Re-playing the Record: the Primacy of Performance in the Promulgation and Reception of Written Texts


  • Frances Young University of Birmingham


The article revisits the role of orality in the process of wisdom transmission among early Christian monastics. Blurring the line between literacy and illiteracy in late antiquity, the article suggests that the apophthegmata and other early texts may be understood as a form of written orality. The transmission of text does not merely pass from one written source to another, but, being also presumably performed live, texts like these passed back and forth between oral and written word, in ways that should affect how text critical scholarship engage with the sources.