I completely disagree.

Deborah Brandt’s chapter on the relative status of writing as compared to reading is interesting, but has several flaws.

First of all, Brandt says that “Reading was critical for salvation…” and implies that reading is generally construed to improve mankind, and that everyone is encouraged to read across the board (Brandt 144). I would argue against this. Yes, governments and schools put much emphasis on encouraging people to read with posters featuring Batman with a novel while he patrols Gotham (personally I think such a distraction would make Batman a rather poor vigilante, but if some kid really sees Batman with a book and decides to devote his life to literacy as a result, more power to the poster makers) and tutoring programs like America Reads. Clearly the powers-that-be have an investment in making sure people read. However, reading is not always celebrated in such a way. Reading can prove helpful for indoctrination, but also for rebellion and subversion. Brandt forgets about the books that are banned from school districts and libraries every year, from To Kill a Mockingbird to Twilight. People read not just to improve themselves, but to learn about ideas besides the reigning ones. Some of the best reading is done as a subversive act. Brandt’s construction of reading as a “good girl/boy” activity is fallacious.

Secondly, Brandt asserts that there is some sort of opposing relation between the amount of writing and the amount of reading going on (Brandt 153). She uses studies to illustrate and prove her point. Again, Brandt is seriously missing important information in her analysis. Reading, after the advent of the internet, has become much harder to track, since counting the amount of books or newspapers purchased per year cannot account for the real amount of reading people are doing, on PDFs, blogs, humor websites, downloaded books, online articles, and other sources that are difficult to quantify. Reading may not be disappearing; it may just be shifting to a more elusive medium. Writing and reading are related, not just in the fact writing is produced to read. Reading inspires others to write, without having read a newspaper article, a blogger will not post a heated response to said article. Writing is a reaction, reading is often the catalyst for this reaction.

So what do you think? Do you think Brandt has a point, or do you agree that she makes some grand assumptions in her argument?

2 thoughts to “I completely disagree.”

  1. I definitely pick the “grand assumptions” option. But I also think Brandt has a point – namely that writing *does* have a much larger emphasis placed on it than reading. Everything else in her article merits a closer examination before I jump on board, though.
    Another thing that bothered me: why, oh why does she seem to find it necessary to ask such a melodramatic question at the end of her (previously decently written) chapter? To me, asking if “we” are ready to sustain a nation of writers is on level with asking if “we” are ready to sustain a nation of chefs: both are odd and not entirely useful questions (and who on earth is “we”?).
    Maybe I’m being too hard on Brandt. After all, this is just an excerpt of a larger book and I’m not entirely sure that she’s saying all she wants to say here. But as a stand-alone, this piece of writing is really not convincing me.

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