Havelock 98-126


“As language became separated visually from the person who uttered it, so also the person, the source of the language, came into sharper focus and the concept of selfhood was born.” (p. 113) - Havelock, The Muse Learns to Write

Literacy changed how the Greeks thought. It gave them a sense of self and psyche, and even the active verb (“Could the Muse learn, if not sing, at least to write, in the verb ‘to be’ rather than in the verb ‘to do’?” (p. 107)


Since the words were disconnected from the speaker, the reader had to think: think about what the words meant, since they had no speaker to interrpret the words for him. This then caused the reader to think of many possibilities. It was no longer "what do the words mean?"-there was no immediate answer to the question. Instead, the question was "what do these words mean to me?" The intent of the author did not matter, because the reader would never hear his inflections and emotions as he read his speech.

The spoken word began to loose its meaning as words were being chosen haphazardly. Literacy did give the Greeks a sense of self. It made them confident as to who they were, innovators.

I imagine part of the reason writing brings our sense of self "into focus" is because writers have to spend a lot of time alone, probing their thoughts in a very private context.

Ok so literacy gave the Greeks a sense of self thought and revelation, but did it change anything about them morally? Suddenly because they could write they were better people? I remember reading very early on in the book that some people proposed that along with the evolution of the written word came and ethical evolution as well.

In response to what Chris commented writers do spend a lot of time alone and they have to get to know themselves. I wonder if this was the beginning of journaling in Greek society when writing emerged.

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