Jousse, Marcel

Short Entry

The anthropologist Marcel Jousse was born in 1886 in the then deep rural, oral (illiterate) and poor Sarthe region South-West of Paris. In 1913 he joined the Jesuit noviciate and in 1917, after three years of distinguished service as artillery captain in World War I, he was sent as an officers’ instructor to Georgetown in the USA. In his first publication, the seminal Le Style oral mnémotechnique et rythmique chez les verbo-moteurs (1925; 1990 English translation: The Oral Style), he defines and illustrates the anthropological foundations of traditional mnemonic oral style by combining the three significant personal experiences mentioned: the oral milieu of his childhood, his study of the orally based Hebrew Bible and its Aramaic commentaries, and his encounters with the Amerindian oral-gestual tradition in the USA. His next publication, ‘The parallel rhythmic recitatives of the Rabbis of Israel’ (1930), shows graphically how the mnemotechnical devices of traditional mnemonic oral style create rhythm and balance and how they function as memory-aids. The thousand-odd lectures he gave from 1931 till 1957 were stenographed and have recently been made available as two CD’s. Jousse published the essence of these teachings in twelve short, dense essays. Ill-health allowed him to only very partially realize his project of a ‘grande synthèse’ of his anthropology. It was published posthumously in three volumes as L’Anthropologie du Geste (1974 to1978). The English translation – The Anthropology of Geste and Rhythm. Studies in the Anthropological laws of Human Expression and their Application in the Galilean Oral-style Tradition (1997; second edition 2000) – amalgamates the three volumes and the twelve essays.

Jousse’s is a global, holistic anthropology based on the premise of a dynamic Universe in which all parts act on each other and are acted upon, and in which the Anthropos - an indissociable psycho-physiological unit – has the unique capacity to store his/her interactions with the Cosmos as mimemes or units of memory which can be retrieved, in various degrees of consciousness, for replay: the Human is the reflective conscience of the Universe. The Anthropos then is the sum of passive im-pressions that are played in and later that are later actively ex-pressed – played out - through macro- and micro- movements called gestes. The Human thus is but Memory. If the build-up of the Human through mimemes has been harmonious, a balanced being will ensue; if not, the imbalance must be rectified by doing anew, correctly, the original interaction or geste. This is why Jousse’s anthropology is by nature an applied anthropology intersecting with pedagogy (mounting the correct gestes in the child), pathology (detecting incorrectly mounted gestes) and psycho-physio-therapy (reconstructing incorrectly mounted gestes). Its implications become global through ethnology: Western civilisation has split the human composite into mind and body, favouring the former at the expense of the latter (it is written-style based and writing immobilizes the body and depersonalizes communication: its knowledge is bookish Scientia cum libro), but there are other, holistic oral-style civilisations that are in tune with their physical micro- and macro- environment and whose expression and communication are interpersonal and immediate: theirs is an alive and lived knoweldge - Scientia in vivo. Jousse’s anthropology urges us to redress the present imbalance between these two civilisations.

See: (French) and (English)

Long Entry

Marcel Jousse (1886-1961)

In order to make access possible to a truly holistic mind, wholly in tune with the object – the oral tradition - and the subjects – the verbo-motors - of his studies, the following presentation of the French anthropologist Marcel Jousse has been ordered chronologically. The sections are as follows:

I. The Oral Style 1925

II. The Oral Lectures 1931-1957

III. The Anthropology of Geste and Rhythm Posthumous: 1974-1978

IV. Memory, Memorisation and Memorisers in Ancient Galilee. Posthumous: 1999

V. Quotations: Marcel Jousse defining his anthropology

VI. Lecture by Marcel Jousse on his scientific itinerary

VII. Glossary of Joussean terms


The Story of My Work is that of My Life

The Story of My Life is that of My Work

This typically balancing proposition of Marcel Jousse contains a statement that must be taken literally for it is the cornerstone of his methodology. Jousse held that it is much easier to invent than to observe, and that the true geniuses of humanity are not inventors, but observers. It is for this reason that he also held that geniuses are people who focus their attention on one problem only, but one they think through with life-long patient observation in order to arrive at a durable, unassailable solution. Thus, however much - or little - they publish (Jousse used to mock his own typographical abstinence), all their findings are already intuited in their very first publication: the answer is always comprised in the question and the challenge lies in asking the right question so that the right answer will be allowed to unfold.

Jousse was thirty-nine years old in 1925 when he published the first study ever dedicated exclusively to orality. He gave it the title: The Rhythmic and Mnemotechnical Oral Style of the Verbo-motors, although he later thought it might have been better called: ‘ The Global-oral Style, Tool of Traditional Memory.’ Translated sixty-five years later into English, The Oral Style is a most unusual book. Jousse had read some five thousand books from a bewildering variety of disciplines. From these, he selected five hundred pertinent to his topic, and from them he chose extracts which reflected in some way his observations, which he linked by his own bracketed words, sentences and paragraphs. He thus recycled old materials, building a new house from old bricks, following his own research injunction: The aim of research is to quest for and discover fresh insights and under­standing. But how can we discover something fresh and new when it appears as if all has already been discovered? By the incessant, meticulous and de­tailed scrutiny of the Old. This new imbrication was directed by three observations stemming directly from his life.

First was his childhood in a rural, oral and poor milieu. It was there that he heard and learned popular recitations and biblical recitatives sung by his near-illiterate mother and her mostly illiterate friends. They taught him to rhythmo-catechise and rhythmo-melodise a text, rather that to read it only with his eyes and sitting motionless. As he used to say: I am illiterate by training.

Second came his contact with Amerindian culture. After an exceptionally distinguished three years as an artillery captain in the World War I trenches, Jousse was sent to the USA towards the end of the war to prepare American officers for their entry into the war. He befriended a number of prominent and militant Amerindians, some of whom he was later to meet again upon his return to France. These interactions familiarised him with Amerindian sign language, with gestures as silent ‘words’.

Third there was his Christian faith, which brought him into contact with the Palestinian oral tradition. At age 13, he had started studying ‘the four languages’, Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. He did this by exploring the roots of each language, a method developed by the classical scholar, Maunoury. It led Jousse to the notion that human expression was rooted in gesture, that language was a complexus of roots that oral language was a laryngo-buccal geste and that writing was, at least in origin, no more than the stabilisation of oral language.

The book, The Oral Style was soon dubbed ‘The Jousse Bomb’, as it exploded a great many myths. Pope Pius XI lauded it as ‘a revolution, no doubt, but sheer common sense’ and he predicted that Jousse’s findings would be the basis of an entirely renewed biblical exegesis within fifty years. Léonce de Grandmaison, the General of the Jesuit Order in France, to which Jousse belonged, told him: ‘You are right, I know all too well that you are right, and yet my whole training rebels against what you are saying’. He was however so convinced of the correctness of Jousse’s understanding of the oral context of the evangelical texts that he introduced a number of references to Jousse’s work even at that very late stage of the writing of his study on the life of Jesus, a book that would prove to be immensely successful. In the second edition of this work, published after its author’s death, all these references were suppressed, which is just one instance of the hostility Jousse encountered and which begs the question: what was so revolutionary and yet so commonsensical about The Oral Style, so right and yet so unsettling?

At its core, The Oral Style questions the predominance of writing in contemporary society and pleads for the rehabilitation of the values of orality. It claims that, as with all evolution, the introduction of writing carried gains and losses: it brought about an expansion of knowledge, but not necessarily of understanding; it widened immensely the scope for communication, but simultaneously reduced interpersonal oral communication; as a form of algebraic expression, it could and did all too easily degenerate into algebrosis - a word coined by Jousse on the model of the psychological term ‘necrosis’ to mean language, and indeed expression of any kind cut off from reality.

It was precisely such algebrosis that was, according to Jousse, so prevalent in academic circles where ignorance, neglect or disdain of orality had led a number of disciplines into blind alleys from which they were unable to extricate themselves. Thus philology as well as biblical studies, in their search for a unique, fixed original text, had created pseudo-problems through ignorance of the nature of the transmission of the oral tradition. Anthropology and education had likewise cut themselves off from life: static anthropology (which Jousse called ‘squelettologie’) by studying human residue rather than living man in current society, pedagogy by ignoring the active participation of the child in education. As for biblical studies, the Church of the 20’s and 30’s was not ready for Jousse’s contention that Christianity was to be understood through Judaism, and that, beneath the Greek of the Biblical texts, one had to search for the Aramaic phonemes and their anthropological mimemes in order to re-establish the original and gestual logic of the Palestinian ethnic milieu.

On this latter point, Jousse would expand and defend another all-important continuum. Fashionable sociology and psychology divided humanity between the oral and the literate, between the illogical and the logical, between the concrete and the abstract, and this at the time when ‘The Scramble for Africa’ (and Asia) was on, and when European colonizers systematically equated writing with ‘civilization’ and power. Jousse’s contention in a sentence such as the following ran counter to the theory and practice of the time: The original and capital sin of our written-style civilization is that it considers itself singularly superior and unique, and believes, moreover, that everything not recorded in writing, does not exist. Three quarters of a century later, one might well wonder to what extent this perception has changed.

In order to rehabilitate orality, Jousse had to find its main strength and literacy’s main weakness: memory. We have lost the science of living Memory, he said, calling his book-learned colleagues bookish amnesics. Whence this other memorable and memorisable balancing:

Memory is the Whole of Man
And the Whole of Man is Memory

To demonstrate the operation of memory and the use of the mnemonic Oral Style in the oral tradition, he published in 1930 Les Récitatifs rythmiques parallèles des Rabbis d’Israel. Genre de la Maxime, which was translated into English in 2001 as The Parallel Rhythmic Recitatives of the Rabbis of Israel. In this publication he translated fifty Hebrew sayings into French which he then laid out on the page in such a way as to demonstrate their parallelisms or balancings, and their stability and variation. This collection is prefaced with a detailed account of the operation of the mnemonic Oral Style. He also broached the theme of ‘memory’ in a great many of his lectures (see infra, part II). ‘Memory’ was also to be the main theme of his Dernières Dictées, the ‘Last Dictations’, English title: Memory, Memorisation and Memorisers in Ancient Galilee (see infra, part IV).

The table of contents of Rhythmic and mnemotechnical oral Style among the Verbo-motors – to give the book its full name – establishes its richness (with hindsight, this traduttore suggeststhat the terms ‘gesture’, ‘mimicry’ and ‘mimic’ would be more correctly translated as ‘geste’, ‘mimism’ and ‘mimismic’):

Part One: The Anthropological Foundations of Oral Style

I The energetic explosion and the psycho-physiology of gesture

II Intervals between energetic explosions – physiological rhythm

III Reflex gesticulation and the mimicry of reception

IV The spontaneous revivification of past gestures

V The voluntary semiological revivification of mimic gestures

VI Laryngo-buccal semiological gesticulation

VII The instinctively concrete character of semiological gesticulation

VIII The propositional gesture

IX Ethnic mental dispositions and propositional gestures: the psychology of translation

V The voluntary semiological revivification of mimic gestures

VI Laryngo-buccal semiological gesticulation

VII The instinctively concrete character of semiological gesticulation

VIII The propositional gesture

IX Ethnic mental dispositions and propositional gestures: the psychology of translation

Part Two: The Oral Style

X The automatic repetition of a propositional gesture: parallelism

XI Rhythmic oral style

XII The instinctive mnemonic employment of rhythmic schemas

XIII Oral style, a ‘living press’

XIV Oral composers

XV Mnemonic faculties in oral style milieux

XVI Mnemotechnical devices within the rhythmic schema

XVII Mnemotechnical devices within the recitative

XVIII Mnemotechnical devices within a recitation

The Oral Style is introduced by a few pages entitled: ‘Marcel Jousse on Scientific Discovery. They are part of a lecture given by Jousse at the Sorbonne very early in his career and constitute his scientific manifesto.

II. THE ORAL LECTURES -- 1931-1957

For an example of a full lecture, see section VI

Marcel Jousse taught in Paris, from 1931 until 1957, at three institutions of higher learning: the Sorbonne (S), the School of Anthropology (EA) and the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (EHE), as well as in his own Laboratory of Rhythmo-Pedagogy (Labo). The teachings vary according to the venue and audience, i.e. respectively on the psychology of geste and rhythm, on linguistic anthropology, on the origins of Christianity - in particular on the nature, function and operation of the Palestinian Oral Style, and on the anthropology of education.

Jousse never wrote out any of his lectures: he took his clue from a few keywords or from a skeleton plan of his lecture and from this he improvised (= he knowingly played his audience). This allowed him to be in direct contact with his audience and, as he was a vivid performer, he drew large numbers of people although his lectures were not sanctioned by any examination. Professional stenographers took down everything he said and his lifelong assistant, Mlle Baron, later typed these notes out. They are now available on a CD.

Jousse’s teaching method was simple and efficient, for nearly all of this one thousand-odd lectures start with an introduction that always drew on the immediate context: a book just read, newspaper articles, posters, a conversation he had had – any topic that allowed him to ease his audience into the more technical side of the lecture itself. Each teaching year at each of the venues at which he taught had a general theme in which he fitted on average 15 (S, Labo), 20 (EA) or 25 (EHE) lectures and nearly all lectures were preceded by a ‘plan du cours’. But Jousse was, in the truest sense of the word, an oral performer with a holistic mindset and it is as such that his lectures should be approached. Thus it should be understood that in the lectures, for example, on the ‘Fundamentals of Human Expression and Communication’, the four laws he sets out are intertwined and are presented as discrete units only for teaching purposes. However strict the plan, all lectures to a degree meander, and Jousse progresses in spirals, and he should not be read in a purely linear fashion: it is not so much the detail of the reasoning or a precise thought process that needs to be grasped, but rather the mode and orientation of thought. For it is that that Jousse wanted to be: an orienter, and he holds that his science – as indeed all true science – can be no more than a science in a dotted line, one that would, he anticipated, be joined up into an increasingly complete line in the future, as studies of this kind developed.

The following are a few of the themes broached in seven lectures published in English translation as ‘Holism and Education’ (2004).

Lecture I

Mimism and the Memory of the Child

Given at the Ecole d’ Anthropologie on the second of December 1935.

Fourth in a series of 20 lectures on Mimism and the Language of the Child

The fundamental law that governs the Universe and Man in this universe, is the law of Mimism, which can be formulated as: the Actor – acting on – the Acted upon. The entire universe is interactional, every one of its myriad constituent parts is acting on the other parts and is being acted upon by them. It is these actions of the universe upon us and our re-actions to these actions that build us up as human beings – as anthropoi we are engaged in an unceasing mimic interplay – in play and replay – within ourselves and within the universe. Each building block of this universal mimic interplay constitutes a mimeme. Man is a complexus of Mimemes. The sum of our embodied mimemes constitutes our memory. The more mimemes, the greater the memory – the greater the memory, the greater the possibility of replay, the richer the capacity to act and interact.

Mimism thus is a cosmological law that applies anthropologically and therefore pedagogically. Man should be operating according to the law of the universe and the child of Man should be allowed to operate accordingly, this is to say: ‘in the nature of things’. If we are to build up the capacity of the child, we need to let the child be by letting the child handle the Real as much as possible: to build up mimemes, which mimemes, when act-ivated, become gestes. In so doing, gestes reflect and express human experience holistically, which holism is challenged when gestes, actions, mimemes, are verbalised: the replay then is expressed in propositions, in propositional gestes or, after the introduction of writing, in words. When words have no rapport with a prior intussusception of the Real, then we have verbigeration. One should never speak of things that have not been personally intussuscepted. And all too often the child is educated in words, through words, by words. Therefore: what is needed is a return to the Real.

Lecture II

Human Mimism

Given at the Sorbonne on April 23, 1931.

Fifth in a series entitled: The Geste in ethnic psychology and in pedagogic psychology

If left to its spontaneity, the child will be in tune with the universe, and as the universe is in incessant movement, the child too will be in movement, and that child is then indeed a perpetuum mobile. The child is energy, in the strongest original sense of the term: a force in action, in flow – in rhythmos. We are, all of us, rhythm, living-being rhythm, biological rhythm, rhythm that is at once regular and supple. The child is a natural born mimer: the child intussuscepts – takes in and makes it his own – and expresses all that is impressed in it.

And here arises the major difficulty: society canalises, and often paralyses this natural, incessant rhythmic expression, resulting in a stifling process, exacerbated by writing and the book, which mediate at best, and alienate at worst, from the Real. So it is that many, indeed most, children study without learning, their gestes atrophied and thus also the expression of their mimemes, and thus also their memory. In pathological cases, there is no longer any replay possible as the geste has been terminally arrested. In contrast, peoples who have remained spontaneous still have the capacity to ‘dance’ the real, these dances being in fact ‘rhythmo-mimisms’: through them – and in their ‘animism’ – the whole universe can operate in play and the anthropos then can replay these operations.

Jousse pleads with society for an education that will ‘form’ individuals instead of de-forming them by dis-individualising them.

Lecture III

Rythmics and Mnemotechnics

Given at the Sorbonne on 30 March 1933.

Last of 15 lectures on The Psychology of the Geste and the Psychology of the Memory

In this lecture, Jousse studies the voluntary use of rhythm: how does rhythm operate in psychology, in pathology and in pedagogy?

We mount gestes in us and this is Memory. Out of this memory, we mounted gestes and this is ex-pression. Jousse acknowledges his medical colleagues who in the course of the year have illustrated his point, that the pathologies of memory - apraxia, aphasia, forgetfulness – are all diseases of inhibition: when the inner movement, the psycho-physiological geste, is blocked, there is no longer fluency, no longer rhythm – the replay of play is inhibited, and the geste, cannot express itself. Rhythm facilitates mnemonic replay, which is why all ethnic groups have rhythmic recitations. In such rhythmic recitations there is a natural balancing of our bodily construct, and the result is parallel rhythmic recitatives. Jousse gives examples of parallel rhythmic recitatives from the Palestinian tradition and from the treasure trove of French proverbs, making the point that memory techniques – mnemotechnics - should take into account the physiological, bodily origin and nature of memory. As should pedagogy. Didactics should move away from metaphysical and from individual ethnic linguistic and psychological perspectives and learn to use this biological rhythm which is naturally didactic and if it is to return to life, education must recuperate rhythm.

Lecture IV

Human Bilateralism

Given at the Ecole d’Anthropo-Biologie on 17 March 1948

Eleventh of twelve lectures on Mimismological Anthropology

The human being is bilaterally structured in three ways - high and low, front and back, right and left - and thus stores and expresses bilaterally what the universe plays into him: the Anthropos is a bilaterally miming animal. The proof is in the observation: from birth we organize the space around us tridimensionally by creating high and low, front and back, right and left; all our actions are performed bilaterally; our labour is yoked; we divide the objects in two: right-handed – left-handed; pure-impure; we think bilaterally – to us penser is peser : to think is to weigh, put things on the scales of a balance; bilateralism pervades all our cultural expressions, our rituals – which Jousse calls mimodramas; our early writing went from left to right, and then from right to left … If we choose right-handedness, it was for practical reasons, and we shouldn’t forget that this was a socialised decision, not a natural state of affairs. We encounter bilateralism whenever we encounter the Real. It is when we operate in words only, when we become unaware of the realness of things, that we loose sight of our natural bilateralism.

Lecture V

The Rhythm of the ‘Yoke’ and of the ‘Burden’

Given on the first of March 1939 at the Laboratoire de Rythmo-pédagogie on.

Eleventh of fifteen lectures on The formulaic Rhythmo-catechism of Rabbi Ieshua of Nazareth

The premise that the human is indivisible should form the basis of all anthropology and indeed of all science: the human is a composite psycho-physiological unit. The human composite is two-sided, it is bilaterally structured and it structures its actions bilaterally. The human search for symmetry then is natural and human expression is therefore naturally parallel. Bilateralism, then, is an all-pervading law, which is most evocatively illustrated by the actions and metaphors of the ‘lifting of the burden’ and of the ‘balancing of the yoke’, which we see at work in the Torah and in most oral-style texts as well as in classical Western poetry. In psychology, phenomena such as aphasia, apraxia, forgetfulness and all diseases of expression are compounded by an imbalance in the anthropos: unbalanced gestes need to be deconstructed, dismounted and then re-mounted, re-constructed. Be they biblical texts, or oral texts in general, or psychological actions and practices, all are applications of the great unifying laws of the praxia – the natural behaviours and practices.

Another of Jousse’s particular concerns becomes evident in this lecture: that of ‘colonization’, particularly of the colonization of innate intelligent human proclivities by writing and books, and particularly of women, who happened to form the larger part of his audience on this occasion. He consistently encouraged all ‘colonised’ people to draw on their own experiences to inform their understanding of themselves, others and the world around them, in place of a purely bookish and necrosing education. The only person one can know well, is oneself, Jousse constantly reiterated, echoing Socrates’ ‘Know thyself’, and preempting the current tendency in scholarship to adopt an insider perspective and reflect critically on the self as a point of departure in scholarly enterprise.

Lecture VI

The parallel rhythmic recitatives

Given at the Ecole d’Anthropologie on 12 March 1934.

Sixteenth of twenty lectures on The Origin of Language and the oral Geste

Because the human being is structured bilaterally, his actions and reactions, and their storage in the memory as mimemes are also bilateral, as is his expression in corporeal geste – that of the body and hands - and in the reduction of this corporeal geste to laryngo-buccal geste – that of speech. This is why traditional texts are balanced, why they are composed in parallel style. Such parallelism in delivery can be strict, with a fixed number of syllables, in which case it is called melody – and on such preformed melodies improvisations can be developed – or the delivery of the parallelism can be supple, in which case it is psalmody. Jousse gives examples of parallel rhythmic recitatives from all walks of texts, biblical compositions, children’s compositions, the Finnish folk tradition of the Kalevala … To properly understand and analyse such texts, one needs to understand the Laws of Memory – which are the Laws of Rhythmism, of Bilateralism and of Formulism.

Lecture VII

The Formulism of the Rhythmo-catechism

Given at the Laboratoire de Rythmo-pédagogie on 18 January 1939.

Fifth in a series of fifteen lectures on The formulaic rhythmo-catechism of Rabbi Ieshua of Nazareth

In this lecture, Jousse opposes two attitudes before the Universe: that of Heraclitus – ‘all flows’ – and that of the Ecclesiast –‘there is nothing new under the sun’. In all time, all over the world, there is this ambivalence. It is especially the first part of this lecture – the introduction and the beginning of the lecture proper – that is interesting, because Jousse, as he himself remarks, feels truly ‘in tune’, in ‘intellectual sym-pathy’ with his audience, which makes this lecture a very revealing exercise for the understanding of his mindset .

It appears that the occasion is the handing back of essays written by his students. Jousse did not mark the essays written by his students, but he remarked on them. His appreciation is not quantitative but qualitative: as an ‘orienter’, he points out a direction to them. The ultimate accolade here is his proposal for a collaborative publication.

The general project he sets his students is: observe your children: they are fluid, they are Heraclitian. So are true scientists: all is new to them, they are always fluid enough to let the Real enter in them. Jousse challenges his audience to recognize the rigidity of certain religious and scientific attitudes that render people ‘impenetrable’: actions are movement, there can be no inter-action when there is no openness, no fluidity, no flow, no dia-logue. It’s clear here how imbricated are Jousse’s cosmology, anthropology and pedagogy.


Posthumous: 1974-1978. English edition 2000

[Passages in italics indicate quotations from Jousse]

How does man, placed at the heart of all the immeasurable actions of the universe,

manage to conserve the memory of these actions within him, and to transmit this memory faithfully to his descendants, from generation to generation?

Before starting a singularly complex science, it is good to check if other disciplines have not had previously similarly complex problems, and have not succeeded in sifting these problems so as to reduce them to a single unique question. For some years I have handled the problems of celestial mechanics … and I was thus lead to transfer the methodology of celestial mechanics by envisaging anthropology as a kind of human mechanics. In the observation of this supple and living human mechanics, a great fundamental law has consistentlymanifested itself, whatever the stages of its expression: Human Mimism. Strangely enough, for all those years, for all those hundreds and indeed thousands of years that the anthropos has been studied, the most powerful of the laws of human mechanics was not really noticed and therefore analysed … It is true that the same applies to all the great laws, even those of the physical universe. The laws exist :

they have to be discovered.

Jousse searched for and discovered the permanent and universal psycho-physiological laws, the anthropological laws, which unify what time and space and custom had separated in so many ethnic varieties. He consistently believed in and stressed a human, an anthropological continuity, refusing to see writing as a dividing invention in the history of humanity. To him, writing had not created a hiatus between oral- and written-style man, between orality and literacy, but the civilisation of writing was preceded and shored up by an Oral-style civilisation. And as style implies laws of expression, it was his aim to unearth these stylistic laws from beneath written texts or to discover them wherever the absence of writing had left them intact.

The fundamental Laws of human Expression and Communication

Jousse’s Science of Man, his Anthropology, is in essence relational: for as long as the human being is – from conception to death – he is engaged in action with, and in re-action to, his environment. Following this premise, Jousse sets out the laws that govern this incessant inter-action between Man and Universe, the Anthropos and the Cosmos.

The primary law: the law of mimism

I began my publications in 1925 with The Oral Style for, at that time scientific research was directed towards the question of language. Hence I am now considered to be the person who discovered oral style. But to be more exact I discovered the Anthropology of Mimism which must be regarded as the common factor in all my work.

the whole question of human expression has been turned around when I put Mimism in its right place, this is to say at the centre.

The universe plays man, and man plays the universe: that is the great bilateral law which the anthropology of mimism has taught me. (…) Any human problem, any anthropological problem, can only be understood if we take the law of the anthropology of mimism as our methodological point of departure .

This law can be seen at work in three successive stages:

  • The first stage is the objective stage: this is the stage where the Universe acts on Man. The cosmic energy explodes in Man and irradiates in him. This cosmological action of the Universe plays into Man unconsciously.

  • In the second stage, the subjective stage, Man intussuscepts - Man has the unique capacity to bring the cosmological action into consciousness. When this happens, the cosmological becomes anthropological: the Universe becomes human in the energy of the Geste. Man grasps the cosmic action and, by miming it in the context of his previous experience, he makes it his own. Each of these mimismic ‘seizings’, ‘capturings’ or ‘intussusceptions’ of a fragment of the Real of the environment constitutes a mimeme. And it is thus, by successive intussusceptions, mimeme by mimeme, that Man builds himself up, re-constructs himself in his receiving mechanisms: the Real of the environment is no longer simply before him, but played into him, and is him, and it and he operate interactively and constructively. This then is the human integration of the cosmic im-pression.

  • In the third stage, the expressive stage, the cosmic explosion of energy becomes a human explosion of energy. Having re-made the universe in himself, man can, at will, ex-press this cosmos. He is now better able to replay the Real because it belongs to him: the mimeme is lodged in his memory, the mimeme is his memory, and his memory is constituted of mimemes. Man can replay what he has integrated from the universe, by pressing out of him the mimemes that he has within him. This ex-pression however happens within the bounds of the physical characteristics of the world and human-ness: the ex-pression happens in time and in space and through the human body.

It is from these three contingencies that the secondary laws flow. These secondary laws relate to time and space, and to the form human expression must take in order to be transmitted.

The secondary laws: the laws of rhythmism, bilateralism, formulism

With the Creation or with the Big Bang came into being the dimensions of time and space that govern the cosmos and the anthropos, and hence their interaction.

Thus the mimic play of the anthropos in the cosmos expresses itself rhythmically, this is to say, temporally - within the operation of time, for time is rhythm, rhythmos, flow – and bilaterally, this is to say spatially – according to our human bodily structure. And in order to become perceivable and transmittable, this spatio-temporal expression must be crystallized in a form that allows it to be received, integrated, conserved and transmitted. Whence the three secondary anthropological laws of rhythmism, bilateralism and formulism – a triad of inseparable sisters indivisibly linked to, and interacting with, the mother-law of mimism.

Rhythmism: The action of the Universe is continuous, and the cosmic energy flows uninterrupted into Man. This flux of actions provokes a reflux of reactions, of fluid and transitory gestes. It is this incessant movement of the cosmos-anthropos interaction that man endeavours to organize, to solidify, and integrate, in order to conserve and to transmit it. The tool of solidification, which man finds in himself: it is rhythm. Rhythm is a mechanism of distribution - distribution of the uninterrupted flow of duration: it is canalization, a dyking up, and a taming of continuous time into measured time. Rhythm provides both the flux which energises reception and integration, and the logic, the order, with which man stores and conserves the mimemes formed by his intussuscepted impressions. It is rhythm that will allow him subsequently to preserve and to transmit them. He replays them so as to build himself up as an individual - because, as he ex-presses them, they impress back into him. He replays them in order to transmit them to other human beings – as individuals or as members of a community. The origin and purpose of rhythm therefore is practical (it serves to take into oneself and to conserve) and communicative and pedagogical (it serves to ex-press and transmit).

Bilateralism: the law of bilateralism impacts on all the other laws:

Bilateralism and mimism: the anthropos, this is to say the living human being, is an indivisible bio-psychological composite: to divide him is to render him inert, to destroy, to kill him. This human compound is, bio-psychologically, multiply two-sided. Objective, cosmological and unconscious mimism already implies the binary operation of ‘action-reaction’. Subjective, anthropological, conscious mimism implies the binary operation of ‘play-replay’. Expressive mimism is similarly bilateral because the human being uses his bilateral body as a tool in order to move and express himself, creatively and productively.

Bilateralism and rhythmism:

it is thought that creates rhythm, (…) it is the propositional geste that is the normal unit of the balancing. If then we want a return to really living things, we cannot make abstraction from this curious law of the balancing. (…) One cannot deal with rhythmics if one does not speak of this fundamental balancing (…)

Bilateralism and formulism

In the human, rhythm needs a body to come into being: it is through, and in, the form of the human body that rhythm manifests itself. As the human body is bilateral, human rhythm will be bilateral and, therefore, characteristic human expression, ‘gestuality’, be it corporeal, manual, oral or graphic, will be bilateral, operating in parallel formation. This parallelism, ex-pressive as well as semantic, characterises the hollow mould of the formula into which the mimemes will flow – the mimemes or the gestual ensembles or the propositional gestes (which are all synonymous) – where they will be configured, preserved and transmitted.

Formulism: The primal formula of the human expression is the formula that governs the mimic interaction of the cosmos and the anthropos:

Formulism is first the interactional geste that we have seen at play in the child, it is what you call the proposition. Man plays, expresses himself by interactions, this is to say by propositions. It is not the word that is the unit of thought, it is what you call the proposition: it is the Acting one acting on the acted upon; it is that which had to be observed, not to be invented .

Man makes this cosmological formula anthropological by bringing it into a consciousness which is uniquely his: he humanises what is originally and essentially cosmological. We have evidence of this in the oral-style recitations, because the formulism of the oral-style texts is nothing but the microcosmic application of the basic macroscopic formula:

Homer composed and improvised by propositions. Propositions, but made to what purpose? (…) They are made to be carried. In these milieus, the unit of thought is the proposition which, once properly put together will always be the same for all the individuals of the ethnic milieu and will be easily and faithfully carried forth.

For this portage, this trans-portage, this transmission, man uses the rhythm of his body. Because the body is bilateral, the ‘transporting’ formula will be bilateral, in origin (conceptually), in meaning (semantically) and in form (ex-pressively). The rhythm of the proposition and its meaning are indivisible: rhythmos is logos – rhythm is logic. Algebrosis is precisely the scission of the two, which is a necrosis: death – ‘form without substance’. One sees here how anthropology, of necessity, flows into pedagogy and why a pedagogy that ignores rhythm is a pedagogy that paralyses learning and the learner. One sees too that anthropology cannot operate without ethnology, because it is among those people who have remained spontaneous, this is to say in touch and aware of the inner Real of their visceral memory, that the anthropological laws are to be found in their integrity.

Jousse’s entire Anthropology unfolds from the following question: How does the Anthropos, situated at the very core of the Universe’s perpetual motion, react to this activity and hold it in his Memory? Answering this question means establishing and validating the function and meaning of Memory, of Oral Style and Oral Tradition.

Jousse understands the cosmos as a dynamic system in which all parts interact, or play. As part of this cosmic interactional whole, the human too is in constant action and reaction. In fact, as Aristotle had already observed, of all living beings, the human is the most mimic, meaning that he has a unique ability to mime his cosmic environment. Moreover, he alone can consciously re-play what has been played on and in him - what has been im-pressed. His interiorised impressions are ‘mimemes’, is ‘memory’ , and the re-play of these stored ‘mimemes’, is their ‘ex-pression’. Thus all memory is psychomotor in origin and the strength of the memory, recall, or re-play will be proportionate to the strength of the play of the original gestual elements.

As the human is situated in time and in space, all his re-play will necessarily be distributed and sequenced - in other words, it is rhythmed. This rhythm in turn is governed by the human bodily structure. While the Universe is neither left nor right, neither up nor down, neither back nor front, the human is bilateral. To be efficient therefore, storage or memorisation, will have to be mimismic, rhythmic and bilateral. And with repetition, patterns or formulas take shape which make further storage and classification of mimemes, and hence their retrieval, easier. Thus comes into being a style, a mode of expression obeying basic universal laws of human expression: Mimism, rhythmism, bilateralism and formulism. This is the global-oral Style, the Tool of traditional Memory. It is the style of the verbo-motors, of those for whom human ex-pression is movement: Corporeal, manual, laryngo-buccal or verbal movement.

One such verbo-motor oral milieu was that of ancient Palestine. Like all other oral traditional societies, it saw its Tradition as a Treasure house containing all its values, experiences, knowledge and thought, memorised as propositions moulded into formulas, formulas into rhythmic schemas, rhythmic schemas into recitatives, recitatives into an ordained plan. But this fixed whole is more than the sum of its parts, for these parts are mobile. For anyone who truly knows a Tradition, i.e. who holds it in his Memory-heart, all the parts are present simultaneously at any time and can therefore be endlessly retrieved and compared.

Equating equations is analogy. It is the mechanism of analogy that allows the transfer or metaphor of any part to any other part, however small or large, old or new, visible or invisible and regardless of when, how or where the equalised parts happened, for they are all simultaneous in the memory. It is this analogical mobility which runs counter logical fixity, and which was, and is, therefore called ‘pre-logical’, illogical, primitive, savage, raw thought. For Jousse, there was no such psycho-physiological divide. For him, in human thought, there was a continuum; the conceptualising processes are the same, whatever the technological means the thinker has at his or her disposal. As Jousse concludes in The Oral Style: ... Under the deceptive heading of ‘human psychology’ we have, up to the present day, alas! done little more than study the psychology of ‘white, adult, civilised’ man – ‘civilised according to our conceptions, even if this has meant dismissing as ‘primitives’ and treating patronisingly as such, the rest of mankind whose behaviour does not (for good reason!) square with our artificial norms.

The mobility of the parts within a fixed whole wholly held in the individual or group memory explains, paradoxically to a literary mind that has lost its memory - or at least confided and confined it to some or other outside body, be it book or disk - the primary and vital function of rituals. Traditional rites or gestes - words or gestures - are not ‘things retrieved from the past, but re-enactments of things that were also acted in the past’ (Peabody 1975, 430 n 16), and will be so in the future. For such acts to be credible and valid, they must indeed abolish constraints of time and space - in other words, they must coincide perfectly. This is why all oral style traditions are fundamentally formative and formulaic: the gestes of the teacher become the gestes of the learner, the learner eating the lesson, and indeed the teacher himself. Oral tradition thus does not transmit, it transubstantiates. The performer of the ritual does not act, he incarnates. For this reason, rituals have to be exact: as it was in the past, so it must be in the present, for past and present are but one and therefore timeless. The formula ‘Do this in memory of me’ is an injunction to the celebrant to become re-incarnated in the first celebrant. For exact rituals, exact memory is needed, and thus efficient memorisation which needs efficient memory-aids. ‘In the battle against oblivion man strives to put at his service all those mnemotechnical tools most suited to the underlying laws of the human compound’.


Every year during the summer months , Jousse returned to his native rural Sarthe region, South-West of Paris. It was there that from 1953 to 1957 Gabrielle Baron, who had been his collaborator for more than twenty years, took down the notes intended to complete the great synthesis of Jousse’s teaching which he wanted to call: The Human Mechanics and the Galilean Oral-style Tradition. It is this project that posthumously became the three volumes of L’Anthropologie du geste (see supra).

The first part, The Human Mechanics, exposes the age-old anthropological and ethnic elaboration of the great psycho-physiological laws of human expression. This theoretical study can be found in Part I of the English edition of the Anthropology of Geste and Rhythm. Part II, The Galilean Oral-style Tradition, contains Jousse’s application of these anthropological laws to the ethnic milieu of Ancient Palestine, and thus links in with the second part of the Synthèse project.

In the notes assembled by Gabrielle Baron, Jousse broached two core aspects of the Galilean orality, which he had not treated systematically in his previous publications, although he lectured extensively on them at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes. These points are, first, the composition of the mnemonic counting-necklace, and second, the transfer of this tradition into the Hellenistic milieu by the Metourgemâns-Sunergoï, the bilingual Arameo-Greek envoys and interpreters. Jousse remarked: How marvelous! Now I know what was being said in me and in my lectures at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes since 1931. All that needs to be done now is to assemble, to organise and to crystallise. I have the entire synthesis of these twelve years: I feel my work globalising and ordering itself with a living and definitive logic.’ (All Jousse bio-quotations from Gabrielle Baron, Mémoire vivante. Vie et oeuvre de Marcel Jousse, 1981, unless otherwise stated).

This project of a great unification, of a great synthesis, responded to a fundamental need in him : I have a need to unify. I cannot disperse myself. Across multiple facts I have to find the law, he said as early as 1934. But then, in September 1956, it was too late: if Part One of the Synthèse was in the main developed, Part Two still lay fallow and after another last and short year of lecturing, a series of strokes was to leave him progressively, over four years, paralysed and ultimately deprived of all speech and movement.

Jousse had wanted ‘a powerful, an open synthesis with all the haphazardly dictated pages in an apparently erratic order, but in fact fundamentally and admirably linked from within. I am saying ‘open synthesis’ in the sense that good and appropriate extracts from lectures may be logically imbricated in them, once the whole presents a solid and clear structure. It is marvelous to chisel the whole, paragraph-by-paragraph. All is ONE. Never have I felt my mastery of the subject so keenly.’

For this ONENESS and this mastery to be possible, a focus was necessary. For Jousse, this focus was to be Memory. As Gabrielle Baron remarks: ‘For Father Jousse, everything is played in the memory to end up in memorisation and therefore in the modeling, the form-giving in-form-ation of man: “One is what one knows.”’ But it takes a long time for one to become oneself in order to know what one is and to reach this ONENESS: ‘It is time for my oeuvre: I had to wait for myself’ Jousse writes in a letter dating from that period, and, elsewhere: ‘But I now know who I am. I no longer have to chase myself’ and ‘For the first time in my life I am truly wholly myself.’ Herein lies the deep meaning of Jousse’s very last dictation, entitled Kêphâ.

This dictation starts with one of Jousse’s many maddeningly dense shortcuts: The Anthropologist of Memory is but one with the Anthropologist of Mimism. Such collapsing of Mimism and Memory in Jousse’s thinking had been a life-long process of integration of Self with Self: of the scientist with the believer. Paradoxically put: the exceptional density of the writing of this dictation is due to the fact that these few final pages condense the life experience of the believer - the croyant - and the whole professional life of the scientist - the savant. At the end of this - unbeknown to him – his last dictation, Jousse marvels at having finally reached the Concordia discors of his life, his work and of their meaning. For this, he had to ‘wait for himself’ until in him the Anthropologist of Mimism had become subsumed in the Anthropologist of Memory.

At the beginning of the chapter on Rhythmism in The Anthropology of Geste and Rhythm, the apparition of man in the Universe is described in a sentence fulgurating with power and compactness: That bolt of lightening which the All-Mighty unleashed at a given moment through the Cosmos became the unexpected origin of the Coming-into-Consciousness of a terrifyingly complex cluster of energy which is called the Anthropos. It is on the subject of this Anthropos that Jousse asked himself early on: How does the composite human being, situated at the very core of the universe’s perpetual motion, react to this activity and manage to hold it in his memory? And at the other end of the trajectory of his life – Jousse was then in his late sixties - his last dictations concern the role of memory in Ancient Galilee. Here Jousse reflects on tradition and on its transmission from generation to generation and from one culture to another. Indeed, tradition and transmission both imply memory, and memory requires both disposition and the faculty to memorise, ‘mnemonics’ and the facilitating techniques of memorisation, ‘mnemotechnics’, as well as memorising practitioners who are mnemonically in sync with the tradition of their ethnic milieu and mnemotechnically highly trained in the transmission of this tradition. Jousse qualifies this enterprise of translating Iéshoua’s message from the Palestinian milieu to the Hellenistic milieu as more than a wager against the odds: it is an unimaginably brave attempt to narrow the intractable interethnic Palestinian and Hellenistic incompatibility, but an attempt nevertheless that would achieve an interethnic triumph comparable to the triumphant translation of the Hebraic Bible into Greek by the Seventy.

As Jousse always reaches beyond the ethnos to find the anthropos, one is not surprised to see this victory of incompatible interethnicity being turned into the triumph of interpersonal communication. But his reasoning here touches upon the very depths of his own being and of his oeuvre, for his study of memory will lift a weight that has burdened, from its inception, his unifying anthropological law of Mimism: if it is true that every individual constitutes himself into a person by particular Mimemes, how then is it possible for two individuals, who are necessarily constructed of fundamentally different Mimemes, to communicate? This problem of interpersonal communicability which is organically linked to the law of Mimism had always haunted Jousse, but it had become particularly acute in the 1930’s when Nazi propaganda seemed to give the lie to Jousse’s efforts to rehabilitate communication through the rehabilitation of the Living Word, Geste and Tradition.

Thus we see how, in that last dictation, the substitution of the Anthropologist of Mimism by the Metourgemân-Sunergos accompanying Kêphâ is justified: … my ancestor in Mimismological Anthropology, there he is! It is the Arameo-Hellenistic and septantological Metourgemân-Sunergos - the Metourgueman, that ‘monster’ of Memory. Just as in the past Peter and Matthew, Kêphâ and Mattai- the two shadows that walk up the hill - will end up realising the improbable Concordia discors, so will Jousse when retracing their steps. And the emotion that seizes him every time memory imposes on him the recall of the two walking shadows on the hillside - see Baron’s note at the end of the dictation - is precisely provoked by this personal epiphany which consecrates him as a companion of Kêphâ, and by the indefinitely and infinitely analogical vision of the ultimate and infinite pedagogical imbrication: Teacher-Apprehender. This imbrication is the immense mimodrama which has its point of departure in the Abbâ-Teacher of the Berâ-Apprehender who became the teacher Iéshoua; it continues in Kêphâ and his Envoys accompanied by their Metourgemân-Sunergos-interpreters; it ends, provisionally, in the Apprehender-Teacher Jousse who in the last sentence of his last dictation, invites us to take up his work again at its beginning: Let us then follow, phase by phase, and from victory to victory, the immense intellectual conquest of the work of and by the septantological memory.

Recalling this epiphany, Jousse exclaimed: It is too beautiful, too beautiful! If it were stronger, it would kill me …, and this exclamation is truly an exstasis before the moment of ecphrasis, this concentration of energy ready to burst and out of which will surge his oeuvre which is another terrifyingly complex of energy’, another Coming-into-Consciousness which he reached in this, his last dictation, the fusion of his professional and personal last will and testament. And one can say with Jousse at the beginning of his dictations that, as with the passing from the Old Testament to the New Testament: All was prepared: all that remained was that it would be achieved. By us.

On reading the Dernières Dictées

Gabrielle Baron has not dated the notes she collected in a file labeled ‘Dernières Dictées’ and she herself found her own classification most unsatisfactory. For the original French edition, I organised the notes independently from any plan that has, or may have originally existed. It was a great satisfaction therefore to see the dictations fall into the bilateral structure intended by Jousse for the second part of his projected synthesis, The Galilean Oral-style Tradition: from its Galilean, intra-ethnic elaboration to its Hellenistic, extra-ethnic emigration, realising finally an inter-ethnic crest-line.

It should be understood that these notes are working notes, intended by Jousse as a project lay-out for future researchers: a platform from where to operate, very much in accord with Jousse’s earlier injunction: The path of my scientific experimentation can be no more than a broken line. I have neither the time nor the means to draw a continuous line. But little by little, these dashes will join up into an increasingly complete line as and when the studies of my successors, working according to my methods but adjusted idiosyncratically, multiply. (Lecture at the Ecole d’Anthropologie on 27/11/1933)

Lastly, the reader should realise that as a scholar, Jousse intended to put the dynamic study of the anthropos on a scientific footing. His terminology bears testimony to this and he used to say that Science begins with precise language. Whence his insistence on observation and experimentation – the ‘ethnic laboratory’ and the Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Rhythmo-Pédagogique which he founded in Paris in 1933 and in which he tried to recreate the memorizing process of Oral-style milieus, go hand in hand – as observation and experimentation lead to discoveries, not inventions (another of his favorite sayings: It is much easier to invent than to observe ( When one discovers what is real, there is no need for invention. Observation suffices).All this demands first and foremost a correct methodology, and Jousse gives numerous examples in these notes of fatal ethnic mistranslations in other oral and biblical studies. In the original notes, Jousse is often waylaid and many such excursions are repetitive and often vituperative, as he had become quite bitter about the conspiracies of silence which kill more surely than a bullet of which he had been the victim. (Or, as he says elsewhere: Y ou who do not want to know the living truth and who prevent others from knowing it, either by acts of commission or omission, or by a conspiracy of silence ). But he always re-centres on the object of his observation: the Bible as performed Oral-style text. And in true Gallic manner (those famous Gallic triads!), his démarche is threefold: immediate – to establish the mnemonic structure of these texts; mediated – to establish the anthropological and biological nature of memory, learning, understanding and expression; and ultimate – to establish that Memory is the lynchpin in the interaction of the anthropos and the cosmos. Whence the title of the English translation of his Dernières Dictées.



The anthropos is not something one cuts up into small pieces. (S 17-12-34)

The habit of observing and re-playing the great mimodramatics of things and of being in a state of supple flexibility and responsiveness to the interactions of the singular and multiple reality, prepares the researcher for great scientific syntheses. Under the pretext of specialisation, the social milieu offers us no more than a sliced-up reality: psychology, ethnology, linguistics, etc. The experience of one single holistic reality of dynamic complexity convinces us of its genuine uniqueness, but our inability to study such holistic complexity compels us to dissect it. Anyone accustomed to mimodramatics will collect all the cut-up specialisations, and will re-play them in syntheses ... Synthesis implies the search for acute and fine detail. Whoever has a feeling for synthesis knows well that it is but an imbrication of extraordinarily fine precision. This is why one is astounded to see that the greatest synthesists were, at the same time, the most subtle analysts. It is a mistake to believe that a feel for synthesis precludes a sense of precise detail and a capacity for sharp analysis. On the contrary, false synthesising mechanics is what makes us drift away from normal conclusions. The true observer synthesises first, for he can observe nothing which is not part of a whole. But then he goes back to verify and confirm each one of the gestes in detail. That is the moment of verification. (EA 2-17-36) Those savants were not equipped to study Life. Thus it is that all those who posed the problem posed it without resolving it, and even Bergson himself said: ‘Intelligence cannot understand life’. That was an error. It is our way of conceiving science and our cutting-it-up that cannot espouse the sinuosities of life. One sees the frightening heresy against intelligence posed by Bergson. The whole of Bergsonism should be reviewed. It is not intelligence that is inapt to the comprehension of life; it is our way of defining intelligence, which is a completely different thing. Thus at a given moment, the world lurched, which has given rise to a variety of crises: crisis in everything, crisis of religion with modernism, crisis of the social milieu ... We need to position stepping stones, in the sense of a new orientation towards the 'knowing' paysan, and to show that Christo-Latinism is no more than an infinitely restricted cutting-up of an immense living richness which is Iéshouaism. (HE 15/22-4-42)


´The aim of Marcel Jousse's anthropological work is to search for a link between the disciplines of pedagogy, psychology, ethnology’ [Concluding sentence of all posted announcements of Jousse's lectures]

Experimental Psychology is beginning to make contact with ethnology, linguistics and experimental phonetics. At scholarly meetings, such as those of the Philosophical Society, Messrs Brunot, Delacroix, Dumas, Janet, Lévy-Bruhl, Mauss, Meillet, Pernot, Piron, Vendryes exchange views on the subject. These specialists draw conclusions on co-operative projects, such as the Masters Course on Language and Thought taught during the last two years at the Sorbonne. It seems that the time has come to try to view certain complex problems in a less restrictive way.

Laplace has said: ‘Discoveries consist in the bringing together of ideas susceptible to being connected, which have hitherto been isolated’. (…) Science has becomes so complex nowadays, that in order to advance into some new sector, we must employ the method of modern warfare: the joining of forces. (Foreword to The Oral Style ) d ynamic ... The Anthropology of Geste will try to grasp man's struggle with himself and how he has fashioned his first tool out of his very own body with the expression of the mimismological geste. For the first thing that he formed was not a static tool, but the dynamic tool of his expressive, miming body: the tool of geste preceded the tool of stone. The static tool was studied, but not what constituted the set of tools which fashioned living thought. (EA 15-3-37) What constitutes the elevated scientific and practical value of this method is that it relies exclusively on the profound laws of the psycho-physiology of the essentially rhythmic human geste. Man is not purely spirit: he is flesh and spirit. The degree to which the teacher, whether of music or otherwise, embraces and exploits the living interdependency of these two factors will decide the speed and retention of what is learned . (Jousse 2000:575) It seems that our western science is afraid of life. When man and his expression is the subject of study, our western civilization is not interested in the living gestes of man, but only in their dead remains. That is why ethnography, and likewise anthropology, began to work and organise their methods based on dead tools. All the human sciences started off statically, because it is easier to come to terms with a dead and motionless object than with a moving and living being. That is also why historical phonetics focused on inert, printed letters at the outset of its study. We had to wait for a paysan-genius such as Rousselot to introduce an astonishing new technique which captured living language at its moment of action from human mouths, instead of inert graphics . (Jousse 2000:25) e xperimental ... The path of my scientific experimentation can be no more than a broken line. I have neither the time nor the means to draw a continuous line. But little by little, these dashes will join up into an increasingly complete line as and when the studies of my successors, working according to my methods but adjusted idiosyncratically, multiply. The source of scientific method is neither external nor ready-made: one creates one's own method partly by oneself and partly through adapting the methods of others to suit one's own circumstances and proclivities. There is also a personal equation in methodology: the master's role is that of a pathfinder only . (EA 3-2-38) From a methodological point of view, the positions which I am defining for you are reliable approaches to research. Have I discovered everything there is to be discovered? Alas, I have worked far too extensively to give you a facile assurance that research can ever have a final result. I continue to work towards an ever-receding goal ... (...) I will never know the essence of the phenomena. I can only access solutions which attempt to bring us closer to the ultimate phenomena ... My role is not to exhaust the questions, which is impossible anyway, but to show you their complexity ... I do not pretend to reach the end of the path. I can only say: ‘This is the way to go’. (EA 2-27-40) But have you noticed, I have not defined rhythm. (...) I think that it is very bad method to define a biological phenomenon before having seen it functioning. This is why wholly metaphysical definitions of rhythm include those which do not square up at all with the reality of the facts. (S 23-4-34) ob jective ... I am accused of logomania, but I do no more than label each of the facts I observe with a name that allows us to discriminate meaning. (…) I knew, as did Jean-Pierre Rousselot, one of the founders of Experimental Phonetics, that the careful observation of nature always yields more than we expect, and so I had only one fear: that I might imagine rather than observe. I have also relied for the greatest possible degree of help on all those modern scientific techniques which have, fragmentarily but experientially, touched upon the complex problem of human gestual expression. It is important that physiology, neurology, rhythmology, anthropology, psychology, psychiatry, phonetics, linguistics, ethnology, etc., with their respective methods and more or less perfected tools (movie film, phonograph records, recorders of every kind), collaborate with each other. To the impartial observer, these disciplines provide factual information that is rigorously void of every subjective influence.

For an objective terminology of these different techniques, I tried to borrow terms that would create a precise vocabulary, one that fits the facts that, until now, have not always been sufficiently analysed or scientifically isolated. Consider how poor geometry would be if we spoke only of 'straight lines' and 'circles'. Now, in the science of man, we are very often still pegged at the level of 'straight lines' and 'circles'. Stop and think, for example, to what different, and even contradictory, realities authors can apply the word rhythm.

The immediate adoption by others of a certain number of terms in my vocabulary has shown me how urgently those dealing with the anthropology of human expression in any of its forms have needed a richer and clearer terminology.

Science begins with precise language. (L’Anthropologie du Geste 3:27)

concrete ... I created the word 'algebrose' from terminology which already existed. We can perform no scientific function at present without algebra, in which a voluntary process of simplification takes place and signs are assigned meaning by consensus. In algebrose the signs or words, which are gestes, can mean 'anything' because we have lost contact with what is real in relation to them. We live by a system in which all gestes are diminished and degraded, be they corporeal, manual or laryngo-buccal or graphic, because they are emptied of their original concretism. (EA 14-2-48)

The mechanism of abstraction, which has its origin in a concrete object, may well become algebrosed through overuse. When this happens, one can no longer access the meaning of gestes or words, but one is left with empty automatic gestes which are devoid of all meaning, even those which are religious. (EA 14-2-38) Our liturgy has lost the conscious connection with its mimodramatic origin. It has become mechanical or aesthetic instead of being intelligible. I understand why there are people who are deserting their churches, and their religion. There is no longer any life there. There are no longer any significant gestes that can be understood. Everything has become disassociated, so that people are living out misconceptions, and end up rejecting everything. One cannot live forever in a state of inconsistency! Either religion must become scientific, or it will become a dilapidated and abandoned shell ... We have lost the sense of the expressive geste and too often we content ourselves with algebrosemes. We have to regain a deep consciousness of the greatness of the primordial signifying geste. (HE 1-3-44) Our liturgy is fashioned entirely with gestes that we no longer understand. All the sacraments have become pure algebrization for us, whereas, they are, in truth, composed of a marvellous and logical concretism, albeit according to Israel's milieu ... The Semitic tradition continues to be supported by the anthropological mechanisms to this day. (L 16-12-36)


I was forced to create a new discipline. One cannot overhaul a science overnight. I believe that for many years to come there will be no single person able to control all the techniques that I have controlled. The convergence into a single focus of an appreciable number of disciplines, which until now have been widely differentiated, is needed. This is why a synthesis of my work will not be possible for a long time (...) because it is not a question of carrying on with one research tool only. One needs equipment that is as living and as supple as life itself. I realize again and again the critical importance of terminology, and how we are caught in the vice of meaning which is already socialized. No-one should be surprised when we, anthropologists, create and use new terms. The fact is that all the current words are socially contaminated. It is therefore necessary for us to recapture each of these words and to carry out a preliminary disinfection, in some way like that of Pasteur. Before we begin, we have to disinfect the vocabulary. (EA 2-26-40)

What we have to investigate is something very much more profound than language, something much more primitive, more virginally anthro-pological: the corporeal-manual geste which is not yet transposed into the laryngo-buccal geste. True human expression is not language, reduced to the geste of the langue: it is the expression of the entire being ... In order to enter into these mechanisms, we have to become conscious of what primordial human expression is and study it in its virginity, its genesis ... As we delve deeper into anthropology, we will see that the true training of tomorrow will not be reduced to puny Graeco-Latin classical formations, but will extend to embrace gestualism understood functionally as a characteristic of eternal man. (GB 172) e mpathic ... I have pursued my work with the prudence that should characterize all studies of ethnic milieux that differ from ours, and especially those of the past ... Above all, we must be wary of value judgements that threaten to distort our observations ... (GB 64) It is imperative that one incarnates oneself in the mentality, this is to say in the deep gestes, of these people which we have to date failed to understand ... To ask them to immerse themselves in atrophy, and to algebrose themselves in a Graeco-Latinist thomist theology is courting failure. One can no longer hope to resolve human issues with an adverb at the end of a syllogism. What is needed is an objective, anthropological and ethnic study of what is played out in real situations ... (GB 95) The facts of human Mechanics should not be narrowed down to our petty classical education. I counter Graeco-Latinism with Planetarism. I have enough evidence from all over the world, whether it be in Asia, in Africa, in the Americas, to enrich all our gestes of Anthropoi, in other words, enough evidence to help us to an awareness of what is fundamental in Man. ( EA 30-11-42 and 19-5-47)

The original and capital sin of our Written-style civilisation is that it considers itself singularly superior and unique, and believes, moreover, that everything not recorded in writing, does not exist. Because of this, anthropological facts are neglected, and, for the most part, misunderstood. From this it follows that the human sciences have not studied, in any depth, which aspects of ethnography are anthropological, and instead they skim the surface of bookish ethnicity. Faced with this attitude, I have tried to change the method. Instead of restricting my field of observation to the 'dead' letters of texts, I here present a methodology which operates first, and above all else, via the awareness of a 'living' tool: the human geste. Since the Anthropos is nothing more, essentially, than a complexus of gestes, the most penetrating and best-fashioned tool available to analyse man is his own performance of his own gestes. This is surely the 'tool to dismantle all other tools', as it were. Moreover, this tool develops instinctively within each one of us, and becomes increasingly polished as our awareness grows. (Jousse 2000:24)

It is imperative that we study the living in its living form, and exclude the study of dead books entirely: we must add an in-depth study of the living, expressive and rhythmic geste. (…) Bookish man has said: ‘To know by heart is not to know’, not realising that this means wiping out ninety percent of the knowledge of all human beings . (Jousse 2000:25-26)


Lecture given at the Sorbonne on the first of February 1934, entitled:



Lecture Plan

Introduction: Homo faber, the most intelligent being of the creation

I The Elaboration

1 Childhood

a My mother’s cantilenas

b The cantilenas of the old women

c The children’s mimismic play

2 Early studies

a The sung memorization of lessons

b The breathing of the initial word, and the balancing

c Meeting the mummy

3 Classical studies

a On Homeric and biblical formulas

b On Greek roots and algebra

c On Champollion’s grammar

II The Verification

1 Reading

a The tripartite plan

b Physiology

c Psychology, ethnography

2 Conversations with...

a Colonial Officers

b Explorers

c Missionaries

3 Travels to …

a The Amerindians from the camps

b Selected informants

c Indian Reservations

III The Presentation

1 Interviews with …

a Delacroix

b Père de Grandmaison

c Père Descoqs

2 Immediate responses from …

a Medical doctors

b Psychologists

c Old biblical scholars

3 Eight years later ...

a Psychiatrists and anthropologists

b Educationists

c The young exegetes

Conclusion: The search for connections between the various disciplines


Lecture as presented orally and taken down in stenography

Introduction: Homo faber, the most intelligent being of the creation

The Human is the most intelligent of all living beings because only he is truly a maker of tools.

We saw in our last lecture how the human being has long been obsessively pre-occupied with the making of tools. Even before he seized the first stone to use it as a weapon, we have seen how he modeled his tools for action within himself by creating this extraordinary thing that we can call ‘the invisible energetic tool’.

In our last lecture we saw the progressive development of tools, from the tool mounted in the musculature of the human body to the construction of a multitude of admirable machines which record audible and visible human movement, such as the phonograph, the cinematograph and the full range of currently used laboratory tools. In the light of this, I thought that it would be interesting, if not to you then at least to me, to do a kind of retrospective of the significance for a researcher of the invention and discovery of tools in order to get to grips with the real.

Quite often, those who have worked with me have asked me: ‘But how did you arrive at your understanding of the synthesis of the anthropology of geste and rhythm?’

Explaining all the ramifications of thought, the stages and counter-stages that are necessary to develop a synthesis that is both sensible and integrated is very difficult in a public forum such as this. Suffice it to say, that it is interesting what an ordinary person can discover by dint of observation alone.

So it is that in this lecture, I want to demonstrate how someone, whose powers of observation are perhaps sharper than most, has been able to discover what has hitherto remained hidden. Today, I will show you the three phases of the construction of the tool of investigation used in the Psychology of Geste and Rhythm.

We will see:

I – THE ELABORATION of the equipment, and we will see that this elaboration is unconscious. So frequently, we say to ourselves: ‘I remember now very well that I noticed this or that’. But mostly, one only becomes properly aware of it after the fact. This intussusception of things is therefore unconscious.

II – VERIFICATION of the solidity - complexity and sophistication - of the tools that are an extension of our living being

III – We will see finally how one can arrive at presenting these tools and capacities so that others can adjust them to their use, purpose and work.


In this first phase of the elaboration, we will see successively:

1 – the phase of what I call early childhood

2 – the phase of the first studies

3 – the phase of the classical studies

1 The phase of early childhood

I agree with Napoleon that this phase starts long before the birth of the child. Napoleon, who understood people, said: “A child is formed in his mother twenty years before his birth.’

I have often told you here that I owe any contribution that I have made to my mother. It is truly thanks to the linguistic - I may even say - experimental, training of my mother that I am able to contribute something new to our understanding here.

No sooner was I born, than cantilenas were being sung over my cradle … by my mother.

My mother’s cantilenas

My mother had an extraordinary memory. Because my mother was an orphan, she was brought up by her totally illiterate grandmother, who taught her her whole repertoire of the ancient cantilenas of the Sarthe region. She taught these to my mother orally, so my mother never saw these cantilenas in any written form. I came to consciousness amid the rocking motions of these cantilenas, and whenever I relax, it is those first rocking movements that I experience all over again within myself.

It is rather strange to discover how those very first experiences of rhythm are able to influence an entire life. I certainly owe my hypersensitivity to the whole question of rhythm, to this training which took place even before the awakening of my consciousness. Those songs that rocked me then indubitably informed the whole of the infinitesimally minute system that constitutes my receptive fibres. You may know that Lamartine said that, often, when he fell asleep, he was rocked by the rhythm of the recitation of lines of verse.

I have felt this sensation of rocking almost all of the time, and even now, as I speak to you, I can still feel this sensation. My sentences balance, in spite of me. This does not mean that I am claiming that I speak well: indeed, alas, when I scrutinize the stenography rolls, I see very well that I do not! But what I do know, is that my sentences always have a concluding cadence, because since my earliest childhood I have always been used to this “rocking” of a sentence that ends well. My mother was extremely demanding on the point that a sentence should be phrased impeccably, right to its end.

The stenographers who work in the Chamber of Deputies remark critically upon the performance of the various extemporizers within the Chamber. It appears that those who finish their sentences are a very rare breed. While it is always easy to start a sentence, it is extremely difficult to finish it, if one has not, since earliest infancy, become habituated to balancing one’s sentences. There is a kind of first movement, a kind of first easy balancing to start off with, but it is very difficult to follow through, and finish the sentence with the same quality of balance as at the beginning. It is for this reason that I believe in the importance of balanced rhythm for the formation of the child's powers of expression. We do not pay sufficient attention to this.

When one studies the rhythmic schemas of Homer, one realizes very quickly that each is made of two balancings. This is equally evident when we examine the Palestinian oral style, and is even evident when we examine something even more complex: the elaboration of the rhetorical period by the professional Greek speech writers. One always senses a consciousness, a concern for the balance of each statement because the Greek period was conceived for oral delivery. What these orators did was nothing but elaborate, in an overly bookish fashion perhaps, this balanced utterance. The beautiful Greek rhetorical period, the truly beautiful oratory period is quite simply nothing more than a permanent perfect balancing.

A sentence that does not balance, not only hinders one's breathing, as Flaubert has said, it hinders the whole organism. A man speaks with the most conviction when he is able to seize his audience and rock them, as a mother rocks her child.

We, human beings, are extremely sensitive to sweetness and softness, and at the same time to the pattern and the balance in human utterances.

Let us not forget that we are first and foremost physiological beings. Yes, we are also psychological as well , but, essentially, we are balancing and undulating physiological beings.

This is, I believe, the source of the sensation of the rhythmed balancing in me. I am not claiming that I put it into practice particularly well, but what is imperfect is my doing, while what is perfect comes, I am convinced, from those rockings throughout my childhood.

As I grew older, perhaps because I had become accustomed to this perpetual melody – and I say melody because I don’t like music much – I realized that I was raised, as it were, by melody. I have often been told: ‘You must like music very much’. Well, actually, I only like music as much as I like algebra: melody is infinitely more to my taste, in much the same way that I have a greater affinity for concrete language.

And that brings me precisely to the greatest problem that I have ever encountered: ‘How have we managed to create this algebrosation of human thought? Where did we begin and how have we journeyed in order to impoverish human thought to the point of saying: ‘or x’. But x what? That was the great problem that challenged me when I was twenty, but I will come back to this later.

But through my childhood, I did not pose myself so many questions. I learned from what happened around me.

The cantilenas of the old women

One day my mother - I was then five or six years old - took me to an evening gathering. This gathering of peasants, nearly all of whom were illiterate, took place on a farm near Beaumont-sur-Sarthe. Much of the work that I have subsequently undertaken definitely came about because I have had personal contact with illiterate peasants. In psychology we have erred principally because we have looked only at the teachers. As a result we have created for ourselves a psychology of teachers’ perceptions and perspectives with which to see our learners. This is a serious mistake. This becomes all too clear when one reads the works of Lévy-Bruhl. One cannot but see, in his concept of “prelogicality” that this is a single professor’s one-eyed perspective.

On the surface of things, we will always tend to regard as inferior people who are not yet “algebrised” as we are. But can one say that to be concrete is inferior? My view is exactly the opposite. Please understand how contact with illiterate and intelligent peasants could awaken the interest of a child who has only just begun to learn to read after having memorised a good deal.

I started to go to pre-primary school when I was four years and a few months old. At that time, I could not read, but I already knew a great many things by heart which I had learned through psalmody and melody. You will find evidence of this in my pedagogic system. A true psychology, like an anthropology, consists of nothing more than developing oneself - in a more organised form, perhaps, than in ordinary life, but knowing and developing oneself is essentially what constitutes psychology.

These evening gatherings of the peasants generally took place during winter. They came together to eat chestnuts “with sweet cider” as the song goes, and as the peasants got more and more into the swing of things, they would get up and chant and sing psalmodies. Formed by the cantilenas of my mother, I could feel the deep rhythmisation of all these peasants. Theirs was not so much chant or song as a kind of melodic singsong. At that time, they all knew large numbers of these melodic singsongs, which these days they no longer know because they go to school, but at that early time practically the only people who had formal instruction were the most prominent farmers.

The people, or more specifically, the women, who knew the greatest number of those balanced recitations were the old grandmothers. They were extremely interesting to observe, because they possessed a great concern for accuracy. Thus when someone began to intone one of these chants and dared to introduce a variation, one or other of the old ladies (and I can once more see good old mother Guespin in her corner) would reprimand the reciter and say: “It's not that word, but this!”.

We find this concern for accuracy in the oral tradition everywhere. When I read the beautiful works of Mr Henri Basset on the literature of the Berbers, I underlined in each chapter this tendency of the old women to demand word for word accuracy. ‘One does not recite like this.’

Clearly, this demand for accuracy in the tradition was most striking, but what was also amazing was the sum of things learned. Memory! We no longer have any idea of its capabilities! When I simply strung together like beads the series of texts that make up this work on rhythmic and mnemonic oral style, the philologists cried out: “But, it is absolutely impossible that human memory should have such powers!” They claim this because they themselves were beings totally deprived of memory who had lived in milieus totally deprived of memory.

This is an example of how a person's training can dictate their reaction to something new. We must not suppose that we judge on the basis of facts. We make judgements based on who and what we are, and who and what we are will be decided by the perspective that we adopt and the lens that we look through.

This is how we have created the sciences of psychology and pedagogy in our own image and likeness, with catastrophic results. We will only be able to create a true educational psychology when it reflects the experience of human beings of the broadest possible compass. At present, our experience is extremely narrow seeing that it goes no further than ourselves. Had we all been raised in milieus more open to memory, scientific problems would have been very differently posed

But these people, these philologists have from the very beginning lived only with the printed word. They have gone from their school books to this or that somewhat larger book, from matriculation to bachelor's degree or doctorate. How could they have the slightest notion of what the training and formation of the human memory means, having had no personal experience of it themselves?

Our education has been designed and formulated by people who emanate from this exclusively bookish formation and training, or if they were not so trained, they dare not admit it.

It is striking to observe that in our society people feel somewhat ashamed to say that they have lived in an illiterate milieu. What a mistake! Illiterates can be formidably intelligent. It is among them that I acquired my taste for observing what is real in the world. When I was very little I used to go for walks with these peasants whom I have loved so much - and whom I revisit regularly in order to keep a check on my experimental method - I marveled even then at their practical knowledge. It goes without saying that they could not decline ‘rosa’, rose, but they could identify different types of wheat, corn, barley and oats, and they knew the various kinds of good and harmful herbs. They referred to them using the sorts of picturesque names that we, in our bookish civilisation, use in poems. This is life as it is lived in close contact with soil, sap, wind and sky. This is what constitutes the genuine education of the living concrete individual, in contact with actual objects.

Never forget that a child's interest is gripped much more by the name of a plant that he can see, touch, pick, handle, taste, smell than by a word that is written on a piece of paper and that does not correspond to anything living.

I still remember those flowers we called “night lights”, a kind of volubilis that closed at night and opened in the morning - a little rural drama all of its own. When in my lectures you hear me cite this or that example as coming from nature, I am indebted to these illiterate peasants. They accustomed me to be wary of the fine speeches of those who speak brilliantly about everything, but who know nothing. Peasants smile quietly to themselves in the presence of fine talkers of this kind. One must pay attention: these people are extremely perceptive.

What I have just told you, I will tell you again, only this time with reference to people who are called ‘primitives’ and ‘savages’ - those great Indians of the Americas who regard us with cold contempt. They allowed themselves to be fatally crushed in the United States, there being, unfortunately, no other recourse! But if only it could be understood how rich these people in physical sensations and intussusceptions of actual things! We, who are literate, unfortunately, have always chosen to ignore concrete and actual capacities. We judge people too easily by the number and thickness of books they have written, when they should be understood on the basis of the quantity and quality of reality that they have grasped. Because people who have genuinely discovered something, have nearly always done so because they have put their books aside in order to deal with reality itself. I will constantly keep repeating that my first scientific training was my contact with the peasants of Beaumont-sur-Sarthe.

The children’s mimismic playing

Something that has struck me significantly, is to see how children play at everything: I still have all those children's games in my muscles. So much so, that the following question haunts me continuously: Why do children play at everything? They are given ink, a pen, an alphabet, and yet these children leave the alphabet and the written page in order to go and play at all sorts of things - like little ‘savages’.

Because I have seen children consistently trying to escape all our bookish constraints in order to play at everything, don't be surprised to hear me say:

“ In the beginning was the rhythmo-mimical gesture”

Right from the beginning that is all I have been able to see.

And teachers I met all told me: ‘But you are right! It is with this sort of method that the child is truly educated and formed.’ This notion has come to dominate my thoughts. All my explanations here will merely provide an account of my intussusceptions as a child, and it is that which I have taken the trouble to verify as occurring all over the world. That notwithstanding, it did become necessary - in spite of the pleasure I took in listening to my mother sing her cantilenas - it did become necessary for me to do as everyone else did: to learn to write, and to learn to read books.

2 Early studies

What struck me was the contrast between the way in which lessons were taught inside the classroom, and how children behaved outside the classroom. So it was that we were made to learn our lessons in total silence inside, but once outside, all my little playmates and I learned our lessons in a far more lively way! I can still hear, I still have in my ears and muscles, those sorts of balancing chants and psalmodies of us young pupils learning our lessons! Why, I ask you, does the child, when left to himself, go completely counter to the method he is taught inside the classroom? At school, the child is made to learn in silence. He is not allowed to talk. “In class one must be able to hear a pin drop.” But observe that selfsame child, who has been schooled to silence, once out of the room, rhythmically psalmodising his lessons into memory. This is a strange fact that has always intrigued me, and continues to do so.

We will have to address this whole matter again. After all, why force the child to learn his lesson in a whisper when you are going to require him to repeat it out loud? That, in my view, shows an ignorance of basic psychology. It is as if you were to try to learn to play the piano on an instrument that produced no sound. It has struck me very forcibly that children instinctively memorise their lessons by chanting them out aloud.

The breathing of the initial word, and the balancing

Another detail which has also struck me very forcibly, and which I mention repeatedly in all my work, is the beginning of the feeling, the sensing, of the global whole of ‘the propositional geste’. When one of us had to recite, but had not learned his lesson very well, a little friend sitting behind with his book open would “breathe” the initial word of the sentence or line of verse:

“ Oui, je viens dans son temple adorer l’Eternel ...”

Silence. Then, one heard the ‘Holy Spirit’ breathe discreetly: “je viens!”

And the recitation would continue:

Je viens selon l'usage antique et solennel...”

And so it went on ...

This law of facilitation is so effective that, in certain ethnic milieux, it has been put to regular use. I have already had occasion to show you that the main proof we have for the fact that the Prologue of John originates from a Semitic (oral) rather than a Greek (written) milieu, is that you have those famous “link-words” that facilitate the recitation:

In principio erat Verbum

Et verbum erat apud Deum

Et Deus erat Verbum

(In the beginning was the Word

And the Word was with God

And the Word was God.)

Here we have again, the same “breathing” technique. By this technique, one breathes to oneself the initial word of each succeeding phrase.

You can see that in principle the child knows spontaneously, instinctively, how to use this breathing device.

So then, why not use it in the composition of the texts from which children have to learn, as an aid to memorisation? Only because those who construct and write the learning materials do not know the real laws of the human psyche and how humans learn. As things stand, the child is punished, and sent to the corner when he or she does not know, when it is the teachers that are largely responsible, most of the time, for the lack of learning.

This apparently insignificant act of “breathing” embodies a whole theory: every proposition constitutes a global whole. You have here the origin of the “propositional geste” that took shape in me. It is not the ‘word’ but the ‘proposition’ that is the unit of rhythm. So, once the beginning is given, one can go on automatically to the end.

The Balancing

This device of breathing is parallel to another which also struck me very much at the time. Even though I did not understand these devices at the time, I registered them all the same. What struck me is that the child sways to keep his recitation going. It is very curious. I remember this about one of my comrades. When we were already in the final year at our last high school, there was a lecture on galvanoplasty. My fellow learner was charming, but lazy as a dormouse. And I can still hear him recite the lesson on galvanoplasty, balancing the proposition rhythmically: ‘the galvano, the galvano, the galvanoplasty, the galvano, the galvano, the galvanoplasty ...’ Actually that is as far as it went, but insofar as it went, he had it right. He said to himself: ‘If I can get the balancing to start, it will go on to the end.’

That’s the child learning. Observe him! He sways. But, equally, observe the Jews next to the ancient walls of the Temple of Jerusalem, still “balancing” their famous laments! Go and observe the Koran being recited, and everywhere you will find it “balanced”, chanted and psalmodied. Observe public speakers. People often say of them, “They look like performing bears”. This is because they are striving to shape their phrases while at the same time “balancing” their muscles.

I go through life an interested spectator: I watch, I observe. The laws of physiology are at play all the time, but clearly we do not realize this, since we are all subject to those same laws! This is only to be expected: the inmates of the same prison eventually cease to see one another.

You can see how, to the child that I was, all of this was, so to speak, in an inchoate state. What professor Ombredane has recorded in his third volume of the new Treatise of Psychology of Dr Dumas, are my childhood experiences. He has recorded, in fact, all that I was experiencing and feeling when I was between four and ten years old.

Meeting the mummy

It was during that period that a great event, to which I have already briefly alluded, took place in my life. I fell in love with an Egyptian mummy. This was, so to speak, my first and only love, even to this day. I have loved, and continue to love, with a deep abiding love an Egyptian mummy. Here is how this love-at-first-sight hit me.

On Thursdays, my mother used to go to Le Mans, and when I had been very good she would take me with her. As I was keen to know everything, she took me to the museum, to see the mummy about which the school master had told us. If you go to Le Mans, go to the Préfecture museum, and there you will see my beloved. You enter a large room, then another to the left, and there, in a large, rather curious box, is an Egyptian priestess, immobile, very calm, well-embalmed. I stayed there, rooted to the spot, and I said to my mom: ‘Go do your shopping and leave me here, you can pick me up later’. I stood there for perhaps two hours, unmoving, in front of this small dead face, and small desiccated body, with her two hands crossed on her chest. The sight had an extraordinary effect on me, because there were small stiff drawings that formed a sort of miniature procession all around the sarcophagus. An idea came into my mind that has subsequently haunted me, and continues to haunt me: all these little drawings painted all around, had they once been alive, like that little priestess lying there all embalmed? Were not all those frozen “characters” once alive, like our children's games? Was there not, going on all around this stiff embalmed figure, a complex game involving people who gestured as children do?

This association haunted me: what we had there were signs that were dead, but that had once been alive, just as that little priestess was dead, but had once lived. I have been truly haunted by that. The outcome of that meeting is evident to you: all I say and do here now, is because of my beloved, that small Egyptian mummy.

3 Classical studies

Then came the time, when I was made to do what all really good people are made to do: I went to high school. And there I was steeped in conjugations and declensions and all that goes with them, as you well know.

The Greek roots

It has been my good fortune to have been taught by extremely intelligent teachers, who made me start learning Greek through a little book that I still have on my table: Petite anthologie ou recueil de fables, descriptions, épigrammes, pensées, contenant les racines de la langue grecque, by Maunoury. My teachers, who were really remarkable men, told me: “A person knows Greek well only if he has learned it through its roots. It is therefore necessary to learn them first”. So I learned Greek through its roots.

At one stage, I said to myself. “It's strange. These Greek roots are always like vocal gestures of a sort. For each sound there is a meaning: ‘to grasp’, ‘to scratch’, or ‘push’, etc., exactly like those little gestures, or drawings, which I saw around the mummy’s sarcophagus.”

Might not the association I applied to those little drawings also be somehow applicable to words?

What I was dimly groping after without being able to work it out was the important principle we will explore later, that language is first and foremost mimage. When it is at the stage of living movement or gesture, it is mimodrama; projected and inscribed on a surface it is mimogram; written down and pronounced it is phonogram.

A kind of fusion, as it were, of two ideas was beginning to take place within me, without my realising it, which would give rise to the first two stages of expression which we study at present at the Ecole d'Anthropologie, the stage of Manual-Corporeal Style, living expressive geste or mimodrama which projects itself in mimic silhouettes, and which, given stable form on a surface, results in mimograms, or drawings. And later, the transformation of these gestures into laryngo-buccal roots, that will develop to the point where they become a means of interactive communication, at which stage we have Spoken Style and Oral Style.

Then all this concretism comes to an end in a process of algebrisation, and we get Written Style.

But at that moment I could not see that far ahead. I merely sensed that there was something profound going on that I would have to work at and get to know. Once I had become accustomed to the Greek roots, I was made to learn Homer by heart. That was entirely sensible, since I believe the only good way of familiarising oneself with a language is to learn texts in that language by heart.


At the same time as I came into contact with Greek roots, I started studying algebra. What a difference between the concretism of all those Greek roots, which were ‘gestes’ – movements - and this algebra, which did not mean anything at all any more! It was merely a sort of function of formulation for its own sake. One used letters which could mean anything one wanted them to mean.

During that time a problem was taking shape in me which, later, when I was twenty years old, manifest in thoughts that I might publish a study entitled From Concretism to Algebrisation. That was the first thesis subject that came to my lips, so to speak. My exposé here is no more than a continuation of this title. What I am identifying here is the shift from mimic geste to algebra, a problem I identified and that we may perhaps study for as long as the next fifteen or twenty years: How do human beings arrive at all these algebraic formulations that are so disconcerting to our imaginations?

For instance, when people have tried to write reviews of Einstein's works, they end up writing absurdities, because they have tried to render concrete something that is essentially algebraic.

This shift from the one to the other is interesting, but the child should not be prematurely forced into the algebraic phase. The child should be allowed to explore the first phase of concretism for as long as possible.

On Homeric and biblical formulas

What does the child learn when he is with his mother? He does not learn words. His mother, as I told you, speaks to him in short and concrete sentences: ’Bring me the watch’, ‘Keep still, sit down, lie down, leave us in peace’.

The word, per se, is in no way spontaneous, but the sentence is. One expresses oneself in brief complete units of sense, in short sentences, what I will later call the ‘propositional geste’.

And so another revelation came to me. I realized that we are constantly faced with formulations that are always the same. This came as a confirmation of what I had heard on the lips of my mother. When I heard her sing the cantilenas of the Sarthe, it was nearly always the same formulas that were repeated time and again.

I first felt this feeling, this experience, of the formulaic unit of sense, which I later called the formula or cliché, in the cantilenas of the Sarthe. Later I felt it in the Gospels. When I was still a child, I was intrigued by the person whom you continue to see me study: Jesus of Nazareth. But, curiously, not in his role as God. What interested me in Jesus, was the man, and not in the shape of the statues of the Saint Sulpice church. I have never experienced any interest whatsoever in these things painted in red, blue, and green and presented in such extraordinary poses. No, what drew me to Jesus of Nazareth, was what he brought and shared, and what my mother recited to me.

Every evening, my mother sang to me, psalmodising a parable. She knew all the Gospels by heart. Here again, you will find her influence on my studies and research. I still sense her dear voice, not in my ears, but in my mouth, and because of this sensibility, I was much struck by the significantly repeated incidence of formulas: in the recitations of the cantilenas, in the recitations of the Gospels, and in the compositions of Homer.

When I was still a child I asked a teacher who knew Hebrew well: “What language did Jesus speak?” He told me: “I'm not exactly sure. In the seminary, they told us he spoke Greek, perhaps even Latin. But others say it was perhaps Syro-Chaldaic I know that one finds it in the Targums”. And because of my eagerness to learn, he said to me: “If you like we can work at this together”. And thus it was that I began then and there to scan the formulas of the Canticle of Job (if one can call it a Canticle) and to study the Aramaic Targums. I have gone on doing so to this day, and have continued to study the Targums ever since. If I had been killed in the 1914 war, one would have found one of those Aramaic targums in my pocket. I have persisted in this in an attempt to have the actual language of Jesus continually in my mouth. Jesus of Nazareth has always been my veritable scholarly and scientific obsession.

In all those recitations of the Aramaic targums, I constantly felt in the oral movement of my reciting, that there was something similar to the holophrastic compositions of Homer. I could feel in my reciting of the Old and New Testaments, that all those original reciters of the Old and New Testaments had expressed themselves in formulas, and that, further, there was something in these recitations which resembled the recitations of the old Sarthe grand-mothers. And so there developed in me, bit by bit, what has become the Oral Style which is presently studied by an entire young generation.

On rhythmed compositions

When I was required to write compositions in Latin, the sense of rhythm guided me to such an extent that, instead of writing my Latin verse lines on Sunday, I took with me on Saturday, to the four o’clock study, the subject in my mouth, not in my head, and not in my eyes (as I don’t see anything in my mind’s eye), and then, in the evening, before going to sleep, I would rhyme thirty, forty, fifty Latin verse-lines that I composed spontaneously in my mouth. All that practice and experience has developed an extremely pronounced sense of rhythm in me, so much so that I can only recite Greek and Latin verses in a rhythmo-melodied form. To read Virgil or Homer without putting it to a dactylic melody is insufferable to me.

For French rhythm it is the same. I remember having submitted several French compositions, and even a philosophical dissertation - in verse! I wrote and write the verses very easily because they dictate themselves in me in my rhythming throat. Which is why my class mates called me ‘Virgil’, because verse poured, so to speak, spontaneously from my throat.

I was therefore, later, not at all surprised to find that certain ethnic milieus, like the Palestinians, situated the centre of life in the throat, in the nefesh (which we call the soul), and not in the head, but always in the throat which is to them the site of concentrated psychological distillation.

On the grammar of Champollion

It was at that time during the holidays that I tried to procure a book we had been told about. It was the grammar of Champollion. The reading thereof was, so to speak, imposed on me by my love for the Egyptian mummy. A teacher managed to find this Egyptian grammar for me, but I must admit that I did not understand it all then. One particular term, however, held great significance for me: the mimic characters.

If you have some day the chance to page through this Egyptian grammar – an admirably printed book, by the way – you will see how this word strikes one throughout the whole of the work. This mimic character was waiting obediently there, so to speak, in an embryonic state, waiting to be fitted into the whole system explaining the law of Mimism that I was later to develop.


The material for my system was ready to hand. All that remained was to put it in order. Since that time I have always felt that what I needed to do was to divide my life's work into a series of organic tasks. I have always been preoccupied with one idea only: MIMISM and its algebrisation

After the period when I was learning the four languages, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, between the ages of fifteen and twenty, I gradually distinguished the three phases of human expression, i.e. corporeal-manual style, oral style and written style - with algebra following on. From that point onwards, all my studies have converged on the issue of ‘styles of human expression’: I have included therein all the operations of the savants, the ‘mimic characters’ of my Egyptian mummy, the mimograms (that I did not yet call mimogrammes) and the Oral Style in which I put all the recitations of my mother, all the Gospels of my mother, all the cantilenas of the old grand-mothers and of the Sarthe peasants. And then, later on, I had to tackle algebra and its associated ideas, from a mechanical point of view.

1 Readings

At this point, I set myself to read. My reading was organised in accordance with those three phases. I never write. I have not a single note. No-one should entertain the notion, at some future date, of ordering my notes. I never take down references, but my fingers remember.

When I need to find a text - let’s say that I need to find a passage, I know that I will find it at such-or-such a place on the page - it is my hands that find the page, which is very curious. My memory resides in my fingers. All four walls of my room are covered with books. But any night I can locate the book I need, and the passage I am looking for.

I carry it all inside me. I don’t take notes. The great difficulty in constructing any new understanding lies precisely in the fact that one is overwhelmed by notes. You know yourselves how the abundance of notes, when you’re forty years old, crushes you. In the process of constructing an understanding, how does one get these notes to present themselves in the right order at the right moment?

Simple! Bring them to life in yourself! The association of ideas will then come about of its own accord. How often it is, that on a walk, or on horse back when I was an officer, or later, when on foot, quite unexpectedly, a combination of ideas came about, because they were alive in me. One discovers things not by way of filing-cards, but by way of living gestes. It is the same when I speak. I could not speak with cards, but my plan is there, wholly organized, nevertheless.

I have lived my whole life on that basis. My life is sectioned like the construction of those big steel bridges. From the moment I am faced with a book, my reading falls into these divisions that are alive in me. That has evidently given me a very powerful memory, but at the same time, it has ordered all my observations and my reading.

From the moment that my research plan was established, the verification by reading began. I chose studies in physiology, hoping that it would explain to me all the laws of Mimism, and in psychology, which would explain to me the intellectual counterpart to this mimism, as it were.

It was thus that I came in contact with the Psychologie de la Conduite [Psychology of Behaviour] of Pierre Janet, and with the Schème moteurof Bergson. By way of verification, it is clear that I owe the most to these two men.

Readings on ethnography provided me with all the verification that I needed concerning the mounting of the various phases of manual, oral, and written expression. I stored all this away inside me, not higgledy-piggledy, but in accordance with my tripartite plan, and the parts eventually illuminated one another.

2 Conversations with …

My reading helped me better to understand my conversations with colonial officers. I belonged to the artillery and many of these officers had been either among the Arabs, or among the Malagasy, or in some or other manual and oral civilization. I profited from these conversations enthusiastically.

I also met with a number of explorers from central Africa who shared with me their interactions with populations that were extremely interesting from the oral tradition point of view.

The missionaries’ conversations too revealed facts about the Manual Style and Oral Style even though they were ignorant of the laws.

3 Travels to …

At this point, when my understanding as described above was complete, I was sent on a military assignment to the United States, and there I was able to gather documents of primary significance and worth from among the Amerindians. Among the Amerindians, I came face to face with the Manual Style in all its splendour, for it was this civilization alone which still allowed the study of the Manual Style in the full richness of its expression: a style of human expression redolent with living facts that will fast disappear.

You will observe that my method is congruent with that which Rousselot used for experimental phonetics. Not to scatter so as not to err: One must focus on a few typical individuals to succeed. In the camps, I had the opportunity of meeting with individuals who could be studied in depth, so I chose those that most interested me. Later I made contact with some Indian chiefs who put themselves at my disposal, and I was able to visit some of the reservations where I could see for myself all that was left still of this language of gestes which is so little known, and of their mimographic writing.

In this way I was able to observe the living connection that exists between the mimic gestes of the ancient Egyptians, the Chinese, the Sumerians, and the Amerindians).


When all this monumental work had been finished, in 1925, it was necessary to present it as a book.

1 Interviews with …

It was then that I went to see Professor Delacroix who has been an intellectual father to me and who told me: ‘Your ideas are very interesting, but very novel and most unusual. I think that you would profit from priming and preparing your whole milieu so that you are not misunderstood.’

It was at that point that I also met Father Grandmaison and Father Descoqs, director of the Revue de Philosophie. And so it was that I published in the Archives de Philosophie in 1924, a work that is no more than a complete plan of my work, a study made of quotations loaned from the principal books that I have read on the question. In all, I had read some 5000 works.

I have selected from the authors that I read, sentences, or parts of sentences insofar as they coincided with my discovery of the real. In the reading of the book, you will clearly detect my underlying plan expressed, for the most part, in the words of other people. It is impossible to claim: ‘It is not true’. The references are all there.

2 Immediate responses from …

Today I no longer need to use this method to be accepted and understood. All I have to do is to make contact with those people who are predisposed to continue with my research. The medical doctors have understood me best. Dr Morlaâs has been one of the first to link this whole question of the mimic geste to apraxia. After him came Dr Ombredane with links between the mimic geste and aphasia.

3 Eight years later …

And then there have been many younger people whose doctoral theses have investigated the Oral-style tradition.

In the beginning, obviously, it came as a shock to see me study Rabbi Ieshua of Nazareth, in an ethnographic and anthropological form. Everyone was so used to talk of him from a purely religious point of view. But currently, the whole movement is focusing on the Oral-style point of view. When you read the latest studies by younger researchers on this question, you see that the whole question is being revisited from this living perspective.

Conclusion: The search for connections between the various disciplines

Can you see clearly how basic my method has been? I have simply put into relief all that I have learned from my birth till the age of eight years. That’s all I have done. At present, I do no more than explain my childhood experiences for you.

Today I think that I have done no more than exemplify the final sentence of our programme signed by Dr Morlaâs:

‘ The anthropological studies of Marcel Jousse aim at finding a connection between the disciplines of psychology, ethnology and pedagogy.’

As you can see, my life is very simple. It is oriented towards one goal only, the study of Life as it manifests itself through Mimism. Mimism that is dominated by thought, because Man is not only a constructor of tools, but from these tools, he constructs living and durable thought. And of this, your teaching, if it is alive, will bear testimony.


Algebrosis / algebrology: all human expression is to a degree an ‘abstraction’ in the etymological sense of ‘abs-tracted, drawn out of the concrete. Algebra takes such abstraction to its limit. In algebrosis, Jousse collapsed ‘algebra’ and ‘necrosis’: it is a disease of expression, with words no longer referring to any concrete reality but only to other words. ‘Verbalisation’ uses words to connect with what is real: ‘verbigeration’ is the use of words which make no connection with what is real

Anthropos: the human being seen as an indivisible body-mind -soul unit

Geste : any action (=energetic response) executed by the human being as a bio-psychological or psycho-physiological whole in re-action to actions played into him/her by the universe

Ieshua: the original Aramaic name later encoded as Jesus in Greek. As the language of the Gospel – the Besorêta or Oral Announcement – was Aramaic, Jousse, in accordance with his advocacy of a return to authenticity in biblical studies, systematically used the Aramaic forms of names and specialised terms

Intussusception: the grasping of the exterior world (Latin sus-cipere) and brought into the self (Latin intus), so that memory and understanding are visceral, viz. ‘embodied’, ‘incarnated’, ‘imbricated’

Manualage: lang-age is the expression of the langue or phonatory, laryngo-buccal apparatus only. This is a reduction of the original corporage or whole-body expression which is residual in all human beings

Mimeme: when the real is no longer before us, but within us: the mimeme is the unit of stored intussuscepted Real played into us, held in memory and ready for replay

Mimism: the instinctive tendency of the human being to receive, integrate and conserve and replay gestually (to mime) all the actions played into him by the universe

Mimodrama: the gestual playing out, as human gestes, of the actions of the universe intussuscepted within us

Mimismology: human expression in its original wholeness - when the entire body is able to receive, integrate and conserve, and replay in ex-pression the reality of human experience in ways which are concrete and whole. It is the opposite of ‘algebrology’ * which has reduced ex-pression to simultaneously oversimplifying and mystifying jargon which diminishes reality to a limited series of expedient, utilitarian and unthinking perceptions and labels

Mimographism: the graphic representation of mimodramas

Oral Style: a structural style which develops in oral societies over generations and which facilitates the reception, the registering and conserving in memory, and the expression of knowledge. Adjective: oral-style

Paysan: a person of the ‘pays’, of the land, of the soil, as opposed to people, who are divorced from their origins, and who consequently suffer from the malady of written-style civilization or citadinosis

Proposition: in oral-style communication, the ‘proposition’ is the natural unit representing an interaction between the cosmos and the anthropos, between humans and their immediate natural and human environment, and within humans themselves

Rhythmo-catechism: oral-style teaching through ‘rhythmic/ repetition/ in echo’ (from the Greek: rhythmo /cat / echo. What is erroneously referred to as the Sermon on the Mount is in fact a rhythmo-catechism, a mnemonic psalmodied text, the structure of which can be found in oral milieus worldwide. This is because in all traditional societies, learning is holistic - it engages the whole human being, bio-psychologically or psycho-physiologically – and seeks to build knowledge ‘holistically’ in the human compound, which is why there is a specific style, a mnemonic style, an Oral Style

Spontaneous people: One of Jousse’s main theses is that if one wants to find out what a ‘normal’ human being is, an ‘anthropos’, one has to step outside one’s own restricted worldview, which, in the case of exclusively literate people, is warped, bookish and exclusively Western. Jousse maintains that the ‘normal’, natural human being is to be found in the not yet ‘socialised’ child and among ‘spontaneous’ peoples – who have built up and maintained a holistic worldview and holistic social and educational practices


Works by Marcel Jousse

1925 Le Style oral rythmique et mnémotechique chez les Verbo-moteurs. Archives de Philosophie, Volume II, 4, Etudes en psychologie linguistique

1930 Etudes sur la Psychologie du Geste: les Rabbis d’Israel. Les Récitatifs rythmiques paralléles: genre de la Maxime. Paris Spes

1931 Les Lois psycho-physiologiques du Style oral vivant et leur Utilisation philologique. L’Ethnographie 23, 1-18

1935 Du Mimisme à la Musique chez l’Enfant. Paris Geuthner

1935 Mimisme humain et Psychologie de la Lecture. Paris, Geuthner

1935 Les Outils gestuels de la Mémoire dans le Milieu ethnique palestinien : Le Formulisme araméen de Récits évangeliques. L’Ethnographie 30, 1-20

1935 Le Mimisme humain et l’anthropologie du Langage . Revue Anthropologique 7-8, 201-15

1936 Mimisme humain et Style manuel. Paris Geuthner

1940 Le Bilateralisme humain et l’Anthropologie du Langage. Revue anthropologique 4-6, 7-9, 1-30

1941 Judéhen, Judéen, Judaiste dans le Milieu ethnique palestinien. L’Ethnographie 39, 3-84

1942 Rythmo-melodisme et Rythmo-typographisme pour le Style oral palestinien. Paris Geuthner

1949 Les Formulas targoûmiques du ‘Pater’ dans le Milieu ethnique palestinien, L’Ethnographie 42, 87-135

1948 Pére, Fils, et Paraclet dans le Milieu ethnique palestinien. L’Ethnographie 38, 60-77

1950 La manducation de la Leçon dans le Milieu ethnique palestinien. Paris Guethner

1974 L’Anthropologie du Geste. Paris, Gallimard

La Manducation de la Parole. Paris, Gallimard

Le Parlant, la Parole et le Souffle. Paris, Gallimard

1999 Dernières Dictées: Notes sur l’Élaboration de la Tradition de Style Oral Galiléen et sur son Émigration Hellénistique. Paris, Association Marcel Jousse

2001 Mimisme. Sept cours de Marcel Jousse. Paris, Association Marcel Jousse

2003 Rythmisme. Bilatéralisme. Formulisme. Sept cours de Marcel Jousse. Paris, Association

Marcel Jousse 2005 Pour une éducation globale. Sept cours de Marcel Jousse. Paris, Association Marcel Jousse

Works by Marcel Jousse translated into English

The Oral Style. Translated from the French by E Sienaert and R Whitaker. Albert Bates Lord Studies in Oral Tradition, 6. New York: Garland

2000 The Anthropology of Geste and Rhythm.: Durban: Mantis Publishing. Second edition (Edited by E Sienaert and translated in collaboration with J Conolly)

2001 Memory, Memorisation and Memorisers in Ancient Galilee. Cape Town and Durban: Mantis Publishing (Edited by E Sienaert and translated in collaboration with J Conolly)

2000b The Parallel Rhythmic Recitatives of the Rabbis of Israel. Cape Town and Durban: Mantis Publishing (Translated by E Sienaert and J Conolly)

2004 Holism and Education: Seven Lectures by Marcel Jousse. Cape Town and Durban: Mantis Publishing (Translated and presented by E Sienaert and J Conolly)

2005 The Fundamentals of Human Expression and Communication. Seven Lectures by Marcel Jousse. Cape Town and Durban: Mantis Publishing (Translated and presented by E Sienaert and J Conolly)

In press Be Your Self! Seven Lectures on Colonisation, Selfcolonisation and Decolonization (Translated and presented by E Sienaert and J Conolly)

About Marcel Jousse


Baron, G 1981. Mémoire vivante. Vie et oeuvre de Marcel Jousse. Paris: Le Centurion

Collective work

2005 Il cannochiale: rivista di studi filosofici. The 2005 volume was dedicated to the work of Marcel Jousse (Antonello Colimberti, editor). The table of contents reads as follows:

Antonello Colimberti, Introduzione. In cammino verso il mimaggio

Parte prima : Gnoseologia

Yves Beaupérin, Bilatéralisme de la pensée humaine

Willy Bongo-Pasi Moke Sangol, Dialectique de l’intussusception chez Marcel Jousse et élaboration d’une anthropologie épistémique

Parte seconda: Psicologia

Rémy Guérinel, Déchiffrer l’énigme Marcel Jousse (1886-1961) au regarde de l’éclipse de Pierre Janet (1859-1947)

Joseph Morlaàs, Manducation alimentaire, manducation psychologique

Parte terza: Educazione e società

Edgard Sienaert , Au-delà de l’anthropologie – note pré-liminaire à une étude du Holisme de Marcel Jousse

Joan Conolly , Memory, Media and Research: Marcel Jousse, the Mnemonic Oral Style, Rhythmo-stylistics and the Computer

Parte quarta: Globalismo e culture

Josephine M Zibi , L’actualité du globalisme joussien dans le choc des cultures et les tensions politico-religieuses contemporaines

Antonio Thiery , Primo Millennio tra intellettualismo inaridente e comprensione globale

Parta quinta

Haun Saussy, Sans nom d’auteur: Jousse, Paulhan, Parry and social poetry

Ambrogio Artoni, Teatralità della performance orale


Albert Petit, Jousse par lui-même

Maître Pierre Roque, Témoignage


Marcel Jousse, La pensée ou intellection des mimémes – Trascrizione del corso orale tenuto presso il Laboratoire de Rythmo-Pedagogie il 18 dicembre 1935

Marcel Jousse, Le mimisme humain – Trascrizione del corso orale tenuto presso l’École d’Anthropo-Biologie il 7 gennaio 1948

Marcel Jousse , La prise de conscience des mimèmes – Trascriozione del corso orale tenuto l’École d’Anthropo-Biologie il febbraio 1948


Antoine Meillet , Marcel Jousse, Études de psychologie linguistique, le style oral, rythmique et mnémotechnique chez les verbomoteurs, 1925

Émile Dermenghem, Une science nouvelle – de la psychologie du geste et du langage à la science scripturaire et à la “poésie pure”, 1927

Léon Daudet, La psychologie du langage, 1929

Henri Bremond, le R.P. Jousse et la philosophie de la prière, 1929

Claude Tresmontant , À la recherche de Jésus, 1961

Michel de Certeau , Une anthropologie du geste: Marcel Jousse, 1970


Conolly, J 2002 ‘Memory, Media and Research: Mnemonic Oral-style, Rhythmo-stylistics and the Computer’. In Alternation. Vol. 9, No. 2, 2002. pp. 156-178

Conolly, J 2003 Marcel Jousse, the mnemonic Oral Style, and rhythmo-stylistic analysis: implications for archiving orally traditioned and indigenous knowledges. South African National Cultural Heritage Training & Technology Project. Michigan State University

Conolly, J & Sienaert, E In press ‘Indigenous Knowledge, Memory and the Oral Style: Mnemonic modes of composition, record and expression.’ Ed: Mashudu Masoga, SAFOS Journal

de Vet, T 2005 Parry in Paris: Structuralism, Historical Linguistics, and the Oral Theory. Classical Antiquity October 2005, Vol. 24, No. 2, Pages 257-284

Milesi, L Supplementing Babel: Paget in VI.B.32 29/09/06

Saussy, H The Ethnography of Rhythm: Paulhan, Granet, Jousse, Benveniste. Colloquium in Critical Theory, Department of Comparative Linguistics, University of California, Riverside, February 1995

Saussy, H Writing in the Odyssey: Eurykleia, Parry, Jousse and the Opening of a Letter from Homer. Arethusa 29 (1996), 299-338

Sienaert, E 1990 Marcel Jousse: The Oral Style and the Anthropology of Gesture. Oral Tradition 5/1: 91-106

Sienaert, E & Conolly, J “Marcel Jousse on Oral Style, Memory and the Counting-necklace”. Denis (Ed) Orality, Memory & the Past. Listening to the Voices of Black Clergy under Colonialism and Apartheid. Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications

Theall, D Beyond the Orality/Literacy Dichotomy: James Joyce and the Pre-history of Cyberspace. 29/09/06

Weir, L The Choreography of Gesture: Marcel Jousse and Finnegans Wake. James Joyce Quarterly, Spring. Pp. 313- 325

Wolf-Knuts, U Contrasts as a Narrative Technique in Emigrant Accounts. Folklore, Vol. 114, 2003 (French) and (English)


Edgard Richard Sienaert (21 November 1940, Flanders, Belgium). MA and PhD in Romance Philology (Ghent State University, Belgium and University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa). Founded the Centre for Oral Studies at the University of Natal-Durban in 1985 where he introduced a post-graduate programme in Orality-Literacy Studies and organised three-yearly international conferences on ‘Oral Tradition and Literacy’. Visiting Scientist at the Universities of Durban-Westville, the Durban University of Technology and the Institut Universitaire du Bénin and 206 Northrop Frye Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto. Published Les Lais de Marie de France. Du Conte merveilleux à la Nouvelle psychologique (Paris, Honoré Champion, 1978 and 1984); edited and translated, in collaboration, the works of the French anthropologist Marcel Jousse (The Anthropology of Geste and Rhythm. Studies in the anthropological Laws of human Expression and their Application in the Galilean Oral-style Tradition, Mantis Publishing, Cape Town and Durban) and issues, in French and in English, a yearly volume of selected lectures of Marcel Jousse. Edgard Sienaert is presently Honorary Research Associate with the University of Cape Town, South Africa.