vocational and avocational, and it is also possible that the singer may have several occupations, just as in our own culture a struggling writer may also work as a waiter or a teacher.

An individual becomes a singer of tales through a lengthy training period, which Lord breaks down into three stages. (27) During the first stage, the neophyte listens to other singers, becoming familiar with the stories and themes, and the meter. In the second stage, the singer learns to sing, imitating his teachers. He learns how to establish the rhythm and melody, how to play an instrument, and he learns the system of formulas and formulaic expressions. During the third stage, he learns how to perform in front of a critical audience, and how to improve and expand songs through ornamentation. The singer has mastered his art when he can sing any song he hears, when he can lengthen or shorten a song at will, and when he can create a new song. A fully trained singer can learn new songs by hearing them only once. He is already familiar with the system of formulas and themes; all he needs to remember is the story. Having heard the song once, he can repeat it immediately afterwards, but prefers to have a day or two to think about the story, and practice it by himself.

The singer's preference for waiting before performing a story he has heard is revealing. He does not merely remember the song, and perform what he remembers. The singer composes the song. As Lord states, "For the oral poet the moment of composition is the performance," and "Singing, performing, and composing are facets of the same act." (28) The singer does not memorize the song verbatim; word for word memorization is impossible without writing. Therefore, each performance of the same song is a new composition. There is no original text, and if there is no original text, how can there be variants of that text? On the other hand, it is just as easy to say that each performance of a song is an original composition.

While each performance of a song is a different composition, the variations between performances is not entirely dependent on the singer. The singer performs in front of an audience, and must meet the demands of that audience. It is the length of the song in particular that is influenced by the audience. (29) The audience may urge the singer on, in which case he would respond by adding details and themes, for example. Or, if the audience is not stable, distracted, or otherwise uninterested, the singer may choose to shorten the song by omitting details and themes. It would not be unusual, in fact, for the singer to fail to finish the story. This poses no problem for the audience because the story is traditional and therefore familiar. Because the length and ornamentation of the song is so dependent on the audience, the audience can be viewed as participating in the composition of the song, albeit in a passive manner. Audiences may also actively participate as well. The singer, speaking as a character in his tale, may address his audience, and the audience may freely respond. (30)

Preservation of information in an oral culture therefore does not mean word-for-word preservation. The essential information may be transmitted, but each performance of the same song, even by the same singer, is different. Lord recognizes the apparent contradiction between the high degree of variation in oral performance, and its function of preservation, when he states, "multiformity is essentially conservative in traditional lore, all outward appearances to the contrary." (31) The contradiction between variation and preservation is only a contradiction to the literate mind. The presence of the fixed text, written or printed, leads us to associate preservation with the absence of any change; the preserved word becomes the frozen word. Writing and print alter our standards of preservation by significantly increasing the volume and faithfulness with which we can store information. However, as noted above, oral media carry out the function of preservation of information much more effectively than simple prose. Despite the variation and multiformity, the core information is transmitted from generation to generation. While oral media pale next to writing and print, it is the best storage agency available to members of an oral culture, and this is the context in which it is to be considered. Moreover, the coupling of variation and preservation has its advantages. Information that was once relevant in the past, but is no longer relevant to the present, may be forgotten, particularly if that information is dysfunctional to present needs. (32) Harold Innis favors the oral tradition for this reason. He argues that its flexibility is the best insurance for the continuity and self-perpetuation of a culture. (33) Writing and print may preserve a culture after its members are long dead, but mnemonic media require a living tradition.

Multi-Sensory Mnemonics

Most of the research on mnemonic techniques in oral cultures has focused on oral mnemonics. The term itself, oral culture, directs our attention to the spoken word, and its opposition to the written word. While it would be a mistake to minimize the importance of the word, it is important to acknowledge the existence of other types of mnemonic systems in oral cultures. The polarization between oral cultures dominated by the ear, and literate cultures dominated by the eye, is overdrawn. Visual mnemonics are an integral part of the set of time-binding techniques employed by oral cultures. This connection is often ignored; discussion of oral cultures is generally limited to orality, while visual media are considered separately. Any discussion of visual mnemonics is usually limited to their role as the "forerunners of writing." While writing may have evolved from visual mnemonics, and while some visual mnemonics may resemble writing in form, in function these techniques are much closer to oral mnemonics.

In our own culture, we may write ourselves a note to substitute for the act of remembering. However, we also employ visual mnemonics. Tying a string around one's finger is one example. Some individuals place a ring they normally wear on one finger on a different finger. Later, when they notice the change, the effect is to jog the person's memory. The rosary is a visual mnemonic device. Each bead, according to its position and size, represents a different prayer. Grave markers, monuments, and similar objects, even without writing, serve as remembrances. The Statue of Liberty reminds us of our immigrant origins without the use of words.

Visual mnemonics have been used by many oral cultures as an aid in counting. For example, cattle may be counted by using wooden sticks with carved notches, or small pebbles kept in a sack. The Peruvian Indians used the quipu, a stick with cords of various lengths and colors tied to it. To keep track of the count of many different objects, they tied knots in the various cords. Other cultures have also used similar systems of knot-tying. (34) Tally marks are also a mnemonic device. Tally marks are used to help keep track of the number as we are counting. Afterwards, the total can be transferred to the more efficient Arabic numeral system. The same methods may be used to keep track of the days and years. Many oral cultures, however, remember a particular year not by a number, but by a significant event that occurred during that time. Among North American Indians, drawings describing the event are used to keep track of the order of the years. (35)

Visual mnemonics may also serve the oral tradition. Objects, such as bones, feathers, and stones, have been used to represent proverbs and songs. In West Africa, singers carry these objects in nets, so that the nets act as a reminder of the singer's repertoire. (36) In the same way, drawings have been used by oral cultures to illustrate proverbs and songs. (37) Cave paintings, cave engravings, and body painting may also have performed this function. (38) These pictures do not store information in and of themselves. They cannot be deciphered; the proverb or song cannot be read from the drawing. Instead they release information already stored in an individual's memory. Havelock goes so far as to suggest that some pre-alphabetic writing systems may also have functioned in this way. (39)

Perhaps it was the mnemonic function of statues that led Gregory the Great to describe them as "the books of the illiterate." (40) Statues and other images were a commonplace in the Christian Church during the medieval period, despite the prohibition of the Second Commandment. Here again, the function of these images were not so much to store information independently of the memory, but to aid the individual in recalling information. Many other visual symbol systems are mnemonic systems. Fortune telling, using tarot cards for example, probably originated as an oral tradition. While today it is possible to obtain books that list the meaning of the cards, oral instruction would be a very different experience. Whereas the book may present fairly rigid readings of the individual cards, oral instruction would emphasize flexibility, and the relationships between the cards, the reader, and the client. The pictures on the cards themselves are part of a visual symbol system, where various pictures, numbers, and suits are repeated in different combinations to form different meanings.

Aside from images, architecture itself has been used as the basis of a visual mnemonic system. Frances Yates traces this method back to the time of ancient Greece. (41) John Pfeiffer suggests that the practice may have originated as early as 30,000 years ago, using the natural architecture of the caves. (42) In using this technique of memorization, the individual imagines that he is walking through a place that he is familiar with. In each room he places an object that is connected to a concept he wishes to remember, such as an anchor to symbolize ships. Later, when he needs to remember the information, he imagines himself walking through the area once again, and as he encounters the objects he has placed in each room, the information they represent is brought to mind. While this system may seem convoluted to a member of a literate culture, in its time it was both popular and effective. The ancients stressed the importance of choosing the right place for the effectiveness of this mnemonic system, and there were many attempts to construct such places for this specific purpose, in pictures, models, and actual "memory theaters." up through the time of the Renaissance.

The kinesic element of the oral tradition can also function as visual mnemonics. Beyond keeping the rhythm, gestures and other body movements are also used to act out the story. (43) Formulaic gestures supplement formulaic language, so that the content of the story exists not just in the singer's words, but in his actions. While appealing to the audience's sense of sight, performing the actions helps the singer to remember the information. Body movements bring to mind the memory of actions completed, of songs sung, of prior performances. In some cultures, gesture and dance may take the place of speech, so that information is stored in the form of sign language. Whether supplementing or replacing speech, the kinesic element is part of the overall mnemonic system. Moreover, kinesics is intimately associated with the sense of touch. For the lips and tongue, speech involves a tactile sensation. Dancing requires tactile involvement with the ground. Any use of objects adds a tactile dimension. Learning to play a musical instrument is not just an auditory activity, but a tactile one as well. The sense of touch is not excluded from the mnemonic system.

Olfactory media, such as incense and perfume, also serve a mnemonic function. Marshall McLuhan notes that the sense of smell has traditionally been considered the root of memory. Moreover, the memories evoked by Wilder Penfield's electric probing of the brain tissue of surgery patients were dominated by unique scents and odors. Therefore the manipulation of the sense of smell by the use of olfactory media may aid the memory. McLuhan points out that up until the seventeenth century, the Chinese and Japanese cultures had used different types of incense to indicate different seasons and signs of the zodiac. (44) While the burning of incense certainly provides a visual index of the passing of time, the association of a period of time with a particular scent may bring to mind a whole cluster of meanings. This may also account for the practice of reserving certain scents for rituals, and restricting particular perfumes and oils to the priesthood and royalty. The sense of taste, which is closely linked with smell, plays a similar role, through the use of ritual foods and beverages.

Oral cultures do not rely only on oral mnemonics, but in fact employ multisensory mnemonics. Information is stored and retrieved through all the senses, through the entire nervous system. Ritual, poetry, music, dance, pictures, smells, tastes, all combine to form one integrated system of mnemonics. Utilizing all the available channels reduces noise by increasing redundancy, and this is absolutely necessary in a society where the preservation of information is problematic. Any description of oral culture should take these factors into consideration.

Oral Culture

Oral cultures have also been referred to as preliterate and nonliterate, terms that underline what is absent from the society. Even Walter Ong, who is cautious about the use of the terms preliterate and nonliterate, and critical of the use of the term "oral literature," (45) is unable to provide a positive definition of oral culture. Instead, he describes an oral culture as "a culture with no knowledge whatsoever of writing or even of the possibility of writing." (46) Ong's definition is useful in that it disallows all but the purest form of oral culture. However, neither the oral tradition, nor the oral mindset, necessarily disappears when a society gains knowledge of writing or its possibility. As Albert Lord argues:
In societies where writing is unknown, or where it is limited to a
professional scribe whose duty is that of writing letters and keeping
accounts, or where it is the possession of a small minority, such as
clerics or a wealthy ruling class (though often this latter group
prefers to have its writing done by a servant), the art of narration
flourishes, provided that the culture is in other respects of a sort to
foster the singing of tales. If the way of life of a people furnishes
subjects for story and affords occasion for the telling, this art will
be fostered. On the other hand, when writing is introduced and begins
to be used for the same purposes as the oral narrative song, when it is
employed for telling stories and is widespread enough to find an
audience capable of reading, this audience seeks its entertainment and
instruction in books rather than in the living songs of men, and the
older art gradually disappears. The songs have died out in the cities
not because life in a large community is an unfitting environment for
them, but because schools were first founded there and writing has been
firmly rooted in the way of life of the city dwellers. (47)
While the presence of writing in a society can have an effect on oral
tradition, it does not necessarily have an effect at all. The fact of
writing does not inevitably involve a tradition of written literature;
even if it did, a tradition of written literature does not inevitably
influence an oral tradition. (48)


Based on Lord's comments, we can define an oral culture positively, as a culture characterized by the presence of an oral tradition that is shaped by and preserved through an integrated system of mnemonics. This definition would include not only purely oral cultures, but also the culture of the majority when the minority is literate, assuming the majority maintains an oral tradition based on mnemonics. Even the culture of a minority within a literate society can be considered an oral culture (or subculture) as long as an oral-mnemonic tradition is present. This definition and the one put forth by Ong are just different ways of mapping the territory. Because his definition is so narrow, Ong is forced to ignore contradictions (for example, even though the Iliad is a product of an oral culture, the Mycenaean Greeks used a writing system (Linear B) and writing is briefly mentioned in the Iliad itself). At other times, Ong falls back on the term "residual orality." The problem here is that Ong's definition makes oral and literate culture mutually exclusive, which is not necessarily true. (49) By defining oral culture by what is present instead of by what is absent, orality can be seen not as the opposite of literacy, but as a parallel phenomenon.

In many ways the term oral culture is a misnomer, for all cultures are oral, even after the development of writing, print, and the electronic media. In this respect, mnemonic culture, or perhaps oral/mnemonic culture, might be more accurate. If time-binding is the activity that makes cultures possible, then it is only fitting that cultures be identified by their method of time-binding. On the other hand, the adoption of any such term gives the impression that such cultures are static and unchanging. An alternative would be to distinguish between various stages. The first stage would be the pre-mnemonic, before the process of time-binding was applied to itself to develop an integrated system on mnemonics. The second stage would then be the mnemonic stage, coinciding with Ong's definition of oral culture. The third stage would be one of coexistence, as writing is developed, but not used for the same functions as the oral tradition. Competition would mark the fourth stage, as literacy begins to replace the oral tradition. Craft literacy, and the formulation of literate elites would be characteristic of this stage. The fifth stage can be characterized as the minority stage, as the majority of the members of a society are literate, but an oral tradition is maintained as a subculture, e.g., the singers of Yugoslavia that Parry and Lord investigated. Finally, the sixth stage is the electronic stage, when electronic media create a new oral tradition, albeit under very different circumstances. While writing may compete with the oral tradition, it does not have the potential of electronic media to completely replace it. Radio, television, and recordings are all able to do what writing cannot: directly reproduce and store sound, and thus render the oral tradition obsolete.

In his novel, Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin writes, "Remember, what we are trying to do in this life is to shatter time and bring back the dead." If the fear of death is the primary motivation of the human race, time-binding is our answer to it. Throughout our existence, we have been conducting experiments in the storage of information for reuse, in the creation of cultures through the binding of time. The time-binding of time-binding allows us to increase our capacity to store information, and to increase our potential for progress. The time-binding of time-binding of time-binding, that is the study of the development of the time-binding process, was Korzybski's goal. To better understand ourselves and our cultures, and to increase our potential for progress, we need to increase our knowledge about the process of time-binding, and the techniques and technologies that make it possible.

Notes and References

(1.) Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity (Lakeville, Connecticut: The International Non-Aristotelian Library, 1980), p. 39.

(2.) Eric A. Havelock, The Literate Revolution in Greece and Its Cultural Consequences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), p. 186.

(3.) For example, see George Herbert Mead, Mind, Self, and Society (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1962).

(4.) Eric A. Havelock, Preface to Plato (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 1982), p. 44.

(5.) G.S. Kirk, The Songs of Homer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962), pp. 95-98.

(6.) Albert B. Lord, The Singer of Tales (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1981), p. 130.

(7.) Milman Parry, The Making of Homeric Verse: The Collected Papers of Milman Parry, Adam Parry, Ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 150.

(8.) Havelock, Literate Revolution, op. cit., p. 17.

(9.) Op. cit., pp. 54-55.

(10.) Havelock, Literate Revolution, op. cit., p. 344.

(11.) Ibid., p. 134.

(12.) Ibid., p. 14.

(13.) Parry, op. cit., p. 272.

(14.) Walter J. Ong, Interfaces of the Word (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982), p. 104.

(15.) Parry, op. cit., pp. 323-329.

(16.) Lord, op. cit., p. 36.

(17.) Parry, op. cit., p. 380.

(18.) Lord, op. cit., pp. 4, 94.

(19.) Parry, op. cit., pp. 314-315.

(20.) Lord, op cit., pp. 35-36.

(21.) Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy (New York: Methuen, 1982), p. 34.

(22.) Kirk, op. cit., p. 109.

(23.) Lord, op. cit., pp. 18-20.

(24.) Kirk, op. cit., p. 56.

(25.) C.M. Bowra, Tradition and Design in the Iliad (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1977), p. 27.

(26.) Ibid., pp. 32-33.

(27.) Lord, op. cit., pp. 21-26.

(28.) Ibid., pp. 13.

(29.) Ibid., pp. 16-17.

(30.) Ong, Orality and Literacy, op. cit., p. 161.

(31.) Lord, op. cit., p. 120.

(32.) Ong, Orality and Literacy, op. cit., pp. 46-49.

(33.) Harold A. Innis, The Bias of Communication (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977), pp. 2, 68, 102, 105, 190.

(34.) I. J. Gelb, A Study of Writing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), pp. 3-4.

(35.) Ibid., pp. 41-44.

(36.) Ibid, p. 4.

(37.) Ibid., pp. 44-50.

(38.) John E. Pfeiffer, The Creative Explosion: An Inquiry into the Origins of Art and Religion (New York: Harper and Row, 1982).

(39.) Havelock, Literate Revolution, op. cit., pp. 56-57.

(40.) Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980), p. 67.

(41.) Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1966).

(42.) Pfeiffer, op. cit., pp. 222-223.

(43.) Havelock, Preface to Plato, op. cit., p. 167; Literate Revolution, op. cit., p. 137.

(44.) Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (New York: Mentor Books, 1964), p. 136.

(45.) Ong, Orality and Literacy, op. cit., pp. 10-15.

(46.) Ibid., p. 31.

(47.) Lord, op. cit., p. 20.

(48.) Ibid., pp. 134-135.

(49.) See Innis, op. cit, pp. 6-12.

LANCE STRATE (*)

(*) Lance Strate teaches communication at Adelphi University on Long Island and at the University of Connecticut.
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Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
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Date:Jul 1, 2017
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