The ABC's Visit Trent

September 30, 2015

Professor Laurence de Looze discusses how the Alphabet Has Shaped the Western View of the World

Moralia in Job (945 A.D.) Florentium indignum memorare
Moralia in Job (945 A.D.) Florentium indignum memorare

“Letters to this day speak something more than just their value as letters, they speak something cultural…something monumental,” explained Professor Laurence de Looze, a guest of the “Public Texts” English MA program and professor at Western University who recently joined students and faculty of Trent University for a public lecture.

At the event, an eager crowd from Peterborough gathered to gain a deeper understanding of Prof. de Looze’s new book, The Letter and the Cosmos: How the Alphabet Has Shaped the Western View of the World.

Prof. de Looze explained that, “We in fact do see the world through the lens of the alphabet,” pointing out that the alphabet has been engraved in our culture to see letters everywhere we look, including buildings and structures. Meanwhile other cultures, such as the Japanese, do not necessarily think this way. Prof. de Looze witnessed this cultural gap first hand and it was in that moment that he concluded he needed to write this book.

“We think of the alphabetical order as natural… it’s not natural at all.” But as Prof. de Looze pointed out it is a system that has been drilled into the minds of people for centuries.  It helps connect people, languages, and objects within this world because it is so well known and accepted on such a wide scale.

Prof. de Looze’s talk covered examples from the first forms of writing to inscriptions on Greek and Roman sculpture; and from illuminated manuscripts to experimental fiction and internet graphics.

“The alphabet somehow speaks something larger than the alphabet.” Now with his book The Letter and the Cosmos: How the Alphabet Has Shaped the Western View of the World (University of Toronto Press), everyone has the chance to explore this topic.

story by: Alana Pickrell, second year Journalism student.