Tuesday, 19 July 2016
Religion and Cultural Memory (tr. Rodney Livingstone),
Jan Assmann, Stanford University Press, 2006, page 63
Tradition fluctuates between the two extremes of memory and writing.
In contrast to memory, it appears as social, normative knowledge, if not necessarily fully articulated in language; in contrast to writing, it appears as knowledge that is to a great extent implicit, extralinguistic, nonwritten and transmitted through a mimetic process of showing and imitating. Admittedly, written material forms part of tradition, but tradition goes far beyond its written component.
Assmann then produces a telling contrast:
To exaggerate only slightly, we might say that living, embodied memory and communication find their death in tradition, and living, embodied tradition finds its death in writing.
Writing has become fixed and inflexible; it is the end of the road. Or is it?