Seminar Orality and written documents

Seminar Orality and written documents will take place on Thursday 15 November 2012, from 9:30 to 17:30, in room 366A-Klimt of the Bâtiment Condorcet. Maps and directions can be found here.

The seminar is organised by Martha Cecilia Bustamante, Agathe Keller,  and Christine Proust, as part of the seminar series  History of Science, History of Text.

Presentation of the workshop b the organisers:

“The seminar’s aim is to consider the traces left by orality on scholarly documents transmitted to us in a written form, by asking the following questions:

How and to which extent can the diversity of contexts, in which oral texts were produced, be restored? How these contexts may have left traces on the texts?
Are there any signs that reflect the contexts in which oral texts were produced?
Conversely, are there any clues that indicate oral parts (for instance, parts to be recited or memorized) in a written text?
As commonly spoken and written forms coexist, how should the texts produced in oral contexts be distinguished from other texts?

The above questions need to be addressed from different angles and in a broad theoretical, conceptual, and methodological perspective. This is why we focus on recent studies, based on the theme of orality, whose aim is to understand better what oral contexts are and how they work, by investigating the textualisation of the oral, and analysing the status of the oral and written forms.”


Martha Cecilia Bustamante (SPHERE)
Orality and writing in Emile Borel’s notebook

The speaker will examine Emile Borel’s notetaking at Paul Langevin’s lectures on the difficulties of radiation theory at the Collège de France (December 1912 – March 1913). She will focus on the physical form of the notes and their content. Her goal is to establish connections with what is known elsewhere on Langevin’s oral discourse. She will also attempt to show how the notes refer to the collective dimension of Langevin’s teaching. In order to provide an additional point of view, she will pay compare Emile Borel’s notes with other note-books.

Agathe Keller (SPHERE)
The mathematical chapter of the Āryabhaṭīya (499) as a compilation of oral rules

The paper will examine Āryabhaṭa (a 5th century astronomer)’s mathematical rules composed in Sanskrit. These rules (sūtras) are often considered to be oral with a mnemonic aim and an educational purpose. In this paper, a close look at how these rules were crafted will be carried out. The difference between how algorithms are stated versus how they are executed will be used to reflect on the context from which these rules derive: oral context, textual context, and the context of mathematical practice.

Françoise Waquet (CNRS)
La trace et la perte

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coordinator (November 8, 2012). Seminar Orality and written documents. SAW ERC Project. Retrieved July 21, 2024 from

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