reading: not always in depth

Matthew Kirschenbaum on how reading is changing, in response to the US National Endowment for the Humanities’ rather retro report on “reading”, To Read or Not to Read:

To Read or Not to Read deploys its own self-consistent iconography to tell us what reading is. In the pages of the report we find images of an adolescent male bent over a book, a female student sitting alone reading against a row of school lockers, and a white-collar worker studying a form. These still lives of the literate represent reading as self-evident ó we know it when we see it. Yet they fail to acknowledge that such images have coexisted for centuries with other kinds of reading that have their own iconography and accouterments: Medieval and early modern portraits of scholars and scribes at work at their desks show them adorned with many books (not just one), some of them bound and splayed on exotic devices for keeping them open and in view; Thomas Jefferson famously designed a lazy susan to rotate books in and out of his visual field. That kind of reading values comparison and cross-checking as much as focus and immersion ó lateral reading as much as reading for depth.

if:book also has an interesting critique of the NEA report, responding to Kirschenbaum’s comments.

30. November 2007 by Jill

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