The text as performance

16 09 2010

Jorge Luis Borges, in his short essay, Del culto de los libros , writes that a watershed moment in the history of human thought occured when St. Augustine found that St. Ambrose could read a text without moving his lips or reading aloud. Being a man of the world, one could only assume that St. Augustine found this to be an unusual skill. But to be mentioned in St. Augustine’s Confessions, it has to be more significant than just a cheap parlor trick. Borges explains:

Aquel hombre pasaba directamente del signo de escritura a la intuición, omitiendo el signo sonoro; el extraño arte que iniciaba, el arte de leer en voz baja, conduciría a consecuencias maravillosas. Conduciría, cumplidos muchos años, al concepto del libro como fin, no como instrumento de un fin.

(That man passed directly from the written sign to the intuition, omitting the audible sign; the strange art that it initiated, the art of reading to oneself, would lead to marvelous consequences. It would lead, after many years, to the concept of the book as an end, and not a means to an end.)
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