But other voices are filled with anxiety about a supposed threat to the skills developed by the earlier literacy and by mastery of the printed, predigital word. With the advent of digital writing and digital text reproduction, will literature--and the culture based on respectful care for the word--be eroded? Or if the print culture is preserved will printed books possess the same exotic value that poetry recitals and fifty-foot scrolls in museums have today? The anxiety is heard in the words of Gore Vidal, the American novelist:

As human society abandoned the oral tradition for the written text, the written culture is giving way to an audio-visual one. This is a radical change to say the least; and none of us knows quite how to respond. Obviously the change cannot be all bad. On the other hand, what is to become of that written language which was for two millenia wisdom's only mold? What is to become of the priests of literature as their temples are abandoned?'

The sense of historical drift, from oral to literate to telecommunications culture, has become a familiar topic among our writers. A complex philosophical-historical thesis about the connection between expression and the development of writing technology has become a commonplace explanation of our sense of drift. The explanatory power of the thesis vaguely covers but does not yet disclose extensive transformations in our pedagology, epistemology, and theology.

(Heim 4)

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Inf(l)ections by Steve Cook