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, even if there were no audience.

Perhaps the reader did this so that they might hear it being said. In other words, because the text itself was speaking. This is mythopeic thinking, no doubt. The ancient Greeks called upon the sacred for inspiration, and the connotation remains in the word itself: πνέω, which asks that one be the vessel through which a muse breathes. Additionally, it is here an ancient, inchoate form of reified thinking to misrecognize the object as an estranging force. The concept of estranged labor does not attain to itself until the industrial revolution.

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

Today, this understanding of the thing as object has become reified, so that a text is seen as the vessel of all meaning. While it is true that the object retains its own essence, the interpenetration of subject and object is misunderstood. That act of participation in recreation on the part of the reader is lost.