Original scientific paper
The author - between the formulae of collective anonymity and the originality of singular identity
The paper tries to demonstrate in which sense the study of the relationship between orality and literacy may be helpful in understanding the literary past. Such an effort is based on the supposition that European cultures do not truly become written cultures until the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, in the aftermath of the invention of print which served as a catalyst in that process. By the same token, this would mean that before this chronological threshold a considerable amount of literary texts had circulated in conditions in which orality and literacy, as the two main pillars of communication, were interwoven. In the context of the relationship between orality and literacy, the term “residual orality” seems to be especially useful, particularly in the study of early modern cultures of the 16th and 17th century, whose double literacy - both chirographic and typographic - had not yet completely supplanted orality. The concept of residual orality implies that orality and literacy are intertwined in such a manner that, despite the fact that early modern cultures had by that time adopted writing, they also preserved a certain amount of orality, still visible underneath the surface of literacy. In conclusion, the paper introduces examples which illustrate how literary history can be interpreted from such a perspective, placing special focus on certain aesthetic and poetical categories, such as the authorship or anonymity of the author, as well as originality which is pitted against the formulaic nature of orality.
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