Spring 1987 - Marcel Detienne

February 17, 1987

Marcel Detienne, Ecole des Hautes Etudes (Paris), delivered seven Townsend Lectures in the Spring of 1987 on "The Gods of Writing."

The dates and titles for the talks were:

February 17, 1987 - "The Scribes of Greece"
Professor Detienne explores the origins of writing with relation to the gods of ancient civilization, placing special emphasis on the Greeks.

February 24, 1987 - "Palamedes' Purloined Letter"
Detienne describes the contributions of Palamedes, the Trojan War hero, to writing, as well as his undoing by it.

March 3, 1987 - "The Greek Masks of Thoth"
Detienne continues his series on writing with a description of the role of the Egyptian god Thoth as seen by the Egyptians and the Greeks.

March 10, 1987 - "The Voice and the Book of Orpheus"
Detienne continues his series on the origins of writing, describing Orpheus' joining of the voice and the book.

March 17, 1987 - "Written Mysteries and Judges' Tablets"
Detienne compares writing meant for the public and writing, overseen by the gods, intended only for initiates of select groups in ancient Greece. He also touches on the use of writing in judicial matters during the same period.

March 31, 1987 - "The Writing Machine of Simonides"
Detienne presents Simonides' development of a method of systematic memorization.

April 7, 1987 - "Among gods: Literates and Illiterates"
Detienne closes his series on the origins of writing with a look at the relationships of gods of some other cultures with writing and concludes that the gods of Greece did not themselves write. Writing, he says, was a distinctly human activity.