Gateway to Cultural Memory

            As we looked at the different manuscripts in class on Tuesday, it really struck me just how little I know about the evolution of writing and of books and history in general. I agree with Socrates and Plato, in order for our history to be remembered it has to be written down, and yet there is a huge part of my own history that I have been satisfied in ignoring. If we look to the life of someone like Alcuin of York we can see the huge impact he had on our culture and everyday lives even though he lived so long ago. He was a scholar, writer, poet, and teacher to some of the most important intellectuals of the Carolingian Era. He was the abbot at Saint Martin’s at Tours and was invited to be the leading scholar of the Carolingian Court by Charlemagne, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Furthermore, as we learned in class, he was the scholar that developed a script to standardize writing in manuscripts across the Holy Roman Empire. And yet, though these accomplishments are undoubtedly impressive and extremely significant, I had never heard of Alcuin of York until this past Tuesday.

            Something I think that we’ve forgotten in today’s society is the importance of remembering the past and recognizing how it influences our present and future. We are so consumed with having everything instantaneously with our iPhones and iPads and email and texting that I never really stopped to think about how we got here. If we didn’t have Alcuin creating a system of writing then we literally would not have the same world we live in today. It is so easy for me to type a blog post or send a text to friend that I sometimes think we forget that the people who came before us sat for hours and hours poring over manuscripts so that we could have a history, so that we wouldn’t forget where we came from. Alcuin was one of the most prominent figures of the Carolingian Renaissance, without the development of Carolingian miniscule or Alcuin’s writings, we would not have the same type of knowledge of that time period and of our own history that we benefit from today.

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