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A Study Guide for Manguel's A History of Reading

Advice for Reading Manguel's A History of Reading

Greetings, fellow readers. This is a rudimentary study guide for Manguel’s A History of Reading but first, some words of friendly advice:  


1)Read all the chapters that have been assigned and discussed in class. We’ve talked about how to read Manguel—you were given a handout with instructions and suggestions; if you have misplaced it, go to Blackboard. 


2)Take notes, either on the books themselves or a notebook set aside specifically for this class; make sure your notes are clear and review them periodically for a better and deeper understanding of the readings.


3)Write outlines of the chapters, highlighting major ideas, interesting examples, significant dates, events, and people.
4)Think about what you’ve read—the arguments and the degree of importance different ideas have in the readings.


5)Establish clearly how Manguel’s  and Nafisi’s books intersect and relate, what themes they have in common, and how one book—Manguel’s—provides an interesting perspective for Nafisi’s book. Be specific; have specific pages in mind that illustrate points of agreement and convergence.  Having this information handy will help you write better, more substantive and creative essays. This will also help you find answers for the multiple-choice section of the exam.


6)DO NOT assume that because this is an open book exam preparation is not needed. Unprepared students usually do badly in open book exams
7)What I am giving you now are only notes; do your work and read.


The Last Page
Looking at reading historically and going back to the origins of writing and the beginning of literacy What is reading? How does reading happen? Learning to read as a rite of passage and as a way of entering into the social contract and becoming part of a community of readers Reading and its significance across cultures and in many religions Reading and privacy; the benefits of early reading; books as a permanent home for Manguel whose father was a diplomat; books and reading beyond your age; forbidden material Books meant to amuse; books for political education; books for religious instruction Author’s intent is difficult to know; reader is free to reject author’s intent; epistemological rule for reading Readers and the power of the written word; readers are feared as they possess the magical ability to decipher meaning The artificial dichotomy between life and reading is actively encouraged by those in power.


Reading Shadows
History begins with writing; how writing begins—pictographs and simple representations; surviving pieces of clay 
How does reading “happen”? What is comprehension? How does a reader make sense of the text?

Some theories: Intromission, extromission, perception and pure sensation, active and passive
Saint Augustine: Brain and heart as shepherds of our senses stored in our memory
Seeing as deciphering and decoding; how does perception become reading?


Reading and evolution; the shape of the brain and claims about language; neuroscience The beginning of writing is the beginning of history, though Manguel argues in this and other chapters that “reading” broadly understood comes before writing. What remains as far as evidence of the beginning of writing is clay tablets; reading across centuries—Manguel’s idea of the community of readers. How does reading happen? What are the mechanics of reading? 


Manguel presents different theories and some possible answers, exploring ancient ideas about what reading is and how it happens. Intromission and extromission as theories of reading are introduced and explained, but Manguel acknowledges that there are limitations as to what we know.

 In addition, Manguel, in trying to explain the mystery of reading, discusses some ideas that relate to the notion of what it means to “understand” what we read Galen’s “visual spirit”; St. Augustine’s “brain and heart as shepherds of our senses.”


Manguel looks at more recent developments in Neurolinguistics, genetic processes, and the idea that humans are born with the capability to read but that it needs to be introduced so that it awakens.

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