Monthly Archives: February 2017

Reading Aloud in Alexandria

It is said that when an ancient Greek, and perhaps members of other ancient civilizations, would read a text, they always read it aloud, regardless of whether there were an audience there or not.

Perhaps the reader did this so that they might hear it being said. In other words—because it was the text itself that was speaking. This is mythopeic thinking, no doubt. The ancient Greeks called upon the sacred in order to inspire them. The connotation remains in the word itself [πνέω], which asks that one be the vessel through which a muse breathes. There is also the magical thinking of approaching an object as if it were a subject.

What might be grasped for us now, however, is that they would understand the act of reading as an event that requires the reader to participate in an aesthetic experience in which the text as object is both simultaneously non-identical to the reader, but also is recreated by the reader, and in this sense augments the reader himself. Every reading is a recreation of the text in a subject-object dialectic. However, the concept of his own self-creation does not occur to the ancient reader.

Today, this understanding of the thing as object has become reified, so that a text is seen as the vessel of all meaning itself. While it is true that the object retains its own essence, the interpenetration of subject and object is not understood. That act of participation in recreation on the part of the reader is lost. Now it seems that everything comes directly out of the thing itself.