ERIC Number: EJ850082
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jul
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
Sloth, Silence, and Concentration: The Reader between Letter and Spirit
Meijer, Wilna A. J.
Interchange: A Quarterly Review of Education, v40 n3 p251-268 Jul 2009
In current-day criticisms of consumer culture as well as of the performativity culture of the work place, the originally religious concept of the vice of acedia or sloth is reinterpreted as a virtue. Art, especially poetry, is put to the fore in that connection. The image of the reader is addressed when the question of the relationship between poetics and religion is under discussion. The observation of the decline of reading has often been part of forms of cultural criticism and pessimism. Empirical research from the Netherlands over a few decades as to the free time spent in reading as compared to other leisure activities, is reviewed. The pattern emerges that not reading as such, but reading books is losing ground. The "Cultural Citizen" of present, as characterized by the Dutch Culture Council in 2007, is involved in so many diverging leisure activities, that the time and quiet needed for the time-honoured pastime of reading is lacking. The article then discusses the question whether there is a relationship between poetics and religion as to their imminent concentration and contemplation. An intrinsic relation between poetry and reading on the one hand and religion and transcendence on the other, is advocated by the famous British literary theorist George Steiner and by the Dutch essayist Jan Oegema. Steiner distinguishes five categories of solitude in his "Grammars of Creation" (2001). These categories are explored in order to test the validity of the idea that the seeking of solitude and concentration necessary for reading, eventually leads to spiritual and religious experience. This idea is rejected. In conclusion, reading is, after the fashion of the novelist Milan Kundera, tied to the experience, not of a transcendent unity, but rather of a polyphony of human voices.
Descriptors: Leisure Time, Religion, Foreign Countries, Poetry, Psychology, Recreational Reading, Reading Materials, Books, Religious Factors, Cultural Influences, Reading Attitudes, Reading Motivation
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Netherlands