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CALL.15.09.2017: Orality and Writing: the two faces of words - Padova (Italy)


« More than any other single invention, writing has transformed human consciousness». To those living in a society thoroughly familiar with writing like ours, this statement by W.J. Ong could sound strange. Several ground-breaking studies of the twentieth century – such as Preface to Plato by E. Havelock (1963) and Orality and Literacy by Ong (1982) – have pointed out that the transition from an oral to a chirographic society (which later came to be superseded by the printed word and, finally, by its electronic equivalent) represents the most relevant developments of human thought. But is this the only possible interpretation? More recent contributions to this topic (O. Oruka, 1991; B. De Sousa Santos, 2014) have proposed a new account of the access to knowledge, substituting the traditional idea of the existence of one single universal epistemology, one that generally depends on writing, with a plurality of epistemological approaches (‘sage philosophy’, ‘orature’, ‘corporeality of knowledge’).

Certain is, however, that writing does not entail the disappearance of orality, since the latter continues to represent the first experience of language: from the composition of the Homeric poems to the processing of words with the most modern technologies, orality and writing have never ceased to interact and influence each other. Therefore, today more than ever, a number of phenomena falling under the category of ‘secondary orality’ call for an in-depth and up-to-date study of the relationships between orality and writing from its beginning to the present. This conference aims to tackle this theme from multiple perspectives, including the various declinations of the humanities, ranging from literature to linguistics, from pedagogy to philosophy. Such a wide and interdisciplinary approach will shed further light on the dynamics of orality and writing, hopefully leading to a more comprehensive view of their interactions, so that their contribution to the development of human thought and culture may be equally recognised.



LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: Sala delle edicole, Università degli Studi di Padova (Padova, Italy)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Alvaro Barbieri; Jacopo Garzonio; Annalisa Oboe; Emanuele Zinato; Niccolò Zorzi; Diana Antonell; Pietro Bertocchini; Teresa Cancro; Camilla Covazzi; Alice Cravotta; Chiara De Paoli; Giulia Nalesso; Olga Retziou; Francesco Roncen; Valeria Russo; Giovanna Todaro; Raffaele Tondini; Angelica Vedelago; Susanna Zellini.

INFO: web -


Here follows a list of possible areas of enquiry:

-From orality to writing: reconfigurations of the thought, of language and of literary production in the transition from orality to writing. Studies of cases in the past and the present.

-Linguistic varieties: old and new identities between conservation and contemporaneity (dialects, minority languages, multilingualism etc.).

-Orality in writing: permanence of structures and forms of oral expression in written texts and in their literary style.

-Writing in orality: influence of literacy on oral culture (orality with learned origins, transition of structures and themes linked to writing into oral performances etc.).

-Interactions between orality and writing in the arts: coexistence and dialogue of orality and writing in music, art, literature, theatre etc., with special attention to the forms that include oral performances of written texts.

-Secondary orality: influence of new technologies on words (social networks, various forms of telecommunication, etc.) and on writing in linguistic, literary or pedagogic-didactic terms.

This is by no means an exhaustive and constrictive list: the Committee will welcome also those contributions that, although they do not necessarily belong to the areas listed above, nonetheless prove to be relevant to the main topic of the conference.

PhD students, post-doctoral students and young researchers are invited to express their interest in participation by submitting a 250-word abstract as well as a 100-word biography to by 15 September 2017. Presenters are requested to provide their details (name, email address, home institution) in the abstract and will be notified of the outcome of the selection by the Committee by 2 October 2017.

Presentations should last no longer than twenty minutes. Papers, which can be either in Italian or in English, will be considered for the publication of the conference proceedings.

No registration fee is required. For further information, please contact the Committee by sending an email to

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