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The Challenges of Reading Gibbon – “Cultural Amnesia” – Clive James

October 1st, 2011 · No Comments · Civilisation, Culture, History, Reading Related, Writing

There was never much to the assumption that a sentence is only ever read diachronically from left to right with never a backward glance: the eye doesn’t work like that and neither does prose. But there is still something to the assumption that a sentence, however the reader gets to the end of it, should be intelligible by the time he does, and that if he is forced to begin again he has been hoodwinked into helping the writer do the writing. Readers of Gibbon don’t just help: they join a chain gang, and the chain gang is in a salt mine, and the salt mine is reached after a long trip by galley, during which they are never excused the feel of the oar or the snap of the lash.

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