Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Fragment 1: On Speaking and Writing

For nearly all of November, I've been starting posts that I can't quite finish, whether due to time, space, or because I just don't know how to write them yet. This week I'll be pumping out those fragments in the hope that their presence on the web will free me up either to bring them to a conclusion or to move on to other things.


I like to say that success as a scholar means doing three things well: reading, writing, and speaking. Of course, I'm scholar enough to remember that this is a modification of Nietzsche's fourfold educational prescription in Twilight of the Idols: one must learn how to see, how to think, how to speak, and how to write.

When I was eighteen, I internalized this completely; only later I realized that in reading, writing, and speaking, seeing and thinking happen, and happen differently there than elsewhere. Reading, writing, and especially speaking are always potentially opportunities for rediscovery -- that is, for seeing and conceptualizing the world anew. This has particular meaning for me as at least for the moment I've devoted my intellectual life to texts' ability to connect with a lost material world. From an early age, nearsightedness and an overactive imagination led me to experience reading spatially as well as linguistically -- for as long as I can remember, I've not only read, but read silently, internally and abstractly. I also closely identify with the tradition of biblical scholarship (Jewish and Christian) in which preaching and written commentary (bound to a bodily ritual) shed light on a text that itself is somehow more real than reality itself.

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