Saturday, July 29, 2006


Shut Up and Read

Hey, remember how your medieval lit prof told you that people never used to read silently? Umm, never mind about that, today's Guardian reports:

It is a myth that the ancients only or normally read out loud - a myth we appear to want to believe, since the evidence against it is strong.... I consulted Alberto Manguel's A History of Reading (Flamingo), which was published in the same year as Gavrilov's and Burnyeat's articles. Manguel believes that the passage in Augustine is "the first definite instance [of silent reading] recorded in western literature". He is well aware of the evidence to the contrary, but he finds it unconvincing. Thus Manguel: "According to Plutarch, Alexander the Great read letter from his mother in silence in the fourth century BC, to the bewilderment of his soldiers."... But these bewildered soldiers are Manguel's importation. They have been brought into the story in order to make it seem exceptional. Manguel shamelessly fudges the argument.


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