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9.14.2012

The Violence of Writing


Before asking whether writing could be abandoned, one must ask how writing began. Etymology may be helpful here. Writing comes from the Latin scribere, meaning "to scratch." And the Greek graphein means "to dig." Accordingly, writing was originally a gesture of digging into an object with something, so making use of a wedge-shaped tool (a stylus). It is true that writing is no longer done this way. Now, writing usually involves putting pigment on a surface. We write on-scriptions rather than in-scriptions--and we usually write styluslessly. (Flusser 13)

Let etymology bear witness once again. The English to write (that in fact means "scratch," as does the Latin "scribere") reminds us that scratching and tearing come from the same stem. The scratching stylus is an incisor, and one who writes inscriptions is an incising tiger: he tears images to pieces. Inscriptions are the torn pieces, the cadavers of images; they are images that fell victim to the murderous incisor teeth of writing--hence the shock with which inscription was greeted by those who first received it. (Flusser 14)
Some pretty aggressive theory early in Vilem Flusser's Does Writing Have a Future? on the nature of language and communication...

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