Robin Tremblay-McGaw argues, on the site for Language and Thinking program at Bard, that reading is a communal activity, not simply in the sense that writing is always intertexual, but in the literal sense that writing narrativizes community, and thus brings it into being. She begins with the history of silent reading:

Silent reading was not unlike a kind of spell. Reading’s spell, so to speak, might be shared, communicated to others. Later in the Confessions (Book IV: Pontician’s Friends), Augustine writes of a visit Pontician made to the home of Augustine and his friend Alypius where Pontician discovers, much to his delight, a copy of the letters of Saint Paul. Pontician proceeds to tell a story about what happened to several men who had read a book about the life of Anthony: “As one of them began to read it he was stunned and took fire, and even as he read began to consider taking up such a [Christian] life himself” (172).

And ends with a note on the present:

one of the practices we regularly engage in is reading—silently and alone or in a group, aloud in small and large groups, in unison or individually, in rounds or in playful interruptions and overlappings that “explode” the text allowing us to enter and revise it. I find these communal forms of reading to be nourishing, a means for critical engagement, and great fun. All these different ways to “voice,” “embody,” even “ingest” and “digest” a text return reading and literature to the social where words, sentences, meaning, and form might be shared, puzzled over, taken apart, questioned, dissected, celebrated, revealing that there is more to reading, and more at stake, than learning to recognize words.

Originally Published: February 9th, 2011