Writers such as William A. Johnson find their way through an understanding, which after reading, I realized was similar in some ways to the way Greeks and Romans read thousands of years ago. They would read a text over and over in attempt to understand through discussion with their contemporaries. Johnson points out how different then from now is but I think much of the process is similar even if the context, understand, and purpose are different.
Johnson makes a point of how different bookrolls are from the typical tangible books we read and learn from today. He makes a point that the Romans, after conquering the Greeks in 146 BC chose to “get rid of the separation between words” (106) and implement an uninterrupted stream of letters known as sciptio continua. The greeks had spacing, this was not due to the time period and how they had developed. I believe it is important to point out this significant change because it not only influences Roman and modern languages but it also shows how we become evolutionary and adopt to and discover how we are most productive.
It is also important to point out why they did that as well as how it influenced them. We see time and time again in Johnson’s writing that it was the educated elite who was capable and aloud to read these bookrolls. Each community had a different focus, whether there various shared interests be politics, business interests, chariot racing or with a common intellectual interest of philosophy, poetry or technical areas in medicine. They were not there for their entertainment but rather to be part of a community. They did not intend to find any truths in these texts. They were there to engage with their contemporaries, to question and to discuss. (112) This is important because it separated the people then as it does now. Only now how one becomes educated, at least in the western world, is entirely different.
The third thing I found highly important in reading was on page 115 when Johnson tries to pull it all together for the conclusion on social and ideological constructions of reading. He talks about the emphasis on reading behaviors like lectors, group reading and the examination of the medium. This system is symbolic and consistent in it’s own way. This is something worth highlighting because it sums up what the readers and scribes of that day achieved to do and hold as their privilege.
When reading about a new subject a number of things will trip you up in the overall understand. One word in particular made things more confusing throughout the piece. The word “antiquity” was something I started out thinking that I understood until page 111. Here Johnson gets into reading events and how they differ from how we approach books today. I believed that antiquity was connected to the time of which they were reading these bookrolls but on page 111 it almost seems that antiquity was an activity, how and why they read in the way they did. This tripped me up in the middle of the reading and made me question other things that I thought I had grasped from the beginning that were foreign to me. With contrasting definitions found online I find myself lost between the meaning as something that explains and makes clear and something that is ancient.
Another thing I found confusing about the reading was the differences and the similarities of reading and understanding text then and now. On page 119, Johnson states that as he has argued, “the texual medium is … one component in a complex system of reading and writing behaviors that itself is deeply embedded in social as well as cultural concerns and activities.” Other than the italization of the world ‘system’, something I define as something that is always adapting and changing, I believe he is trying to say that the physical thing we are looking at is only part of the equation. The other parts of the equation being how we read, where we emphasize words and create pauses, and how we understand the meaning. He gets into this earlier on in the chapter that ties into my confusion as to why the Romans got rid of punctuation.
My question is about why the Romans did away with spacing. If the scribes there were also getting paid by the line wouldn’t they want to extend where they could? It seems as if they wanted to prove how elite they were to the public and to their constituents.