Eric A. Havelock

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Eric Alfred Havelock (3 June 19034 April 1988) was a professor at the University of Toronto and was active in the academic milieu of the Canadian socialist movement during the 1930s. In the 1960s and 1970s, he served as chair of the classics departments at both Harvard and Yale.

Sourced[edit]

  • Over the years, I have become convinced that Hellenism as a culture represents not a static condition of uniform sublimity mysteriously achieved and maintained as an effect of some racial advantage. Rather it should be understood as an evolving process, governed by a dynamic of change, as both language and thought underwent transformational alteration caused by a transition from orality to literacy. The instrument of change is discerned to be the invention of the Greek alphabet, at a quite late stage in the history of developing cultures.
    • "Chinese Characters and the Greek Alphabet" in Sino-Platonic Papers, 5 (December 1987)
  • Speech is an acoustic reality, writing a visual one. Performance of the former has been perfected through a million years of natural selection in the evolutionary process. The latter is a trick which we began to learn only yesterday (in terms of evolutionary time). To "hear" language (and to "say" it) is programmed in our genes; to "see" it (and "read" it) is not.
    • "Chinese Characters and the Greek Alphabet" in Sino-Platonic Papers, 5 (December 1987)
  • Could it be argued that if the Chinese revolution seems to be a response to the needs of rural society, whereas the Russian is an urbanized phenomenon, this difference corresponds to that which exists between the users of two different forms of written communication, the one archaic, the other alphabetic?
    • "Chinese Characters and the Greek Alphabet" in Sino-Platonic Papers, 5 (December 1987)
  • What our story, however, has demonstrated is the astonishingly checkered, not to say hazardous, career of a reading device which we in the West now take so much for granted. Historians have acclaimed the "triumph of the alphabet," but the triumph was often compromised, sometimes bitterly contested, and to this day is only half won.
    • "Chinese Characters and the Greek Alphabet" in Sino-Platonic Papers, 5 (December 1987)

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