To carry through my grand plan of a series of conference sessions marking the 25th anniversary of the publication of Orality and Literacy, I organized and submitted two Ong sessions, a panel titled “Orality and Literacy 2.0″ and a round table titled “Orality and Literacy: The Next 25 Years.” Both sessions have great people with great topics, and I have high hopes they’ll get accepted. If they do and once the participants have a chance to revise their abstracts, I’ll post them here and at Notes from the Walter J. Ong Collection (where ever that eventually ends up — we moved it to a SLU server and it’s not playing well, so that blog may migrate again soon.
I also submitted an individual presentation, which is part of my dissertation:
Database Rhapsody from the ‘Singer of Tales’ to ‘Geek DJs’
Early in her book The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200, Mary Carruthers asks her readers to “conceive of memory not only as ‘rote,’ the ability to reproduce something (whether a text, a formula, a list of items, an incident) but as the matrix of a reminiscing cogitation, shuffling and collating ‘things’ stored in a random-access memory scheme, or set of schemes — a memory architecture and a library built up during one’s lifetime with the express intention that it be used inventively” (4). While Carruthers specifically identifies this practice of memory as part of monastic rhetoric, it is very much a part of what Sharon Crowley identifies as the pre-modernist rhetorical practice of memorial composition and what both Walter J. Ong and Eric Havelock describe as rhapsodizing. Whereas modernist rhetoric locates invention in method and “individual experience,” monastic rhetoric, memorial composition, and rhapsodizing locate invention in memory. While modernist composition is governed by the tradition of Ramist method that seeks to move from the general to the specific by paring away at its topic, memorial composition/rhapsodizing composes through the process of bringing disparate pieces together through the process of assemblage.
As part of a larger project that seeks to articulate a revived theory and practice of memory, an important part of which is to identify past and current mnemonic practices as mnemonic practices, this presentation seeks to apply an historical and comparative understanding of earlier database technologies and practices such as oral tradition, the commonplace tradition, and the architectural mnemonic tradition to help us develop a theory and practice for using current database compositional tools such as book indexes, card catalogues, blogs and wikis.
I don’t mention it in the proposal, but I’ll probably talk about what I’m currently calling database pedagogy: the practice of having students use blogs and/or wikis to compile a shared database of information which feeds into class discussion, papers, and exams. I should talk about this idea more soon.