I beg to differ, and I mean differ with all of what you wrote. So too
does T.S. Eliot, who wrote throughout his life of his abhorrence for
reading for the sake of having material for conversation: in the early
essays, the late essays, UPUC, TCC, his letters, and so on. Witness
from 'Religion and Literature', 1935:
Wide reading is not valuable as a kind of hoarding, an accumulation of
knowledge, or what is sometimes meant by the term 'well-stocked mind'.
It is valuable because in the process of being
affected by one powerful personality after another, we cease to be
dominated by any one, or by
any small number. (SE, p. 395)
Do you really read books and poems 'primarily to talk about them with
other people'? I should have thought that the enjoyment of literature
was something much more profound, and personal, and thoughtful, than
that. Sharing that enjoyment is one thing, and it has great power to
bond those who can share it; but using literature as conversational
material seems perverted and obtuse. And I am very surprised to hear
your own conversations with fellow students were more illuminating and
intense than those you had alone with authors dead and living. This
does not seem to me to be enjoyment of literature, but rather enjoyment
of one's self and opinions. And it is a wholly different thing from the
pleasures of conversation as something in itself.
Of course, conversation can sometimes point out to us something we'd
never have discovered alone, or solicit thoughts we may not have had
alone. That is one of the many wonderful things about learning and
friendship, and conversation. But aren't those provoking conversations
something different than the experiences to which they might lead you?
As for your statement 'print, hypertext and manuscripts exist only at
the will of oral culture', I cannot understand that at all. What will?
'Exist only'? Many exist very much independently of 'oral culture', a
term I cannot understand, unless you mean the transmission of verse and
stories prior to the invention of print? I think it ought to be kept in
mind that, since the invention of print, much of what is transmitted in
print can only be completely transmitted in print: The Waste Land, for
On Thursday, December 23, 2004, at 10:42 PM, Carrol Cox wrote:
> This is an oblique take on the "Internet..." thread, and the points I
> make here are equally compatible with all the perspectives on literacy
> argued in recent posts.
> There is a sense in which _all_ cultures, past, present, future are
> primarily oral cultures. Print, hypertext, manuscripts exist only at
> will of the oral culture.
> Why do we read books? Primarily to talk about them with other people. I
> would estimate that a little over half of what I learned in grad school
> came from conversation with other grad students around a table in
> the Michigan Union or Metzger's tavern. And I suspect that a good deal
> of what each of us has read at one time or another has been in response
> to concerns first raised in conversation.