The Invention Of The Oral: Print Commerce And Fugitive Voices In Eighteenth-century Britain

Hardcover | June 2, 2017

byPaula McDowell

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Just as today’s embrace of the digital has sparked interest in the history of print culture, so in eighteenth-century Britain the dramatic proliferation of print gave rise to urgent efforts to historicize different media forms and to understand their unique powers. And so it was, Paula McDowell argues, that our modern concepts of oral culture and print culture began to crystallize, and authors and intellectuals drew on older theological notion of oral tradition to forge the modern secular notion of oral tradition that we know today.
 
Drawing on an impressive array of sources including travel narratives, elocution manuals, theological writings, ballad collections, and legal records, McDowell re-creates a world in which everyone from fishwives to philosophers, clergymen to street hucksters, competed for space and audiences in taverns, marketplaces, and the street. She argues that the earliest positive efforts to theorize "oral tradition," and to depict popular oral culture as a culture (rather than a lack of culture), were prompted less by any protodemocratic impulse than by a profound discomfort with new cultures of reading, writing, and even speaking shaped by print.
 
Challenging traditional models of oral versus literate societies and key assumptions about culture’s ties to the spoken and the written word, this landmark study reorients critical conversations across eighteenth-century studies, media and communications studies, the history of the book, and beyond.
 

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Just as today’s embrace of the digital has sparked interest in the history of print culture, so in eighteenth-century Britain the dramatic proliferation of print gave rise to urgent efforts to historicize different media forms and to understand their unique powers. And so it was, Paula McDowell argues, that our modern concepts of oral ...

Paula McDowell is associate professor of English at New York University. She is the author of The Women of Grub Street: Press, Politics, and Gender in the London Literary Marketplace 1678–1730 and Elinor James: Printed Writings.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:368 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:June 2, 2017Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022645696X

ISBN - 13:9780226456966

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Figures
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1.         Oral Tradition in the History of Mediation
2.         Oral Tradition as A Tale of a Tub: Jonathan Swift's Oratorial Machines
3.         The Contagion of the Oral in A Journal of the Plague Year
4.         Oratory Transactions: John “Orator” Henley and His Critics
5.         How to Speak Well in Public: The Elocution Movement Begins in Earnest
6.         “Fair Rhet’ric” and the Fishwives of Billingsgate
7.         “The Art of Printing Was Fatal”: The Idea of Oral Tradition in Ballad Discourse
8.         Conjecturing Oral Societies: Global to Gaelic
Coda: When Did “Orality” Become a “Culture”?
Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“McDowell’s smart insistence that the voice and its gestural embodiments be placed in contrast to the long triumphant march of letters gives us pause to consider where we are now. For, as McDowell intimates, if we are to understand the move from the medium of print to the textualizations of the electronic age, we would do well to examine an earlier era in which the affordances of new technologies—both print and orality—were examined with care.”