27 July 2008

Good point.

We might, indeed, consider the codex and even more the book as language machines through which Christianity cut up the Judaic scroll by means of the codex. Typological reading, the reading which Christianity as a liturgical institution demanded, required that a passage in what was now defined as the "old" testament be read not in conjunction with what came immediately after it but with a passage from the "new" testament. The book, following the codex, allowed one to move rapidly back and forth between the "old" and "new" testaments, to read page 1,000 a second or two (if one had marked the place) after reading page 1. Try to imagine doing that with a scroll. ... The codex and the book were thus established as technologies of discontinuous reading. Far from emphasizing a chronological narrative, they intercut different historical and theological moments. Whatever our romantic associations with the book as a form of teleological narrative, one of the most persistent uses of the book as a machine has been as an indexical form. Imagine the problems of consulting a telephone scroll, Scrolls in Print, a dictionary scroll.
- Introduction, Language Machines, ed. by Jeffrey Masten, Peter Stallybrass, Nancy Vickers

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