Wax Tablets of the Mind: Cognitive Studies of Memory and Literacy in Classical Antiquity

Wax Tablets of the Mind: Cognitive Studies of Memory and Literacy in Classical Antiquity

Jocelyn Penny Small

Language: English

Pages: 396

ISBN: 1138986984

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Wax Tablets of the Mind: Cognitive Studies of Memory and Literacy in Classical Antiquity

Jocelyn Penny Small

Language: English

Pages: 396

ISBN: 1138986984

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this volume, the author argues that literacy is a complex combination of various skills, not just the ability to read and write: the technology of writing, the encoding and decoding of text symbols, the interpretation of meaning, the retrieval and display systems which organize how meaning is stored and memory. The book explores the relationship between literacy, orality and memory in classical antiquity, not only from the point of view of antiquity, but also from that of modern cognitive psychology. It examines the contemporary as well as the ancient debate about how the writing tools we possess interact and affect the product, why they should do so and how the tasks required of memory change and develop with literacy's increasing output and evoking technologies.

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sight. Moreover, so far from making two copies they had difficulty in finishing one.13 The situation has analogies today with the circulation of manuscripts in draft, which get recirculated without the author’s knowledge through re-xeroxing. Of even more serious concern now is the loss of the fixed text, because computerization allows changes that leave no traces. Some copyists were so good that by the second century AD their texts were highly esteemed. M.Cornelius Fronto writes in his usual

Possible support comes from an anecdote in Diogenes Laertius. He says that Xenophon, in the fourth century BC: ‘was the first to take notes of , and to give to the world, the conversations of Socrates, under the title Memorabilia.’52 Unfortunately, the Greek is unclear whether Diogenes means that Xenophon ‘took notes’ in the sense of shorthand or in the sense of someone recording a lecture, whether in longhand or shorthand. Today, scholars (like Kenyon) tend to refer to the ‘classical’

things not seen and not lying in the field of visual discernment are marked by a sort of outline and image and shape so that we keep hold of as it were by an act of sight things that we can scarcely embrace by an act of thought. But these forms and bodies, like all the things that come under our view require a seat [sede], inasmuch as a material object without a place [loco] is inconceivable. Consequently (in order that I may not be prolix and tedious on a subject that is well known and familiar)

Latin equivalent for in his translation of a passage from the Wax tablets of the mind 118 Iliad (2.301). Where the Greek says, ‘For they know this thing well in their phrenes,’ Cicero (On Divination, 2.63) says, ‘for all retain the portent in their remembering mind [memori mente].’ Cicero uses ‘mens’ rather than ‘animus’, and explains why in another passage: ‘Or do we think that like wax the soul [animum] has marks impressed upon it and that memory [memoriam] consists of the traces of things

from Thessaloniki that shows a scribe from the side view with his left thigh slightly raised as he writes.89 The position is corroborated in a contemporary colophon (signature of the scribe) on a papyrus of the Iliad, which says, ‘the reed pen wrote me, right hand and knee.’90 The absence of desks and tables and the need to refresh the ink in one’s reed pen, as Quintilian mentions, meant that either the ink was awkward to reach because it was on the ground or, more likely, as in the case of the

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