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Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Manuscript Bonus

Memory and Identity in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity,
Tom Thatcher ed., SBL, 2014, page 176

Keith re-emphasises his last point and adds:

it is crucially important to understanding what a manuscript contributes to the transmission process. Writing opens cultural texts to a virually limitless history of reception, so long as the papyrus or parchment of extant copies endures.

Of course, as Keith admits, in a culture where not everyone may be literate, "there must also be a reader in order to actualise the tradition, but it is precisely this limitation that allows a written text to break the constraints of orality:

the tradition's audience is no longer confined to those who are physically present before the author/performer/messenger. The reader can be anyone, anywhere, at any time. Manuscripts thus enable communicative memory to become cultural memory in a distinct way because they allow cultural texts to cross space and time, becoming long-duration texts that are received generation after generation.

To which I would also add that a text can also be copied, thus extending the reach of a text far beyond what an original speaker or performer can manage. Not only can a performance be at any time or place, it can be in multiple locations and times, simultaneously!

Posted By Jonathan, 8:14am Comment Comments: