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Meta-Renault story
Bar Harbor
In one of her historical novels, Mary Renault depicts a king who is firmly opposed to this new-fangled invention of 'writing'. He worries that it will erode the treasured oral tradition. His opinion changes when, one day, he hears a traveling bard recite a piece of Homer's Iliad -- which he had never heard before! Realizing that writing can prevent such passages from being lost, he embraces the new technology.

This story came up in a conversation between kestrell and myself. We both were quite familiar with the story, having heard it recounted numerous times -- although neither of us had actually *read* it.

The conversation was about the complicated relationships between orality and written texts. The Renault story thus was not only relevant in what it said, but in the manner in which we had experienced it. Written texts by no means eliminate oral culture; the effects are far more complex and interesting than that.

(The above anecdote may be incorrect in some details. I see no point in 'correcting' it, however. The folk process moves on...)

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This point was also debated in Carey's Kushiel's Justice, specifically regarding religious teachings.

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