Reading in the premodern world - Deepstash

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Reading in the premodern world

The premodern world was obsessed with asking, "what is the point is of reading?" They had answers too.

  • For example, the value for Christians and Muslims was holding up one book - the Bible or the Koran - as more important than anything else. This book was read repeatedly and with great attention.
  • In the Ancient Greek world, one focused on just two books: Homer's Odyssey and his Iliad. These were all that was needed to impart the Greek code of honour and the best guides to action in military and civilian affairs.
  • In the 18th century England, the ideal of reading was focused on Virgil's Aeneid - all a gentleman required to pass as cultivated. More reading was viewed as eccentric.

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MORE IDEAS FROM THE SAME ARTICLE

The modern world equates the intelligent person will the well-read person. It's difficult to think of anyone arriving at any worthy insights without having read an impressive number of books.

The modern world has adopted an Enlightenment mantra that states there should be no limit to how much we read because we read in order to know everything. We don't read to understand God or to follow civic virtue; we read to understand the whole of human ...

Our exhaustive approach to reading does not make us truly happy. We appear to have a permanent sense of being under-read when compared with our peers and what the media has declared respectable.

With this new targeted ambition in mind, to read for personal contentment, the pressure to read all the time starts to lift. We have the option of only a dozen books on our shelves and yet feel in no way intellectually undernourished or deprived.

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