Wednesday, May 28, 2008

the largely unappreciated squid

I read "Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain" at around the same time as Sean's "The Ethics of Writing: Authorship and Legacy in Plato and Nietzsche", and I was struck, or more accurately amazed, by the overlap of some of the concerns of the former - a popular science book - and the latter - "which is aimed at advanced undergraduates, graduates and academics with interests in literature, literary theory, critical theory, literature and philosophy, philosophy (particularly Continental Philosophy) as well as in theology, cultural studies and political theory".

(Bear with me as I need to take a breath after that last sentence.)

The treatment of writing in Plato's dialogue The Phaedrus is central to both, but more surprisingly the science book suggests that modern advances in brain scanning make Eric Havelock's apparently esoteric thesis "that all of Western thought is informed by a profound shift in the kinds of ideas available to the human mind at the point that Greek philosophy converted from an oral to a literate form" potentially open to investigation via non-invasive medical techniques as the reading brain is demonstrably organised differently from the pre-literate version.

PRODNOSE (obnoxiously): Well I never!

MYSELF (coldly): See also Orality and Literacy by Father Walter Jackson Ong, the late American Jesuit priest, professor of English literature, cultural and religious historian, and philosopher. He will be sadly missed, unlike you.

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