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Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace / Edition 1

Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace / Edition 1

by James J. O'DonnellJames J. O'Donnell


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The written word has been a central bearer of culture since antiquity. But its position is now being challenged by the powerful media of electronic communication. In this penetrating and witty book James O'Donnell takes a reading on the promise and the threat of electronic technology for our literate future.

In Avatars of the Word O'Donnell reinterprets today's communication revolution through a series of refracted comparisons with earlier revolutionary periods: the transition from oral to written culture, from the papyrus scroll to the codex, from copied manuscript to print. His engaging portrayals of these analogous epochal moments suggest that our steps into cyberspace are not as radical as we might think. Observing how technologies of the word have affected the shaping of culture in the past, and how technological transformation has been managed, we regain models that can help us navigate the electronic transformation now underway. Concluding with a focus on the need to rethink the modern university, O'Donnell specifically addresses learning and teaching in the humanities, proposing ways to seek the greatest benefit from electronic technologies while steering clear of their potential pitfalls.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674001947
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 05/05/2000
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 228
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

James J. O'Donnell brings to his searching meditation on the life of the mind in cyberspace a unique combination of perspectives. He is Provost at Georgetown University.

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Scholar in His Study

1. Phaedrus: Hearing Socrates, Reading Plato

2. From the Alexandrian Library to the Virtual Library and Beyond
Hyperlink: The Instability of the Text

3. From the Codex Page to the Homepage
Hyperlink: The Shrine of Nonlinear Reading

4. The Persistence of the Old and the Pragmatics of the New
Hyperlink: Who Owns That Idea?

5. The Ancients and the Moderns: The Classics and Western Civilizations

6. Augustine Today: Linear Narratives and Multiple Pathways

7. The New Liberal Arts: Teaching in the Postmodern World
Hyperlink: How Does Teaching Work?

8. What Becomes of Universities? (For Professors Only)

9. Cassiodorus: Or, the Life of the Mind in Cyberspace

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