And then and then and then . . .
Annoying, isn’t it? That is, of course, the literate reaction.
In Electric Rhetoric Kathleen Welch argues that the oral nature of Isocrates writing style (yes, he wrote all of his speeches, rather than just performing them as other sophisitic orators did) accounts in part for his misreading and lack of acceptance in modern praxis. They turn him into yet another golden boy Greek by neatly sanitizing what made him unique among his milieu— his literacy, and his orality. What seems fascinating to me is the way she describes the modern reaction:
Today’s readers frequently find texts such as this long-winded, repetitious, digressive, and finally, annoying.
Sounds a bit like some reactions to the latest stage of evolution in blogging, doesn’t it? An old guard, argues for a return to brevity and link-dependence. A new faction, composes more carefully wrought essays. However, I suspect that the real beauty of the activity is in the conflation of the two. As Welch argues, in Isocrates’ case:
The prose is associative, as of course much important prose has been, so for him the kind of logic invited by linearity is not privileged. Isocrates introduces issues, leaves them, returns to them, leaves them again, and cumulatively builds on them, in a manner not unlike the speech genres of a lecture or a sermon. . . .
The reader both ancient and modern will find as well an absorption with the lines that Isocrates writes, lines that are worked over, woven, in ways that are beautiful to decode when one stands away from print-dominant formalism that necessarily mocks this writing.
I’d say that this describes blogging perfectly. I like orality. I’m a very oral person. But I like writing too.