If I was tasked with presenting the University to an individual whose only experience was that of primary orality my first instinct would be to start at The Newman Center. I suppose the intention, at first, would be to explain the role of a university within society and then, eventually, to communicate the role that written language and necessarily, reading play in the greater scheme of life.
I’d begin at the music school because it captures the essence of what university means, that is, higher learning and preparation for the professional world, but also because the music school most closely aligns with the tactics of education employed at the time of primary orality–apprenticeship. It seems to me that the pedagogy pertaining to music is one of the few that is primarily demonstrative rather than explanatory. People learn to play musical instruments through mimicry and visual observation, and as a musician myself, often times words don’t fully capture what it is that the instructor is trying to say.
After it had been settled that universities are places meant to educate I’d take a stab at introducing the individual/s to Anderson Academic Commons (AAC). This is probably the most challenging hurdle between orality and literacy. How does one explain what writing is, what reading is, to someone who thinks and processes information in a completely different way. I’m sure that the signage on buildings and street corners alone would puzzle the “primary orators.”
To begin with, I’d describe books as physical forms of language. It really wouldn’t prove efficient to attempt to teach the person how to read and write, the main goal would be to get them to understand the tools available at DU, but also for them to understand that the methods used in teaching differ from the proverbial memorization processes that littered the era of orality.
So, by calling books inanimate capsules of oration I’d hope to capture the essence or at least the purpose of books in all their mobility and density. Perhaps I’d even read a few proverbial verses from the Bible itself just to set the baseline for what books are capable of.
From here, I’d proceed to a formal tour of the campus and introduce the individual/s to the various disciplines that exist. Probably starting with the sciences–which would be easier to sum up and assuredly more accessible (at least in terms of explanation), and stop with humanities. It would probably be wisest to pass over any mention of languages and literature . . .
I suppose a stop at Sturm may prove invaluable in communicating exactly what writing and reading are able to communicate. Explaining that books of law contain physical descriptions, or rather, that they contain tellings of what certain rules and laws in society are, might capture a clearer impression of what writing can prove useful for: memory relief.
*For someone seeking to learn more about DU through solely a secondary-orality lens I’d send them here. (Is that cheating?)
It seems to me that the contrast between the two forms of orality are clear. The key differences are ease of access and brevity. Secondary orality allows for much easier access to the actual information and doesn’t even require the individual be physically present in order to view the campus and its offerings. In contrast, primary orality requires explanations for the explanations, that is, I felt the need to explain not only what writing and reading are, but also their roles in education, what a university is, why the different disciplines exist, etc. I suppose being concise comes at a cost though–the level of interpersonal interaction and communication is certainly lessened via secondary orality. I suppose that the accretion of technologically-based orality has necessarily resulted in a lessening of traditional oral forms. I can’t help but wonder whether there will be a point where the written forms of communication become the sole forms of communication, or perhaps this is already the case? After all, I didn’t really do anything for the secondary orality portion, maybe that’s the point?
image at pixgood.com