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Mon Jul 23 12:38:28 PDT 2007


ways that Greek speakers approached their highest art, public
speaking--and especially how teachers of rhetoric would go about teaching.
 
Best as we can tell, early efforts to teach public speaking,
done by the sophists who carried the ball for pedegogy in the oral
literacy phase, taught pretty detailed systems for 4 of the 5 "canons" of
rhetoric (invention, organization, style, and delivery). However, we don't
have much record of those folks teaching memory. Apparently, early
speakers "knew" how to remember their speeches, as we have tons of
evidence that speeches were given in the ways they were taught. And recall
that in this early period, many of the speakers were delivering speeches
that had been (for the most part) written by others . . . so early
speakers both knew how to remember their own compositions and those of
others...

However, within a couple hundred years after Plato, texts about speech
pedagogy began including specific instruction for the 5th canon, memoria,
such that by the time of the high Roman rhetorical period, instruction in
the art (of memory) was required (as was continued instruction in the
other canon).

Hard to say what caused the change. Maybe the romans didn't "take" to
memory work for speeches the way the Greeks had. Maybe teachers had not
earlier recognized the importance of the instruction . . . the
"systems" that were taught had been in practice in the ancient Greek
experience...but just weren't taught . . .

But from that perspective, Plato's cautions about the "costs" of writing
seem prophetic. That which seemed to come naturally in the
"pre-literate/oral stage" had to be trained into "second
nature" later. What McLuhan would call the "shift in sense ratios" (or
attention structures) did appear to effect the "normal" stock and trade of
public speakers. 

The sacking of Rome, the burning of the library at Alexandria, and the
rise of Christian censorship put further anecdotal light on the issue,
post Plato: consigning memory to writing, in some ways, did cause the
ancient peoples to "forget."  

ed lamoureux
ell at bradley.edu






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