The Last Lecture is a satire by Aaron Slipper. We found it fun and funny, and some of our readers may too.
Don’t omit reading the footnotes. We were delighted to come upon the reference to Jillian Becker, to The Atheist Conservative, and to Jillian Becker’s book L: A Novel History and the fictitous historian in it named Bernard Gill (to which opus we suspect the author partly owes his inspiration – though he might also be laughing at it), and to one of our commenters, Josef Zaruba.
The Last Lecture needs to be read more than once – perhaps several times – for all the jokes to be found.
The Last Lecture
of Slavoj Czarczewski
with a preface by Oleg Gogol
footnotes and critical commentary by
Barbara d’Erlette, Professor of Feminist Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Hans McElwaine, Professor of Cultural Economics, University of East Anglia
David P.H. Humphrey, Professor Emeritus of Political Studies, University of Pennsylvania
On April 1, 2012, Slavoj Czarczewski, acclaimed Professor of Cultural Hermeneutics at Lecter University, gave what he announced at the event to be his final lecture. His absolute insistence on there being no records kept of the lecture sounded a discordant note (perhaps, in hindsight, a warning bell) to many in the audience, even his friends, who knew Czarczewski to be a publicity-seeking man. The rapid reconstruction of his words was an important and urgent task, even before subsequent events made it imperative. The website which I and his closest colleagues created to facilitate its reconstruction was the first such endeavor online, and it remains the website with the most contributors. I am honored to be the webmaster for the undertaking, and I present this pamphlet as a snap-shot of the work in progress therein.
The evening after the delivery of his “last lecture,” Czarczweski was scheduled to receive the Werther Prize for Cultural Analytics – yet another accolade to add to a vast collection – but he never arrived. He kept no other scheduled appointment in subsequent days, weeks and months. In fact, Professor Czarczewski has not been seen or heard from since he left the auditorium of the Swift Institute after his lecture. None of his friends, family, colleagues, nor the thousands of students, disciples and admirers have been able to locate him. International police efforts have similarly failed.
Are there clues within his lecture as to what happened to him? Some of the speculation is too macabre to be credible, but the incredible is not the same as the unthinkable. One thing is certain, however: this lecture, whatever other purposes it may serve, will be mined for any information that could explain what might have happened to one of mankind’s greatest philosophical and ethical geniuses.
The reconstruction process began within days of the lecture itself, as I, being present at the lecture and hearing and feeling no little dismay at Czarczewski’s orders not to record his words, decided to set up a website for those who attended the lecture to contribute what they recalled of it. This process is similar to the Wikipedia article-writing process and is ongoing. The reader is recommended to visit it at www.thelastlecture.edu as the reconstruction will never be definitive. Although the rate of changes to the text has diminished over time, we expect there to be further changes. There is no doubt, too, based on the length of time the actual lecture took compared to the time that the reconstruction takes to read aloud, that a substantial portion of the lecture has not been recovered. Interesting to note, too, that while the contributions of content have diminished, the volume of comments and disputes among the contributors and commenters has increased. Indeed, the website is becoming an agora for those who wish to learn about and from the master, a center for discussion of Cultural Hermeneutics and a forum recommended by academicians from arts and social science faculties across the world. As some of the contributors submitted their recollections anonymously, or under pseudonyms (“nics”), or have borrowed others’ names, authentication of identity and recollection has been of secondary importance to simply recording what was recalled of the speech. As in the judicial system, corroboration and consensus support inclusion, although it must be stated that it is even easier in the virtual arena than in reality – “meatspace” – for one individual to support his own argument by sending in corroborative contributions under other names. As Czarczewski himself wrote as an epigraph to his seminal work, Re:visions, “Authenticity, like authority, is a collective delusion.” Others, among them Czarczewski’s half-brother, His Eminence Cardinal Defarge (who did not attend the lecture), have attempted to reconstruct the speech and some have cast doubt upon this one, motivated, I suspect, by the need to sanitize the horrific potentialities of the lecture which have been the subject of sensationalism.
I cannot claim this to be an authorized version. There is no one to give such authority. However, speaking as a friend, a colleague, and a fervent admirer of Slavoj Czarczewski, and an ardent apostle of Cultural Hermeneutics which he founded, I believe that the reconstruction here is a faithful, accurate transcription of his last lecture, true to his unmistakable style, inimitable voice, and wholly unique vision.
– Oleg Gogol, Professor of Semiotics, Lecter University
The final lecture of Professor Slavoj Czarczewski, given at the Swift Institute of Linguistics and Cultural Studies at Lecter University on April 1, 2012, under the auspices of the Ethics of Food and the Environment Faculty, as reconstructed by certain members of the audience after the event. 
Assembled intelligences  – thus do I address you, as I am indifferent to gender or class status that would be implied by the  more conventional salutation of an academic audience – this is to be my final lecture.  Yes, indeed, my final lecture. And I shall insist that nothing I say be recorded – either in note form, or electronically.  Nothing must remain of these last publicly-delivered words of mine, except as half-understood and half-remembered, by each of you. These words will flutter through your minds, conceptual ephemera. Perhaps – no, certainly, because I am not unaware that I have a following of many thousands – some of you will get together after this is over and from your memories attempt to reconstruct my expressed thoughts for later analysis. I cannot prevent that. But your musings will be no more than larvae, swarming over a dead thing and so giving it the impression of throbbing life. But the essence, the reality, of these abstractions will be gone. There will be no bones to resurrect – and very few to pick and lick clean.
Those who know my work, know that I do not believe that it is possible to state truth.  There is no truth. What fool said Beauty is Truth?  Truth is what language seeks but cannot say. It is what eludes its own utterance. When pedagogues exhort their students to “express themselves”, they are asking the impossible. They are asking for the unspeakable to be spoken. What results? Infantile, conventional formulae of self-categorization: “I am” predicated with status categories. “I am heterosexual”, or “I am a vegetarian.” Or “I feel” predicated with some trite emotional description which could be borrowed from the emoticon library. “I feel disgusted”. Pah! Language illuminates the speaker as faintly as starlight tells us about the Big Bang.
And yet, all spoken words must have something of the confession about them. They give something away of speaker. They betray speaker. Even unreliable narrator, liar, actor, grifter. Final words in the Western convention must be both confessional and true. Dying words spoken in the knowledge of imminent death are an exception to the hearsay rule in Anglo-Saxon legal tradition. They can be assumed to be true. Aha! I hear a rustle of expectation amongst you. Is he dying? What does it matter? Everyone is dying. All words are spoken in the knowledge of more or less imminent death. Academics speak and write their tombstones. Their work is a tombstone, because it is their posterity. My admirers – or detractors – may pore over all my published works after I perish, all except these which shall escape the stonecutter. These words shall disappear, decompose into air which formed them. But whether my body shall soon decompose – who knows?
Let me confess, then, that the subject of my lecture is the unspeakable. Reality is unspeakable. Consciousness is unspeakable. For against every articulated attempt to capture a particular reality, the discarded articulations press. For every thought seined from the language lake in the mind, potential thoughts press against the net and drip from it. So, to help you understand the nature of this discourse, you must imagine that what I say is one surface of a strip of paper. On the other side of the strip is everything that I do not say. Now join the ends of the strip into a Moebius figure, so that there is only one surface. When I speak and you listen to what I say, our consciousnesses are on the kink of the Moebius strip, that critical point where what is said is also what is not said, what is listened to is also what is not heard.
Oscar Wilde once said of the British fox-hunting class, that they are the “unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible”. Equally appropriate would be the “inedible in pursuit of the unspeakable.” In civilized society, speaking humans are not edible, but dumb animals are. Humans hunt animals to eat, or breed them for the slaughterhouse. Certainly, I am told that the fox-hunters do not eat the foxes they kill. Do foxes not taste very good? Bear meat, apparently, is hard to chew. As the phrase has it, often applied to my writing, “It’s like chewing bear-meat, the more you chew the harder it gets.” I choke, of course.  I would have thought that tasting fox or bear, grilled perhaps, with bearnaise sauce , would be more attractive proposition than eating snake or crocodile, which, I am reliably informed, tastes like chicken. For some ethical eaters – of which there is a growing number – the only meat that should be eaten is the meat that is hunted. I cannot see how hunting can be, as our economist colleagues say, a sustainable solution.
But ethical eating is just one manifestation of the new normativity: just as ranking of class among men is now obsolete – except in university faculties – so is ranking humans or primates above other species. The “food chain” is an anachronism and history will confine it to the trash heap, alongside capitalism. Adam no longer should be allowed dominion over the other animals which, according to one myth, he named. Hermeneutics might lead us to suggest that “naming” the natural world is a manifestation of man’s scientific power: naming, categorizing, taxonomical arrangement constitute what we think of as “knowledge”. But man now knows about DNA. And in that helical  underworld, there is no superiority. The DNA of an olive tree is equal to the DNA of oyster, orangutan, ostrich and Odessan Oleg .
So, we living beings are all equal. Yet some of us eat meat. It is a categorical imperative. And so, we must adjust ourselves to the new ethos. For lion, they can eat zebra. For fox, they can eat chickens. But they can also eat man. A dingo ate human baby somewhere in Australasia. Sharks eat surfers. And that is eating man-flesh live – fresh. The worms, bacteria, vultures eat dead carcasses of man. Species are meat for each other. There is no disgust or moral outrage. When the police shoot mountain lions that stray into suburbs because they might kill suburbanites that is a matter of disgust and moral outrage. Animals may eat man-meat, and man may eat animal meat under certain conditions. Hunting meat will be acceptable only for a short time. Already the hunting of mammals is now a praxis increasingly barred thanks to evolving theory. Maybe hunting non-mammals – insects, for example locusts are a fine snack when deep fried – will be acceptable, at least in certain biospheres, like certain parts of Africa, until the theory is taken to its inevitable conclusion. The last redoubt of ethical meat eating will be consuming laboratory, not farm (not even local farm) -grown meat. Surely, though, the technology that exists for growing cow-meat , can be applied to meat grown human? This could be fed to dogs, or wild carnivores in nature reserves. This is just a very modest proposal  for sustainable eating. By the way, there is no reason to talk of this meat as “Frankenfood” as those who fear genetically modified plants do. There is no need to mingle DNA of different species. Pure synthetic beef, pure synthetic man. It may well be that demographic environmental exigencies – is the human and his herds of cow, sheep and pig not polluting the planet? – require that ethically meat-eating man should recycle himself and eat synthetic man-meat.
And so, our pursuit of the unspeakable has reached our quarry: anthropophagy. Man eating man. Cannibalism must come into its own. It is no longer a matter of horror fiction and film, or of satire. In Greek legend, Saturn ate his own children, and such was the horror of this offense against generational order that Saturn’s race – the Titans – had to be overthrown by the Olympian Gods. Yet in recent history, in remote villages of Europe and Asia, in time of famine, families have been known to exchange babies to eat. How, I wonder, did the people express this idea? How was this modest proposal expressed? By what euphemism was it locuted? Were words spoken at all?  Perhaps there was a meeting of the eye, and a hasty swap of a blanket- wrapped bundle.
We also know that air or sea disaster survivors have eaten their dead fellows to keep alive. Civilized society used not to regard these examples of anthropophagy as immoral. In extremis, for survival, it was understandable to eat dead human. But what is our moral view of the escape from the Gulag of three prisoners, one of them weak, taken by the other two as a “cow”, to be killed and eaten on the journey through the winter wastelands? There society must allow in extremis murder and cannibalism. Do we ask why these prisoners were in the Gulag in the first place? Were they political prisoners, sent into exile rather than put into an insane asylum – diagnosed with political dissentry.  Were they all not brutalized, so that the killing and eating of one by two was no more than a natural, animal act committed by animals upon animals?
Cannibalism, therefore, may be viewed as an expression of species egalitarianism and its evolutionary memetic forbear, environmentalism. But we must discard the notion that it is only justifiable for mankind in extremis. No, I put it to you that with the coming of Christianity, which was the first mass ideology to obliterate categorical distinctions between the divine and the mortal, between flesh and spirit, between the metaphorical and the real, anthropophagy has been at the centre of the political-moral structure of so-called civilization.  I point to the Eucharist: Jesus Christ ate his own flesh and drank his own blood. Eating human flesh is the destiny of mankind.  We shall consume ourselves – metaphorically and literally.
Self-cannibalism is the climax of the inexorable unfolding of humanity as it pursues the ethical goal of deliberately depriving itself of its power over the planet. The new morality is correctly self-annihilating, because it is the antithesis of the old morality which is itself a function of man’s essentially hierarchical, normative social thinking. The theoretical synthesis of normative humanity on the one hand and value-free nature on the other hand is an imperative to moral entropy. This breaking down of differentiation in moral values is exactly analogous to the analytical indifference to what constitutes a text in literary studies. “To be or not to be” is no more privileged a text than “Just do it.”  A drama is as significant a genre as a commercial slogan. Similarly, there is no more value attached to a human child than to frog-spawn. Laws mandating one-child per female, restrictions on end-of-life care, cheap food and the transport of food and movement of populations will accelerate the historical necessity to cut humanity down, numerically and so morally. Incidentally, those females who starve themselves in anorexia do not menstruate. The anorexic self-view is true of society as a whole. The zeitgeist of modern society sees itself as gross, swollen, and it sees consumption as contaminating and so demands starvation as a puritan cleansing of the collective. Starvation is a kind of species self-castration. Self- castration – which was also widely prevalent among early Christians – is symbolically a conscious decision to cut out the future. As such, it is a genetic suicide. It is a conscious suppression of the will to reproduce. The “selfish” gene spurred only to its own reproduction and survival is no longer an evolutionary force. Self-castration and self-cannibalism must be the perfection of moral exertions of the distinctively human. At the point where humanity consumes itself, we shall have become what we eat. We are at that Moebius crux, a critical moment of momentous critique: the destruction of normative morality at the same time as it achieves its purest expression in collective self-sacrifice.
And we have seen this auto-anthropophagic apocalypse enacted in a final conjunction of metaphorical and literal, of symbol and reality, of religious rite and everyday actuality. To my certain knowledge  the new Eucharist has been prepared, somewhere in Germany, not as a rite but as the expression of the new moral imperative. A Last Supper, arranged over the internet. The host has laid table, forks on the left, knives on the right, ready to eat a meal. The guest offers himself to be castrated by the host, who with the help of anesthetic detaches the male organs, then cooks and serves them to eat, au jus, with the blood to drink. That unspeakable meal is the avatar of the new humanity, the new autophagic humanitarian. 
1 This title, long as it may seem, is in many ways appropriate, as it has resonance with (a) the title of one of the works of literature most admired by Czarczewki: Peter Weiss’s 1963 play Die Verfolgung und Ermordung Jean Paul Marats dargestellt durch die Schauspielgruppe des Hospizes zu Charenton unter Anleitung des Herrn de Sade; and (b) a work that Czarczewski often described as being the most influential book he read in his youth, Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus, Das Leben des deutschen Tonsetzers Adrian Leverkühn, erzählt von einem Freunde.
2 There was some dispute among the contributors as to whether Czarczewski said “intelligences” or “intelli-gents”. Barbara d’Erlette, sitting in the second row at the event, who has written about misogyny as a motif in Czarczewski’s work, insists on the latter. [But see 3].
3 Numerous contributors to the reconstruction of the lecture left out the definite article. Although fluent in English, Czarczewski spoke it with an accent, and frequently omitted the definite article. This is probably due to the fact that he grew up speaking Russian, as insisted upon by his step-father, a Pole of Russian descent, whose name he took. In conversation, when his habits of speech were commented on, he would often quote Oleg Gogol as saying “The English article, definite or indefinite, is handmaiden of class structure: its usage signals class origins.” Gogol informs the commentators that he disclaims the quote. “If I had said half the things Slavoj attributed to me, I would be as well paid and well-known as Slavoj” (Oleg Gogol, in an interview, May 3, 2012). For purposes of the reconstruction, the definite article is sometimes used and sometimes not. Consistent omission would be a conscious mimicry of Czarczewski’s speech and tending towards satire. He himself would use it often enough to make our decision not to be consistent in omitting it truer to his voice.
4 There had been no prior intimations of retirement or resignation, and although in the month prior to his last lecture his gait and general demeanor suggested pain, he seemed to glow with a brighter spiritual intensity than ever before. Oleg Gogol thought that Czarczewski’s international traveling was beginning to take its toll on his health. In the three months before Czarczewski’s last lecture, he had travelled from Antwerp, to universities in America, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Central African Republic and Haiti. From these, and other countries, Czarczewski had collected a great many religious artifacts and documents from many diverse cultures. Antwerp police are currently investigating the recent robbery of his entire golem collection.
5 Every contributor recalled these exact words. The fact that no recording was allowed was reinforced by the presence of guards and metal detectors at the entrance to the auditorium. Bags were not allowed in and there were pat-downs to find and confiscate pens and anything which might leave a mark, for instance lipstick and eyebrow pencil. Nevertheless, scores of individuals have claimed to have recorded the lecture, fraudulently in the opinion of Oleg Gogol and the annotators. One individual has tried to sell the recording to Lecter University for USA $1,000,000. The Board of Trustees has appointed an Ethics Committee who determined, rightly, that it is would be unethical to pay for a recording made against Czarczewski’s specific and presumably last request. It remains to be seen whether the seller will attempt to sell his recording elsewhere. Ebay, from a high of 200 a few days after the lecture is currently showing for sale only 4 purported “Last Lecture” CDs, with a disclaimer and warning to buyers. The editors purchased one CD for $5, but it consisted only of extracts from other lectures given by Czarczewski. Cardinal Defarge claims that he was given an authentic recording by a concerned member of the audience whose identity he will not divulge. Conveniently, the Defarge transcript of the recording omits all references to the “new Eucharist”. Upon advice of counsel, Gogol and the annotators have decided not to litigate the issue to establish judicially the non-authenticity of the purported recording.
6 One contributor, under the name of Slavoj Zizek, but unverified as the philosopher of that name, submitted a paragraph for insertion here. Although it is in line with Czarczewski’s theoretical reasoning, it has not been included in the text of the lecture, as no-one else recalled such speech. The suggested text follows:
Let me tell you about the dominant view of reality from the perspective of those dialectics that are entirely separate from social normative forces. Today I have a lecture that is not entirely distinct from the abstract ethical concepts of those within a collective whole, but the reality, whatever that means, of the situations portrayed should not be taken on par with those of everyday existential experience. From the outset, the normative and restraining forces of civilization form a cultural sheath, but it is not disputed that this barrier can be penetrated by those in situations of desperation and disorder, where the individual, functioning as either an element of the collective herd or animal subconscious, should no longer relate these ethical and cultural constraints to his own subjective universe. It is this complex relationship, between the individual action and the social medium comprised of such actions, that creates the profound difficulty in assessing the given nature of the speaking individual.
There is some thought that this may have been plagiarized from one of the many seminal essays found at http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/
7 John Keats, 1820, Ode On a Grecian Urn.
8 There was some disagreement among the annotators over whether this should be written, “I joke” or “I choke”. His intention to be humorous, however, is undisputed among the compilers of this material – Czarczewski was purposefully delivering a pun here based on his distinct Middle-European accent. Either spelling would be appropriate, but the auditors would have heard “ch”, not “j”. Consistent with the conventions of the transcription of oral tradition, the commenters decided to use “choke”. There are many well-documented cases in which Czarczewki purposefully made a pun through his unique use and delivery of English. Indeed, the pun was a recurring subject of analysis in his work and central to his development of his theory of memetic evolution, in which he enlarges and refines the Freudian idea of parapraxis. The pun, which homophonically brings together two distinct and often contradictory connotations is the means by which culture, through language, trips the speaker into betraying his identity status. These ideas were investigated in Czarczewski’s monumental work, Text, Context and Pretext (Ferrington, 1973), known as “The Bible” of Cultural Hermeneutics.
9 Czarczewski’s partner Oleg Finnis is known to be an excellent cook. The two co-authored a book on cultural meanings of food titled Magi in the Kitchen (Ferrington, 1982). Finnis and Czarczewski share an apartment in Antwerp. Finnis and Czarczewski met while interned in a labor camp in the Soviet Union, but deny that they escaped together.
10 Hans McElwaine, former doctoral student under Czarczewski, believes that this was yet another an intentional pun. The “helical” underworld, particularly given the strong Eastern European accent of Professor Czarczewski, can be heard as “hellical”, suggesting hell, the underworld. [See 8].
11 Nearly all contributors believe that this was a reference to Oleg Gogol, who does not hail from Odessa, but from another town in Ukraine, but was often witnessed to have been affectionately teased by Czarczewki as an Odessan. A notable exception to this consensus is Rudolf Geoffrey, Reader in Futurology at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, who asserts that the reference is to Oleg Helmut Finnis. Referring to the two Olegs, one a close associate professionally, the other domestically, Czarczewski was wont to say: “I do not need support. I have my own two Olegs to stand on.” Contrary to gossip, the two Olegs are not rivals. There is a third Oleg, an elderly internee at the Siberian camp, mentioned in Czarczewski’s autobiography Authorized Versions (Ferrington, 1994), and available online at www.tangledweb.com.
13 An allusion to A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick, published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729. Czarczewski frequently used the meme “modest proposal” in his discourse. Rudolf Geoffrey, in a comment to the reconstruction website has expressed doubt that Czarczewski understood Swift’s work to be straight-faced satire and not a policy recommendation.
15 Barbara d’Erlette notes that this is an example of a Czarczewskian implied allusion to a well-known pun. In the blockbuster movie Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter expresses the idea of “having someone for dinner”.
17 Another pun. [See 8].
18 Bernard Gill, the acclaimed biographer of Louis Zander, sees some similarities between Czarczewski and Zander. They both have a messianic urge, and each believes that history culminates in him. In the epigraph to his book L (Ferrington, 2005), Gill quotes Zander as saying, “Once I wrote, erroneously, that history is fiction”. Both Zander and Czarczewski attempted to realize metaphor and to idealize reality.
19 The authority for the transfiguration of the bread and wine into flesh and blood lies solely with Paul of Tarsus. Czarczewski was known to be in correspondence with Jillian Becker of the blog www.theatheistconservative, who has made a study of the origins of Christianity. Cardinal Defarge has surmised that the occasional commenter to that blog, Josef Zaruba, is an alter-ego of Czarczewski himself. This theory would support Defarge’s case that Czarczewski is still alive, as a comment by Zaruba was posted on Becker’s blog here:
However, there is a well-known Czech medieval iconographer of that name.
20 The quotations from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the Nike slogan were frequently coupled by Czarczewski as examples of texts equally carrying memes. He also enjoyed equalizing the “head” – philosophical musings by a fictitious protagonist – with the “feet”, Nike being a shoe manufacturer; mingling theory with praxis, mind with body. Czarczewski showed little patience with the great works of the canon of English Literature. He claims to have fallen asleep every time he watched a Shakespeare play, although shortly before the last lecture, he was collaborating with David Humphrey on an analysis of the unspeakable feast in Titus Andronicus.
21 The phrase “[t]o my certain knowledge” is the source of most of the scholarly and general speculation as to what happened to Czarczewski when he disappeared. The Defarge-led faction, now known as the “Gnostics”, interpret the phrase as meaning that Czarczewski himself read a news report concerning an actual incident of autophagism. See for example the article on the Rotenburg Cannibal or Der Metzgermeister on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Armin_Meiwes.
See also http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/01/19/1074360665924.html.
The counter-faction, known as the “Prognostics”, led by historian Bernard Gill, believe that “certain knowledge” means knowledge from experience and that Czarczewski either had participated in a similar erotic autophagism, perhaps also in Germany, or intended to do so in the near future, and was informing the audience of his planned imminent demise. The use of the present tense by Czarczewski in the last sentences, a fact recalled by numerous auditors, is adduced as evidence of that actual or anticipated experience. Oleg Helmut Finnis, who is Czarczewski’s closest confidant, has not responded to questions on the issue of his friend’s use of pseudonyms. Finnis has been incommunicado since the disappearance of his friend. His whereabouts too are unknown. Rotenburg police say there is no record of any apartment being rented in that city in the names of Finnis or Czarczewski.
22 Barbara d’Erlette believes that the word used by Czarczewski was “humanarian”, not “humanitarian”, because of the context of ethical eating and with deliberate allusion to “vegetarian”. The absence of “it” creates a semantic enormity which would be typical of Czarczewski. The other commenters, scholars of narratology, insist that “it” was heard by most people, and their memory, even if based on a mis-hearing, should be respected according to the American Linguistics Association’s conventions on oral tradition.