Aesthetics and Text in the Digital Age

Authored by: Leeuwen Theo van

Handbook of Writing, Literacies, and Education in Digital Cultures

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138206304
eBook ISBN: 9781315465258
Adobe ISBN:


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Medieval writing was richly decorated with initials, marginal elements, and miniature pictures and burnished with gold and silver, a source of aesthetic pleasure as well as an expression of the greater glory of God and the valor of knights and kings (cf. Eco, 2002). But from the sixteenth century onward, aesthetics and meaning began to part ways. The philosopher and rhetorician Peter Ramus (1511–1572) simplified Aristotelian rhetoric by separating meaning (“invention,” “disposition,” and “memory”) from artful expression (“elocutio” and “delivery”), “a division whose implications remain with us to this day” (Hawkes, 1972, p. 22). The printed page became black and white. And Protestantism reacted against the Medieval love of colorful decoration by favoring plain clothes, plain churches, and plain language: “‘Plaine delivery’ of the word was the aim, ‘painted eloquence’ the enemy” (Hawkes, 1972, p. 28).

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