When Writing Met Art: From Symbol to Story

By Denise Schmandt-Besserat | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Conclusion: The Interface between Writing and Art

There seems little doubt that writing and reading played a critical role in producing the shift
from thinking about things to thinking about representations of those things, that is, thinking
about thought.

DAVID R. OLSON1

THE INTERFACE BETWEEN writing and art in the ancient Near East is singular because the exchange was fully reciprocal. In the late fourth millennium B.C. writing bestowed to art a paradigm for building complex visual narratives and supplied conventions for loading pictures with information. In the early third millennium B.C., in turn, writing separated itself from accounting by piggybacking onto lavish art objects and assuming a funerary function. In this second episode of interface, the yearning to communicate with the gods compelled writing to develop in two ways. First, the repertory of phonetic signs was expanded, paving the way toward a syllabary, and second, the script endeavored to express full sentences of speech.


Writing Influences Art

Art was the beneficiary of the first interface between the two media. Writing provided art with the ability to translate into visual form the age-old myths recited around the fire. Stories are told in all human societies, but converting chains of events into pictures is problematic. The most obvious obstacle is that heroes live their adventures not as tableaux vivants but in a constant flux, and there is no way to stop life like the frame of a film. Therefore, cultures create visual formulae to translate the sequence of a plot atemporally. These structures of meaning, which allow a community to share a story by way of pictures, are not spontaneous. They have to be forged. In the Near East, I propose, the formulae to tell complex narratives visually was derived from writ

-101-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
When Writing Met Art: From Symbol to Story
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 134

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?