While reading this week, an ongoing debate was going on in my head, a debate created by the continuous mention of power that comes with the ability to write and to read. Of course, I knew about the existence of this power beforehand, but had never really stopped to consider which was a more powerful act. Is the ability to read more powerful than the ability to write?
This question circled about my head for a while, sparked by Stephen Colclough’s analysis of Joseph Hunter’s diaries in “Procuring Books and Consuming Texts”. The purpose was to learn more about text acquisition and use, an analysis which was made possible because of Hunter’s diaries in which he made daily recordings of what he was reading and how much he read of a specific piece. In the first part of the essay, I believed that it is in fact writing that is most powerful, as it enabled Colclough to analyze reading habits and much more. Without this written record, this analysis wouldn’t have been possible. Colclough also mentions that it’s the periodicals Hunter read that persuaded him to read more of a text or author, which would push him to nominate those works or authors to be bought for a subscription library (33). So it would seem that the act of writing is most powerful, as it acts as a method of persuasion and exposure to a work or author. This fact was a common detail throughout Colclough’s essay, that something written in a periodical usually influenced Hunter to buy or, most often, borrow a text. My question, then, seemed to have been answered, or so I thought.
As I got further into the essay and realized how frequently Hunter was influenced by periodicals and other writings, it seemed that it was rather Hunter’s reading of the texts and periodicals that influenced him, not necessarily the writing. Hunter read many texts and periodicals but not all writings appealed to him, making his personal reading more powerful. But this didn’t seem quite right to me, as what’s written on the page will always play a part in a reader’s reading. So how was I to answer this question? I kept going from writing to reading to writing to reading, and then it hit me. While at one point writing may be more powerful than reading, reading will also have a time when it is more influential than writing; it’s like a wheel, a wheel of power.
My experiences and what I’ve read usually impacts what and how I read which, as a result, influences my writing (the very fact that I’m writing a blog based off what I’ve read reflects this). Sure, I’m technically required to write about what I read for this class, but each of us will write about something different. Because of the differences we bring to a piece of writing, our reading of a work will be different, which will affect our writings, which will affect other’s readings, and so on. There’s this never ending wheel that continues to spin, each spoke representing a different part of the whole experience, each spoke having it’s time at the top as the most powerful. This wheel of power has continued throughout history, always changing and always growing. While at one point in history, reading and writing was limited to only a set group of people and forms (i.e aloud versus silent, writing on parchment versus writing electronically), it has been expanding to include more people and more forms. Although these characteristics change, this wheel is always turning.