By Jack Goody
During this number of 9 essays, famous anthropologist Jack Goody explores his view of writing as a reworking expertise, charting the variations among cultures with writing and people with out in such practices as historic list preserving, spiritual rite, and the telling of time. He describes how one model of a ritual---the Bagre of the loDagaa of northern Ghana---assumed primacy over different types while it used to be written down, and he indicates that as societies received writing, verbatim memorization instead of face-to-face interplay turned a mainstay of schooling.
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Extra info for The Power of the Written Tradition
Some are highly theocentric; others stress the role of different agencies. Nevertheless, the LoDagaa will often assert the unity of the Bagre, that all versions are "the same" (boyen, meaning "one"). That is because all are performed in the course of the Bagre rites; it is like saying that Evensong is the same whatever is included, different anthems, different prayers. But there is also another factor, for with oral versions recited at different times and places, you cannot easily make a comparison, not the way you can when you lay the written versions of Evensong side by side and actually examine particular passages.
Equally, while in complex societies one may well find subcultures whose members communicate only in speech (and it has been estimated that twenty-seven million Americans are virtually unable, unwilling, or unmotivated to do anything else), comparisons of those subcultures with oral cultures in the fuller sense have to be treated with great caution. A nonliterate is not the same as an illiterate, though they may have various points in common. As a consequence, a so-called oral tradition that supplements a written tradition cannot be thought of as the same as the oral tradition in a society without writing.
Individuals contribute, some being more creative than others, but their signature rarely remains for long because of the very nature of oral transmission over time. A further version of this collectivist fallacy recognizes the extent of variation but sees it as a departure from an "ideal" or underlying version. " As an example of the latter, he refers to the Mwindo epic of the Congo, which exists as an unperformed and very long and detailed ideal (1973: 59). This and similar contentions represent a misapplication of the idea of a deep structure and share the same difficulties as those that viewed oral literature as emerging from the spirit of the folk by common authorship.
The Power of the Written Tradition by Jack Goody