Discovery theme for annual talk

Thursday, September 9, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:43 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

MU launched what it hopes will become a tradition Wednesday night when professor John Miles Foley helped those gathered in Jesse Auditorium rediscover their roots with his lecture on oral tradition and the Internet.

Foley, founder and director of the world’s only Center for Studies in Oral Tradition, located at MU, is also a professor of classical studies and English. He was selected by a committee to deliver the lecture in honor of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commemoration.

“At our most basic level, we will be thinking about the technology of communication and how they relate to one another,” Foley said in his lecture. “We will also be observing and documenting some communicative species that most of us probably thought were long-extinct or which have fallen below our cultural radar.”

Foley said Lewis and Clark’s work two centuries ago is still relevant today. He took the audience through the history of oral tradition from Egyptian hieroglyphics to the Internet.

“Oral tradition and the Internet are matching bookends for the waning medium of print,” said Foley, who spoke various Slavic tongues as a slide show illustrated his topics in the background.

He classified oral tradition as a recently discovered medium and Internet as an ever-changing anomaly.

The lecture is the first in what is meant to be an annual event to spotlight an exceptional MU faculty member. MU Manager of Marketing Communications Laura Roloff said she has high hopes for this event and the precedent it will set.

Foley is internationally recognized for his work in the field of humanities. He published 16 books, 130 articles and 250 national and international lectures and papers.

“The lecture was called the 21st Century Corps of Discovery because discovery is one of the university’s core values,” Roloff said.

Lewis and Clark Commemoration Committee member Susan Flader said the speech was applicable to all in attendance.

“He said things everyone could take something from,” she said. “He tied in the university, Lewis and Clark, the Internet and today.”

This new program was born from a desire to explore the core values of the university, members of the committee said.

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