Tuesday, 5 July 2016
Religion and Cultural Memory (tr. Rodney Livingstone),
Jan Assmann, Stanford University Press, 2006, page 20
Assman's third and last lesson from the book of Deuteronomy concerns the process of writing - of a written rather than oral tradition.
Thirdly, what we learn from Deuteronomy is the historically significant, even epoch-making step into writing which now becomes privileged through the media of bonding memory and within the spectrum of symbolic forms.
How does this work? Why does it work?
What writing makes possible is the perpetuation of memory, its liberation from the rythms of fogetting and remembering.
No longer dependent on human agency to remember or carry the memory, the written form can endure and cross boundaries of time, space and person, to travel without the need for a performer or story-teller and to be present in multiple locations simultaneously. As the Jewish people urged to study the Torah "day and night" (Joshua 1:8) ...
It is this that has turned them into the "people of the Book" more than every other people, because in their case this concentration of the written word was enormously enhanced by the prohibition of graven images.