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The Matter of the Page: Essays in Search of Ancient and Medieval Authors (Wisconsin Studies in Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Shane Butler
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Ancient and medieval literary texts often call attention to their existence as physical objects. Shane Butler helps us to understand why. Arguing that writing has always been as much a material struggle as an intellectual one, The Matter of the Page offers timely lessons for the digital age about how creativity works and why literature moves us.

    Butler begins with some considerations about the materiality of the literary text, both as a process (the draft) and a product (the book), and he traces the curious history of “the page” from scroll to manuscript codex to printed book and beyond. He then offers a series of unforgettable portraits of authors at work: Thucydides struggling to describe his own diseased body; Vergil ready to burn an epic poem he could not finish; Lucretius wrestling with words even as he fights the madness that will drive him to suicide; Cicero mesmerized by the thought of erasing his entire career; Seneca plumbing the depths of the soul in the wax of his tablets; and Dhuoda, who sees the book she writes as a door, a tunnel, a womb. Butler reveals how the work of writing transformed each of these authors into his or her own first reader, and he explains what this metamorphosis teaches us about how we too should read.

    All Greek and Latin quotations are translated into English and technical matters are carefully explained for general readers, with scholarly details in the notes.

Editorial Reviews


"The Matter of the Page investigates the author's relationship with what he or she has written... The book's six case studies are essays ranging flexibly across the distinctions involved in this approach to writing and reading, offering close critical discussions of selected texts."--Times Literary Supplement

“A learned, moving essay in humane literary and cultural criticism. Brilliantly written, The Matter of the Page takes our own sense of reading and writing and relates it to the work of past writers and readers, showing in fascinatingly different ways how authors as diverse as Thucydides, Vergil, and Dhuoda transcended both their own mortality and the limits of material culture.”—James Tatum, Dartmouth College

“Innovative both stylistically and methodologically, Butler’s outstanding book has the feel of a dual elegy—for the author, whom it seeks to resuscitate as more than an abstract theoretical concept, and for the vanishing (or at least de-materializing) page in an ever accelerating digital universe.”—James I. Porter, University of California, Irvine

“Characterized by profound originality of imagination and an assured command of the spectrum of classical scholarship, the author’s dissection of select texts of Thucydides, Lucretius, Cicero, Seneca, and the female Carolingan aristocrat Dhuoda constitutes a virtuosic display of insight and analytical acuity. . . . Summing Up: Highly recommended.”—J. S. Louzonis, Choice

“A smart, insightful, and ultimately persuasive book about the nature of the page from antiquity into the Middle Ages. . . . Butler has made a bold attempt to break down the blood-brain barrier between ideas and texts, signifiers and signifieds, and to suggest that the very space on/in which the text plays out informs the text that is played out there.”—Sarah Spence, Renaissance Quarterly

"A great little book to grapple with, not only for its streamlined main thesis or its knotty close readings, but also for Butler's ambitious and experimental methodology that engages with how Classical texts (and by extension, Classical scholarship) are read, written and reproduced in our digitalized age. . . . I cannot recommend The Matter of the Page highly enough."—Richard Fletcher, Digressus

“In a discursive style that combines a strong lyrical voice with sound classical learning, [The Matter of the Page] resembles the critical manner of Italo Calvino in his Six Memos for the Next Millennium, or Umberto Eco’s critical prose. . . . A pleasure to read, especially for its intriguing and novel ideas, for its brave attempt to rediscover the concept of the author as reader through a poststructuralist lens, and for offering variant paths to reinterpreting the work and creative drive of canonical writers.”—Laura Jansen, The Classical Review

“This is both a playful and a serious book that opens many doors onto the texts it studies. Students of classical literature and of the history of the book should be glad for the openings.”—Bryn Mawr Classical Review

About the Author

Shane Butler is professor of Classics at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is author of The Hand of Cicero and the editor and translator of the Latin correspondence of Renaissance humanist Angelo Poliziano.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1620 KB
  • Print Length: 168 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (January 6, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004I1KQLU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,249,363 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Readable, original February 24, 2012
By 2020
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very elegantly written book for a broad audience by a scholar with deep knowledge of classical texts. Interesting both for the "general reader" and other scholars.
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