Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

commuters and tourists, pedestrians and pilgrims

My good friend and former colleague Richard Gibson has recently started a blog on books and textuality and reading and all that sort of thing, and this new post is fascinating. Read it with care, but in brief Richard is exploring the contrast (made much of by Ivan Illich) between the monastic book and the scholastic book, and how that difference manifests itself in the appearance of the page:

Monastic readers and their (likely, shared) books belonged to a different theory and practice of the book than their scholastic counterparts, one in which the book was not “scrutable” (Illich’s word for the scholastic “bookish text”), not easily mastered or controlled. It resisted, we might say, the would-be autonomous reader. To embrace the codex’s capacity to be sampled in a back-and-forth manner is, Illich would have us recognize, to trade the “vineyard,” the “garden, the landscape for an adventuresome pilgrimage” for “the treasury, the mine, the storage room,” in other words, a store for raiding rather than a place of leisure and retreat. Such is our fate, Illich concludes, as the children of the Scholastics (our ancestor university-types):

Modern reading, especially of the academic and professional type, is an activity performed by commuters and tourists; it is no longer that of pedestrians and pilgrims.

This post has nothing whatsoever to do with the digital age.

Commuters and tourists vs. pedestrians and pilgrims — now that is a fruitful set of metaphors (and not only metaphors).

Please keep track of what Richard and his collaborators are doing there — more good stuff is to come.

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