Writing Without Words

“Definitions of writing for the Old World are often a bad fit when applied to te recording and mnemonic systems of the Americas. This is a major point emerging from Writing without Words, a collection that balances theoretical expositions with analyses of particular exemplars. . . .Writing without Words is well-organized and original. It will be carefully studied by Mesoamericanists, and by people interested in the great intellectual enterprise of writing.” Monica BarnesThe Americas

The history of writing, or so the standard story goes, is an ascending process, evolving toward the alphabet and finally culminating in the “full writing” of recorded speech. Writing without Words challenges this orthodoxy, and with it widespread notions of literacy and dominant views of art and literature, history and geography. Asking how knowledge was encoded and preserved in Pre-Columbian and early colonial Mesoamerican cultures, the authors focus on systems of writing that did not strive to represent speech. Their work reveals the complicity of ideology in the history of literacy, and offers new insight into the history of writing.

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