Monday, November 23, 2009

Empire of the Word to examine the last 5000 years of reading

The written word: in prehistoric times, it took the form of drawings in caves. Today it speeds past on the screens of our electronic devices at the touch of a finger. How did the simple act of reading come to be? How has it shaped our lives? And what role does a modern society play in providing and protecting literacy for all?

The Canadian network TVO will be broadcasting the world premiere of Empire of the Word, a fascinating four-hour documentary series chronicling the origins of reading and writing and its impact on 5,000 years of human history.

Hosted by renowned Canadian-Argentine author Alberto Manguel and based on his A History of Reading, Empire of the Word explores how reading and writing were born; how we learn to read; who or what might prevent us from reading; and the future of reading.

Eight years in the making and shot in 15 countries, the series journeys from prehistory to present day and beyond, illustrating how reading and writing are inextricably linked to human evolution and existence.

We witness some of the people and events that create the story of the written word: the genesis of the alphabet; the earliest forms of portable reading; Alexander the Great’s dream of the first universal library; the role of Irish monks in saving reading during the Early Middle Ages; the groundbreaking concept of interpreting your own meaning from a text; the printing press; and the challenges and opportunities for reading in a digital world. At the heart of the series is the question of why reading has survived throughout the ages despite poverty, resistance by organized religion, authoritarian rule, censorship, learning or health impediments and interactive media.

While the invention of the Gutenberg press some 500 years ago made reading a universal possibility, the ability – and freedom – to read and write is not as universal as we may think, even in the 21st century.

After the series has premiered in Canada, it will screen in Australia, Ireland and France. It will also be available to the rest of the world online, along with a series of interactive features.

Click here to go to the Empire of the Word website.

Click here to go the Empire of the Word Facebook page