Listening for the Text: On the Uses of the Past (Parallax: Re-visions of Culture and Society Series)

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"Ours is largely an ahistorical world. And yet we take history very seriously. The more remote the past becomes, the more we seem to concern ourselves with understanding it. We are no longer linked to our ancestors through common material conditions. If earlier ages still have a hold on us, it is through our thoughts about them.

"The essays in this volume are about a segment of the past that runs roughly from the end of antiquity to the thirteenth century. More generally, they are about recollecting the past by putting words into writings. They are equally about the past that is written about and the writing that brings it to life. In other words, they deal with the creation of the past as text."—from the Introduction

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Stock has opened up lines of thinking about the medieval world—and our modern one too—which lead in fascinating directions."—Times Literary Supplement

"A challenging and informative work."—South Atlantic Review

"Indispensable as a case study of the problems and promise of writing cultural history from a truly comparative and interdisciplinary point of view."—Comparative Literature Studies

Traces the modern study of oral and literate cultures, particularly the importance given to written documents, to the growth of interest in language in the Middle Ages. Also explores the influence of mediaeval linguistic theory on modern social categories. Stock (mediaeval studies and comp. literature, Toronto) is particularly interested in the relationship between history as event and history as textual interpretation. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812216127
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/1997
  • Series: The Middle Ages Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.53 (w) x 8.59 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Stock is Professor of History and Comparative Literature, University of Toronto. He is author of The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries; Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Self-Knowledge, and the Ethics of Interpretation; and After Augustine: The Meditative Reader and the Text, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Orality, Literacy, and the Sense of the Past

Ch. 1. History, Literature, Textuality
Ch. 2. Medieval Literacy, Linguistic Theory, and Social Organization
Ch. 3. Romantic Attitudes and Academic Medievalism
Ch. 4. Literary Discourse and the Social Historian
Ch. 5. Language and Culture: Saussure, Ricoeur, and Foucault
Ch. 6. Max Weber, Western Rationality, and the Middle Ages
Ch. 7. Textual Communities: Judaism, Christianity, and the Definitional Problem
Ch. 8. Tradition and Modernity: Models from the Past


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