Thursday, July 20, 2006

George Steiner on reading

In his essay "The end of bookishness?" George Steiner anticipates the near-disappearance of what he calls "classical reading," reading that "takes place in a circle of silence which enables the reader to concentrate on the text." Here is reading's future, as Steiner imagines it:

I would not be surprised if that which lies ahead for classical modes of reading resembles the monasticism from which those modes sprung. I sometimes dream of houses of reading — a Hebrew phrase — in which those passionate to learn how to read well would find the necessary guidance, silence, and complicity of disciplined companionship. . . .

The tale is told of how Erasmus, walking home on a foul night, glimpsed a tiny fragment of print in the mire. He bent down, seized upon it and lifted it to a flickering light with a cry of thankful joy. Here was a miracle. A return of that sense of the miraculous in the face of a demanding text would not be altogether a bad thing.

George Steiner, "The end of bookishness?" Times Literary Supplement (8-14 July 1988), 754
A "sense of the miraculous in the face of a demanding text": what every teacher of literature should aim to inspire in the residents of her or his house of reading.

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» American reading habits
» Words, mere words

comments: 3

Alex said...

Thanks for the post.Do you know if there is any pdf of this text?

Alex said...

I mean "The end of bookishness".

Michael Leddy said...

Back in 2006, I read Steiner’s essay on microfilm. I don’t know if TLS is now in databases.