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The Invention of the Oral – Print Commerce and Fugitive Voices in Eighteenth-Century Britain - Chicago Scholarship Online
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The Invention of the Oral: Print Commerce and Fugitive Voices in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Paula McDowell


This book argues that reflection on the spread of print commerce was a key factor in the shaping of our modern intellectual category of "oral culture." In 1700, the concept of oral culture did not exist. At a time when the bulk of the population could not read, orality was not something to be especially valued. Protestants deemed "oral tradition" a suspect Catholic theological notion, and literate intellectuals linked what we might call popular oral discourse with vulgarity, sedition, and religious dissent. But by 1800, ideas of oral tradition dramatically changed. The proliferation of print a ... More

Keywords: concept formation, folk, media shift, media history, oral culture, orality, oral tradition, public sphere, print commerce, print culture

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2017 Print ISBN-13: 9780226456966
Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2018 DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226457017.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Paula McDowell, author
New York University