Sunday, November 10, 2013

Time Horizons and Writing

RCP:

My research on Civil War writing leads me to one conclusion. If you are literate today, it does not mean you can write -- not even close to it in many cases. But if you were literate in 1863, even if you could not spell, you often could write descriptively and meaningfully.

In the century and a half since, we have evolved from word to image creatures, devaluing the power of the written word and turning ourselves into a species of short gazers, focused on the emotions of the moment rather than the contemplative thoughts about consequences and meaning of our actions. Many everyday writers in the mid-19th century were far more contemplative, far more likely to contextualize the long-term meaning of their actions. They meticulously observed and carefully described because, although photography was the hot new medium during the Civil War, words remained the dominant way of communicating thought, memory, aspiration, hope.

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