Filling the Void: The Development of Punctuation in a Silent Reading Culture (Diane Scott)
← 86 | 87 →DIANE SCOTT
Filling the Void: The Development of Punctuation in a Silent Reading Culture
Traditional views of the shift from orality to literacy have conceived of a definitive shift towards the latter, with scholars emphasising the superiority of private, silent reading over the oral past.1 Silent reading was viewed as the ultimate aim of a literate, enlightened society. It was undoubtedly an important development in terms of private thought and formulation; silent reading enables heretical thinking.2 Medieval scholars embraced this theory because the shift to silent reading could be traced through Anglo-Saxon bard culture to the sophisticated satire of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.3 If we accept that material book production is shaped by contemporary technology and driven by requirement, we can trace silent reading developments in the physical format of the book which are defined by the contemporaneous demands upon the written text.
The move from scroll to codex was compounded by the rise of Christianity as a ‘religion of the book’ and the requirements of dissemination.4 Cursive script developed in line with increasing administrative demands, and towards the end of the twelfth century, Gothic Cursive emerges from its ‘proto’ predecessor. The design and implementation of cursive script in general made the act of writing less painstaking and ← 87 | 88 →‘more compatible with intellectual activity’.5 Increasing demand and changing functions of the written text provoked a development in the physical form. Word separation, textual divisions and deployment of punctuation marks all highlight the...
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