The Case for Reading

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In The Case for Books, Robert Darnton writes, "They also turned their own reading into writing, because commonplacing made them into authors.  It forced them to write their own books; and by doing to they developed a still sharper sense of themselves as autonomous individuals," (170).

These authors that Darnton is talking about, needed to create their own thoughts and arguments during their time in history.  What is interesting is when Darnton goes into the background of different authors to explain how this reading came to them.

My favorite part came at the end of the chapter, when Darnton talked about historians of reading treating their subjects as moving targets driven by binary opposites, "reading by turning the leaves of a codex as opposed to reading by unrolling a volumen, reading printed texts in contrast to reading manuscripts, silent reading as distinct from reading aloud, reading alone rather than reading in groups, reading extensively by racing through different kinds of material vs. reading intensively by perusing a few books many times," (172).

Yes, yes, and YES.  This is reading in every shape in form.  I love it.  I especially love that Darnton built this chapter around the discoveries of historical readers and how emotion is what drew them in and personal experience.  I think that is important to remember when reading, and writing for that matter.  Thomas Jefferson had more issues than I think I remember learning, and yet it mattered in his writing, and it mattered in his reading that he could express that emotion.  Darnton used examples from Jefferson, Kevin Sharpe, and William Drake, to give us examples as to how they adapted to reading and how they understood it during their time.

1 Comments

Jessie Krehlik said:

I thought this was a pretty powerful chapter as well. Although, I kind of wish Darnton had gotten to the point a little earlier, because I was getting bored with all the different authors he referenced. On the other hand, I also think it was essential for him to use these authors as examples, because they were the precursors for modern literature analysis.
I definitely think we're all capable of writing our own commonplace books as well. In a way, the papers we write for our classes are a kind of commonplace document, because we use other people's quotes and analyze them/use them to prove our own points.

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