Greek Education and the Transition From Oral to Written Culture

Writing liberated the life of the text from the moment of performance. It allowed the poet to reflect on and manipulate traditional forms and subject matter. Recording the chronicles of oral culture led to the development of prose, a purely written use of language. By the fifth century, the transition of Greek society from oral to scribal habits was well underway. Athens began to provide public gymnasia and palaestras so that teachers could set up their own schools for the sons of wealthy citizens. Short texts were written on scrolls or wax tablets as an aid to memorization and oral recitation. Reading was done out loud, and writing used capital letters with no spaces between words. As literacy became increasingly widespread, and more and more of the cultural heritage was documented in writing, the need to preserve and re-create over and over the traditions and memory of the society became less urgent. —Twyla GibsonGreek Education and the Transition From Oral to Written Culture (The McLUhan Program in Culture and Technology)

A collection of excellent resources, from a set of essays designed to highlight the University of Toronto’s contribution to media studies. A good summary of Havelock’s observation that Greek culture underwent a slow transition from orality to literacy, and of verse as a memory aid that facilitated the oral transmission of great quantities of cultural information.