Brief History of Reading
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The history of reading is among the most important aspects of historical studies in the second half of the 20th century and represents a fertile field for understanding History.
The history of reading became a very fruitful field of study from the 1970s onwards, especially with the matrix of historiography developed in France that became known as new history . It was with this “new history”, or new cultural history , that interest in new objects of study, new approaches and new problems for history developed. One of these new “objects” was exactly the “practice of reading” , that is, how in the various epochs of human history the practice of reading was transformed according to the social construction of each of these epochs.
The focus of the “new history” aimed to abolish the old schemes of historical studies that were attached to schematized and generalizing analyzes of the past that did not offer elements to apprehend the atmosphere of the various situations in which the various human groups found themselves. In order to attempt such an apprehension, it was necessary to channel research into the “history of practices.”
The history of reading practices is closely associated with the history of writing accommodation supports. These supports can range from cuneiform tablets from ancient Mesopotamia to the virtual writing on computer monitors . , including papyrus rolls, codices, writings on stone, writings on leather, among others. These supports determined or, at the limit, contributed decisively to shaping the practice of reading in each specific period. For example, in ancient societies, where writing was a privilege of priests, scribes and other people linked to hierarchical functions, reading was, by definition, an oral and collective practice. Read aloud to a large number of people. People learned, more often than not, by heart various literary texts, as was the case with the education of children in Athens, who memorized and recited excerpts from Homer’s epics.
The practice of silent reading , that is, the habit of reading individually and in silence, was only born with copyist monks in the Middle Ages. And it was born in this specific context and with these social actors due to the circumstances in which they were inserted. The monks who were responsible for copying, that is, replicating manuscripts, whether classic (Greek and Roman) or Christian, and the ornament of codices (books in which the copy was inserted) with illuminations (illustration art for codices) , needed a silent environment that favored attentive reading and precision for work. Since then, this practice of silent reading has become secularized, it has become common, especially after the invention of the press by Gutenbergin the 15th century.
In the 18th century, with the advent of literary romanticism and book fairs in several European cities, the practice of reading became a really popular habit with a great impact on society. Suffice it to say that the reading of political pamphlets and philosophical writings of the Enlightenment mobilized, to a large extent, the bourgeoisie of France to the revolutionary action of 1789.
One of the main representatives of studies on the history of reading, historian Roger Chartier , dedicated himself to perceiving the impact that reading practices had on what he called “interpretive communities” throughout history. The relationship we have today with reading, for example, is closely associated with the construction of technology-dependent social habits, such as the computer screen and the internet. by youtube youtube 23 news