18-07 Segment 2: The Power of the Written Word

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With technology constantly changing, new ways of documenting stories are being used to allow people access to reading them. These new inventions have led many people to wonder just how storytelling happened in the past, and what changes have allowed for stories to continue to be told over time.

Storytelling has always been an important part of human communication. In the past, stories relied on oral communication. Martin Puchner, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University and author of The Written Word: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization explains that before written word, stories had to be able to withstand being told from one generation to the next by remaining relevant. He also explains that there were rare exceptions to this rule, in which some stories were lost and then rediscovered, a feat that Dr. Puchner says is very lucky. The only way to ensure that a text survived from one generation to the next was to continue to verbally communicate the story.

Since then, many technologies have been created that increased the accessibility to written text. These developments have allowed for new writing techniques to surface. One of these elements of modern writing that Dr. Puchner explains is introspection, which was not always important in literature, but emerged about a thousand years ago when the first novel was written, and since then, it has become an important aspect of storytelling. The written word has had many other significant impacts, not just on the way humans write, but also on how humans understand the world.

Guest:

  • Martin Puchner, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University and author of The Written Word: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization

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