Proust and the Squid

By Domzalski, Stephanie | Contemporary School Psychology, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Proust and the Squid


Domzalski, Stephanie, Contemporary School Psychology


Book Review: Proust and the Squid Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf 2007, HarperCollins, New York, 306 pgs. $15, ISBN: 978-0-06-093384-5

We were never born to read.

The provocative premise begins author Maryanne Wolf's excavation into the art and mystery of the literate brain. A professor of child development at Tuft's University and director for the Center for Reading and Language Research, Wolf's expertise is evident in her multifaceted exploration of reading development. By all accounts, the refinement of human literacy represents for Wolf an "unnatural" process, but one which our innate biological circuitry has been primed to undertake. Proust begins with a chronology of reading acquisition, moving then to a discussion of individual reading development. The book concludes with discussion dedicated to the enigma of dyslexia, its biological roots and the unexpected gifts that come with such neural diversity.

Less an interventionist's manual, Proust incorporates historical, literary and neuro-scientific evidence to form a rich ethnography of reading. The title itself pays metaphoric homage to both French novelist Marcel Proust and the common squid whose anatomic structure propelled scientific research during the 1950s. Using this juxtaposition of characters and contributions, Wolf alludes to the book's underlying premise: that while decoding text is fundamentally a biological process - a symphonic exchange of neuronal energy - reading amounts to something far more dynamic.

Text greater than the sum of its characters

One of the earliest, and most reiterated points Proust, is the active adaptation required of our underlying neurological structure for reading acquisition. There are no reading genes, no "blueprint" as Wolf it, by which reading is genetically imprinted on later generations. This necessity of neural rewiring separates reading from processes such as vision or hearing fall on a fixed developmental trajectory. Wolf cites the work of Stanislas Dehaene, a French neuroscientist, who worked to explain the advancement of reading ability as an adaptive specialization within our visual system. our earliest ancestors, being able to recognize subtle patterns among animal prints or vegetation determine survival. With more frequent exposure to natural patterns came a greater automaticity in and, perhaps, the earliest forms of "reading" fluency.

Proust traces the development of reading through distinct historical periods. Some of the earliest examples of written record are a remarkable variety of clay tokens, likely used for accounting purposes, thought to have been created between 8000 and 4000 BCE. Wolf cites this type of graphic representation as revolutionary because it both created a lasting form of communication as well as imbued an otherwise benign symbol with meaning. The ability of ancient ancestors to differentiate various symbolic representations from one another and to connect those graphic abstractions to tangible objects, marks one of the most significant periods in the neurological evolution of our reading brain.

Wolf describes a number of early writing systems, including the Sumerian "cuneiform," the pictographic and syllabic Akkadain language, the Egyptian hieroglyph, the Grecian alphabet, and their corresponding contributions to reading acquisition. She delves deeply into a comparison of alphabetic languages (e.g., English) and symbolic languages (e.g., Chinese) and the unique influence of each to brain development and neural specialization. While imagining research supports different cortical areas involved in processing alphabetic versus symbolic presentations, three primary regions (the frontal, temporal-parietal and occipital lobes) function as a system common across readers of any language. Thus, Wolf concludes, the brain's plasticity allows it to adapt to the demands of any visual presentation with equal efficiency.

Proust moves to further explore the anatomical adaptations made to accommodate for reading development. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

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.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Proust and the Squid
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

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?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.