reading traces

“Writing, like human language, is engendered not only within the human community but between the human community and the animate landscape, born of the interplay and contact between the human and the more than human world. The earthly terrain in which we find ourselves, and upon which we depend from our nourishment, is shot through with suggestive scrawls and traces, from the sinuous calligraphy of rivers winding across the land, inscribing arroyos and canyons into the parched earth of the desert, to the black slash burned by lightning into the trunk of an old elm. The swooping flight of birds is a kind of cursive script written on the wind; it is this script that was studied by the ancient “augurs” who could read therein the course of the future. Leaf-miner insects make strange hieroglyphic tabloids of the leaves they consume. Wolves urinate on specific stumps and stones to mark off their territory. And today you read these printed words as tribal hunters once read the tracks of deer, moose, and bear printed in the soil of the forest floor. Archaeological evidence suggests that for more than one million years the subsistence of humankind has depended upon the acuity of such hunters, upon their ability to read the traces – a bit of scat here, broken twig there – of these animal Others. These letters I print across the page, the scratches and scrawls you now focus upon, trailing off across the white surface, are hardly different from the footprints of prey left in the snow. We read these traces with organs honed over millennia by our tribal ancestors moving instinctively from one track to the next, picking up the trail afresh whenever it leaves off, hunting the meaning, which would be the meeting with the Other.”

This is a quote from David Abram (1996) The Spell of the Sensuous. New York, Random House. To him the alphabet “is a strange and potent technology”.

2 Responses to “reading traces”

  1. Zahra Says:

    Hello. Your blog is a gold mine of information. I do like it and keep visiting it. I have my B.A. in English Translation. Now, I am nearly at the end of my M.A. program in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. I am absorbed in image-based research, multimodality, and social semiotics.

    Warm wishes,

    ZAHRA

  2. Sigrid Says:

    thank you – I had a look at your blog too! Good luck with your degree!

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