Date of Award

Spring 2009

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Lawrence Hatab

Committee Member

William B. Jones

Committee Member

David Metzger

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H85 C43 2009


In recent years many scholars have dedicated much research to the development of the Orality Problem. In its most general form, the Orality Problem is grounded in the following two questions: 1) is there a difference between spoken and written language and 2) if there is a difference between these two forms of communication what exactly is this difference and how does it operate. Research into these questions has two major sources to draw upon: cross-cultural research between literate and non-literate cultures and textual analysis of written oral records from ancient Greece. According to the mounting research, many scholars now believe that the invention of literacy is responsible for ushering new modes of communication, thought, and expression into the human condition. Ifwe look back to ancient Greece, closely examine the Iliad and the Odyssey, and compare them with other recent models of oral poetry, then we can begin to see how literate notions such as abstraction, conceptual reasoning, and the formalization of language did not exist in these non-literate cultures. Based on this background I have three arguments that I am going to make in this paper. 1) Following the Orality Problem, there is a difference between oral and literate modes of communication, thought, and expression. 2) The invention of literacy in ancient Greece created a crisis in the culture that led to the development of new ways of understanding the self and the world; which in tum led to birth of philosophy in ancient Greece. 3) Through the connection between orality and poetry and literacy and philosophy we will see how the invention of literacy is connected to a shift in oral/poetic uses of truth and literate/philosophical uses of truth in ancient Greece. At the end of this project I will illustrate how the development of the concept of truth in ancient Greece is intimately connected with the development of literacy and philosophy out of a tradition of oral myth making.


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