When texts want to break free

One of the achievements of electronic media has been the recovery of what may be called the live text. If Gutenberg’s printing press was the museum in which letters came to repose in fossilizing slumber, then the computer woke them all up and brought them back to a special kind of life. The printing press,Continue reading “When texts want to break free”

Language and myths

When we look back over the last thousand years, we see the formative stage of our European culture today, just like seedlings caught in the process of becoming full plants.  In particular, we see two things: we see European languages developing and becoming fully-fledged idioms of communication and literacy, and we see proliferating stories germinatingContinue reading “Language and myths”

Nostalgic wanderings

One thing which is missing from ancient and medieval literature is nostalgia. True, Ulysses can’t wait to see his wife, his kingdom and his native shores. The medieval mind dreams about the Kingdom of Heaven and adopts the restlessness of the pilgrim, the viator, keen to complete the journey and oblivious to present comforts. ButContinue reading “Nostalgic wanderings”

The bored ones get the best of Hell

Dante’s Hell is a place of extreme pain and suffering. This is partly the reason why generations of modern readers have found Inferno so much more exciting than Paradiso or even Purgatorio. The farther one moves away from excruciating pain, the boring the story gets, right? This is not how I feel, but I recognise,Continue reading “The bored ones get the best of Hell”

Trinkets for the confined court

Yesterday I wrote that the 12th century was the return of boredom to Europe. How else would we explain all the exciting works written at the time? It is time to give some examples of literary distractions from that period. I’d like to talk about trifles. Not sponge cakes, but trivialities. At least that’s howContinue reading “Trinkets for the confined court”

Getting bored in (not with) the 12th century

There are some truly boring centuries, like the 6th or the 7th. Any honest historian will have to admit that if they had to go into confinement with anything written during those centuries as the only distraction, they’d fall prey to the worst forms of tedium. There are boring centuries, but there are also excitingContinue reading “Getting bored in (not with) the 12th century”

Censorship doesn’t work

That the pen is, if not mightier than the sword, than perhaps just as lethal was something humanity understood rather quickly. The history of writing is also the history of censorship because writing has always been a question of power, and power always leads to control, to distinctions between those who have it and thoseContinue reading “Censorship doesn’t work”

Fake news in history

Not every piece of disinformation is fake news. Not every falsehood qualifies as fake news. Deception deserves its independence, and so does fake news. The number one tautology is this: the age of fake news is upon us. We smell fake everywhere around us, we see a fake story everywhere we look. And why wouldn’tContinue reading “Fake news in history”

In defence of ignorance

We’re not going anywhere these days. So let’s glance back in time. Our stop: the Middle Ages, Homer and creativity. The medieval period has been called many things: the age of faith, the Dark Ages, lowercase/uppercase, the age of chivalry, of castles, the age of the Gothic, the post-classical period, pre-Renaissance, pre-modern, epithets galore, foreverContinue reading “In defence of ignorance”