Story and Real Life


  • Robert P. Waxler University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.



Why should we be concerned about the fate of literature as we move from a book culture to a screen culture in the digital age? Not primarily because we are losing our sense of story, but because we are losing our sense of the central importance of linguistic narrative. There is a difference. The technologies creating the digital revolution seem to devalue language and increasingly to do away with boundaries, celebrating instead speed and boundless exhilaration. The visual trumps the linguistic, the image and the screen trump the word and the book. As a result, we no longer seem to engage deeply with others or ourselves. We are beginning to move, in other words, from “a reading brain” to “a digital brain,” from a brain capable of deep reading and deep thinking to a brain increasingly addled by spectacle and surface sensation. We are losing our standing as “linguistic beings.”