in the west, literacy has been a matter of coopting language into a flat, dry alphabetic realm and, in the process, stripping away its music, kinesis and other theatrical contours;

[brian stock says the process has gone even further, mapping preemptive verbal signs onto intrinsically non-verbal behavior; think of chatty restaurant menus or obtrusive clothing labels;]

the earliest writing was used to compile invoices, which expedited mercantile exchanges over modest intervals of space and time; but as it called to account ever remoter audiences, western literacy developed a broad conceptual grasp;  the written word eventually shepherded inquisitive human beings into the age of newton and voltaire, where it faltered;  inherently a tool for collective denial, literacy will turn out to have been a brief, if edifying, phase in our cultural evolution;